Chat with Graham Hays
Hays contributes to ESPN.com's women's basketball, softball and soccer coverage.
Send in those questions now, then check back at 5 p.m. ET on Tuesday!
Graham Hays (5:00 PM)
Hello from St. Louis. It's about three and a half hours until tip, so what's on your mind?
Mike (Floral Park, New York)
Do you think Louisville has what it takes to upset Uconn and if so what do they have to do to make this happen?
Graham Hays (5:04 PM)
The truth is nobody may have what it takes to upset UConn. Every time we pick out a team that might test them in a certain way -- whether Oklahoma and North Carolina in the regular season, Louisville in the Big East or Stanford in the Final Four -- they just don't measure up. As far as what Louisville has to do, it's going to take a perfect game, and then some. They have to execute whatever defensive game plan Jeff Walz comes up with to the letter of the plan. And on top of that, they have to get at least a couple of career nights from people they don't normally count on offensively -- someone like a Gwen Rucker or a Keshia Hines.
Kurt (New Hampshire)
In the game against Stanford, the Cardinal showed they had no answer whatsoever for Renee Montgomery. It seems like she is the key to UConn's high tempo offense, and for Lousiville to win, I'd say they have to contain her - something no team seems to be able to do. Is there any way to slow down the nation's best point guard?
Graham Hays (5:06 PM)
Not that anybody has really discovered yet. Louisville actually did a pretty good job for half of a half in the first game between the two in Storrs, but the triangle and two it required meant they had to leave Tiffany Hayes and Kalana Greene open a lot, and they made them pay for it, especially Hayes. That's the thing about UConn, is that as good as Montgomery and Moore are, the entire starting lineup has the potential to score 20 points on any given night.
Doug, Knoxville TN
The only way Louisville has a chance is if someone kicks Geno in the groin and everyone from UConn goes after the person and forgets to show up for the game!
Graham Hays (5:07 PM)
Why am I not surprised that strategy was sent in from Knoxville?
peter (elkin, nc [via mobile]
Do you think UCONN defense is as good as its offense?
Graham Hays (5:09 PM)
It might be better. Tina Charles doesn't necessarily block as many shots as some elite defensive centers, but when she's matched up against mortals (i.e. not Jayne Appel the way Appel played in the NCAA tournament) she can be pretty much a shut-down post defender, which is a rare find. And the Huskies have so much quickness at every position and communicate so well that even if one defender gets beat, it's tough to exploit that.
How do you think this team stacks up against the 39-0 Bird, Cash, Taurasi, Jones et al. team?
Graham Hays (5:11 PM)
To be fair, those comparisons probably ought to wait until after the game tonight. But I do think that 2002 team had a little more depth, especially inside. Moore and Montgomery vs. Bird and Taurasi would be fun to watch, though.
u cant double team every body. you cant stop moore from defending, youn cant stop reennee from running the tream. when you try, uconn has the 3rd and fourth/fifth players to burn you. the only possible hope for the cardinals is foul trouble on tina charles early. even then, they still haved tomplay perfect. angel can score 40 points and loiusville still can lose 77 to 57.
Graham Hays (5:13 PM)
If she scores 40, I think I'd like them to come closer than 20 on the scoreboard. That's actually one thing that keeps nagging at me, when theories on upset scenarios start floating around. Angel has had spurts of brilliance in most of Louisville's NCAA tourney wins, but I don't know that she's had one, 40-minute monster game. She definitely has that potential, even against UConn, and if she goes off, things could at least get interesting.
Hey Graham, give us your prediction on who will be player of the game?
Graham Hays (5:15 PM)
If UConn wins, Montgomery will be a popular pick as MOP as a senior, even though Moore has been just as key for them. If there's an upset, you have to assume it comes with a huge game from Angel, so they'd look there.
Erin (Atlanta, GA)
Do you think more pressure is on UConn for this game to finish with a perfect season? What about the fact that they're expected to win? I think that knowing that one game can ruin their quest might weigh on their mind a little...
