Chat with Graham Hays
Welcome to SportsNation! On Monday, ESPN.com women's college basketball writer Graham Hays will be here to chat about the stretch run of the women's hoops season.
Hays contributes to ESPN.com's women's basketball, softball and soccer coverage. He began with ESPN in 1999.
Send your questions now and join Hays Monday at 4 p.m. ET!
Graham Hays (4:01 PM)
Hello from College Station, looking forward to a good one tonight with Baylor and Texas A&M (shameless company plug: ESPN 2, 9 p