Graham Hays (5:18 PM)
Yeah, it's a fair point, and Louisville is just loving all of us handing UConn the title before tip. Lots of teams play the disrespect card, but the Cardinals really seem to feed off it. But as Auriemma said, pressure is what you want. Playing at UConn is all about pressure; it's what you feel when you're the best. Both these teams thrive in their roles, one as favorite, the other as underdog, so that whole side of things might end up being a wash.
What is your take on Becky Burke? She seems to have optimized decent physical skills with a tough as nails mindset.
Graham Hays (5:21 PM)
If I was a Louisville fan, I'd be pretty happy about having a Burke-Byrd backcourt for the next couple of years. Burke was a good shooter in high school., so it's not the biggest stunner in the world that she finally broke out of her shooting slump late in the year, but what's really impressive is how well she defends one-on-one. Walz isn't afraid to criticize any of his players if they aren't performing, but I get the feeling he really got the sense early that he could push her buttons and she'd respond. From her telling, it took most of the season for her to get that, but it's sure paying off now.
Tim, Detroit Michigan
Not to take anything away from UConn because they are a great team, but each time they go undefeated, Women's basketball is having a "down" year. What I mean by that is look at the players who graduated last year, Parker, Fowles, Langhorne, Wiggins, etc. This year, most teams are having a down year like LSU, Rutgers, Tenn., Duke. Same thing back in 2002. Seems like Geno gets his best teams at the most oportune time. But like I said, UConn is great and would probably still win a championship but I don't think would go undefeated in other years.
Graham Hays (5:24 PM)
I don't know about that; I think this team would be challenging for perfection in most years, although I agree with you that the path has been eased this season by a lack of elite challengers. I think UConn could have handled those challengers, but it's apparent they weren't there.
Dominic (los Angeles, CA)
Do you think Oklahoma would have had a better chance of beating UConn? or are the best two teams playing for the title
Graham Hays (5:27 PM)
Of the teams here, I think Stanford was the best threat, purely on the way the teams matched up. But I don't think OU would have been a better match-up than Louisville. Oklahoma liked to run, but they didn't run as well as Connecticut. Louisville's not a great match-up either, in that they're a team that's best at picking on an opponent's flaws, of which there aren't many with UConn. But both OU and Louisville were always going to be flawed challengers.
The whole world thought Georgetown would beat Villanova too SInce that game I believe anything can and sometimes does happen
Graham Hays (5:29 PM)
That's absolutely what Louisville is telling itself, and it's true. Walz said yesterday even he might give the edge to Connecticut in a seven-game series, but this is one game. And it's one game with 20-year-old kids. Things can happen.
Chris (West Haven CT)
All this talk about UCONN being under pressure. How about Lville being under the pressure of an atmosphere they have never experienced. The biggest stage and game of the year. I think the pressure is on them and UCONN is used to playing the "pressure" card!
Graham Hays (5:30 PM)
True, although none of these UConn players have been in a national title game, either.
Justin (St. Louis via Storrs)
Coach Walz said if we play like we did against Oklahoma in the first 5 minutes its going to be 25-0 not 11-0. UConn knows how to put these teams away when given the chance. Also, they come out of the locker room in the second half and just bury you. What makes UConn so good at doing these two things?
Graham Hays (5:32 PM)
From a technical standpoint, they shoot the 3-pointer well, especially spot-up 3s from Montgomery and Moore, and they rebound well. If you come out against them anything less than completely focused, those are both areas where they can hit you quick and make those kind of early runs. And from a broader point of view, the Huskies themselves focus for extended periods better than most teams.
David Culumbia, SC
What would Elena Delle Donne have added to this Uconn team if she had elected to play college basketball?
Graham Hays (5:35 PM)
Interesting question, and I don't know that I have an equally interesting answer. It sort of comes down to the balance-depth issue. Adding a big body as skilled as Delle Donne was/is seems like it would just make this team that much better. At the same time, would she have been completely focused on the season? Would this team's chemistry have been as good as it is? Who knows.
the geo-vilinova thing is mute. geo beat vill twice during the season, once by one basket. they lost the title game by 2 points. which outside of the hype, really should not been a big surprise. plus the men play as individuals compared to the team ethic of the women.
Graham Hays (5:36 PM)
james [via mobile]
Do u think Uconn can repeat what they did this season next year?
Graham Hays (5:38 PM)
Whatever happens tonight, I'd definitely put UConn No. 1 and Stanford No. 2 entering next season. They lose Montgomery, which is obviously huge, and filling that point guard spot with either Lorin Dixon or Tiffany Hayes will be a question. But Maya Moore and Tina Charles return, along with Hayes and Greene from the starting lineup. Doty comes back at some point next season, they add big bodies in Heather Buck and Jessica McCormack and a good freshman in Kelly Faris. This run isn't ending anytime soon.
Doug Beautiful Trenton, N.J.
Does Louisville have a snowballs chance in St. Louis to win tonight?
Graham Hays (5:39 PM)
You know, it did snow here yesterday ...
Justin (St. Louis via Storrs)
As a practice player for UConn and being in St. Louis seeing the team this week, they have been relaxed throughout this run. I think they came out pressing a little bit against Stanford in the first half, but thats expected. Once they settled in they were fine for the rest of the game and took a comanding 31 point lead. Do you expect them to remain as relaxed as they have been for the whole tourney or to come out a little nervous like they did against Stanford?
Graham Hays (5:41 PM)
It sounds like you'd have a better perspective on their mood than me. But I'd be shocked if any team came out in a national championship game and didn't play with at least a little nervously for a couple of possessions.
This is more of a comment, but if Uconn wins tonight it will be even more sweet knowing Pat Summit is home watching them win when they lost in the first round.
Graham Hays (5:42 PM)
I guess I've got to give Storrs equal time after the comment from Knoxville earlier. Can't you two groups play nice?
Have you heard of any chatter on rule changes (ex. 3 pt line, 10 sec backcourt, jump ball, no charge area)? Any personal suggestions on rule changes? Attendance still seemed low this year, I wonder if TV ratings were higher.
Graham Hays (5:43 PM)
I haven't heard of any rule changes in the works, but I'd love to see the 10-second backcourt rule implemented.
rondell louisville [via mobile]
First this must be a uconn only chat all this hype well anyway with the amont of lower classmen the cards have where would you rank them at the beginning of next year?
Graham Hays (5:46 PM)
Hey, I can only post the questions that come in. Not many folks from Louisville chiming in right now. It's going to be a huge adjustment for the Cardinals, obviously, without McCoughtry and Bingham, but I'm a believer when it comes to Walz getting the most out of whoever he has. I think that 10-15 range isn't out of the question to open the season.
Keith Cleveland, OH [via mobile]
I think UCONN is the overall better team bit they really don't play a lot of people and have not been tested. Louisville is tough and gritty, they can get behind and find their way back. They need to play under control, dictate tempo, and be spectacularly efficient, they can make history! They can shock the world!
Graham Hays (5:48 PM)
Maybe this wasn't UConn's toughest schedule, but Oklahoma, North Carolina, Stanford, Florida State, Cal, ASU and Louisville twice so far isn't exactly Kansas State's football schedule
Theresa (Stonington Conn.)
If Uconn wins tonight and captures another title and another undefeated season (which would be 3 out of 6 teams to do so) would that make Uconn WCBB's dynasty?
Graham Hays (5:49 PM)
Sorry, I think you're going to have to keep sharing that title with Tennessee.
Jackie (San Francisco, CA)
How would this year's Connecticut team stacked up against last year's NCAA Champion the Tenneesse Lady Vols? Who would have won the battle between Maya Moore and Candace Parker?
Graham Hays (5:52 PM)
I'd pay to see that one. I think this year's UConn team was a little better shooting team, and Tennessee wasn't as consistent on the boards. But it would be a heck of a game -- Moore vs. Parker for sure, but also Montgomery vs. Hornbuckle in a battle of the West Virginia kids.
Sarah (South Dakota)
When Geno made a point of saying he thought the key to the game vs. Stanford was whether or not Tina Charles had a monster game, do you think he was just trying to take the pressure off of Moore and Montgomery?
Graham Hays (5:54 PM)
I think he was pushing Tina's buttons, which he's been doing all year. All three of her years, really. But I think especially looking at what happened in the game last season and with as well as Appel was playing, he knew he needed Charles to keep her head in the game the whole way. I think it had more to do with motivating her than taking pressure off those two.
Jason (Miami, FL
If Montgomery went to Louisville would the game change? Is it the team of Uconn thats good is it more single? PLease answer its important
Graham Hays (5:56 PM)
That's probably impossible answer, because you're not just taking one body from one spot and putting it somewhere else; you're changing the entire identity of both teams. If you gave UConn a replacement-level point guard, could they have still won the national title? Possibly, maybe even probably given the field this season. Would they be undefeated? No way. Montgomery is this team's heart and soul.
Sarah (South Dakota)
Jeff Walz is getting a lot of pub for saying, "We speak the truth here at Louisville." Ok, fine. Are there really that many coaches out there that don't? Is he just trying to say "We don't play mind games" ?? Or is he making a dig at Brenda Freese, who I think is constantly telling her players how great they are?
Graham Hays (5:58 PM)
Honestly, I don't think he's thinking about taking digs at anyone right now. And in fairness to him, he's saying that a lot because he's getting asked about his style a lot, he's not just stopping people on the street to tell them how honest they are. I do think for a young coach, he's a little more brutally honest than most. I don't think Geno hides the truth, but he's got a lot more money in the bank as security.
Be honest. Who did you pick for last night's MENS's champion?
Graham Hays (5:59 PM)
Since we're on the honest kick, I didn't watch it. I don't remember who I had in my bracket, maybe Memphis?
Jay (New York, NY)
Graham, what do you expect the environment to be like in the Edward Jones Dome? Is the crowd likely to be pro-UConn or pro-Cardinal? Should we expect an electric atmosphere?
Graham Hays (6:01 PM)
The word, I guess is it might not be a sellout for the first time in years. I guess that's not entirely surprising given the expectation of a UConn win, the overall economy and the fact that St. Louis, while a charming, wonderful city in many respects, isn't necessarily a destination location in early April. Normally you'd expect the underdog to get the majority of the neutral fans, but UConn travels pretty well in these things.
dana simsbury ct [via mobile]
Do you agree with Moore over Montgomery for national player of the year?
Graham Hays (6:03 PM)
I do. It's splitting hairs no matter how you look at it, but if it makes any sense, Maya might have been the better overall player on a national scope, while Renee was the single most important person within the framework of the roster. But there wasn't a wrong answer either way.
zach [via mobile]
is the championship game even worth watching
Graham Hays (6:05 PM)
Absolutely. I really believe Walz is one of the best tacticians in the sport, and it's going to be really interesting to see what he comes up with in a third try against this team. And even if whatever that is doesn't work any better than the first two games, you're still getting a chance to watch one of the best women's teams in recent memory.
Dennis (New Rochelle, NY)
If you were a WNBA GM, where would you pick her in the draft?
Graham Hays (6:07 PM)
Not sure who this is about but it's fitting for a couple of people, since the McCoughtry vs. Montgomery debate seems to be heating up for the draft. Honestly, I'd be tempted to take Coleman ahead of both, but the only reason I'd side with McCoughtry is that if you really wanted a point guard, Briann January and Kristi Toliver might be available later in a trade down.
Is the Louisville womens program here to stay?
Graham Hays (6:10 PM)
Unfortunately, it's all a guess right now. I think Walz and his staff are good enough to keep this program in the top tier, even without pulling recruits at quite the same level as UConn, Tennessee, Stanford, etc. And I think there's a chance they'll start getting their fair share of those recruits anyway. And since he's a Kentucky guy, I don't see him leaving anytime soon. So my guess is yes, they're here to stay, but only time will tell.
Graham Hays (6:11 PM)
All right, we went a little overtime. From an excitement and drama standpoint, here's hoping the game follows suit. Thanks for all the questions!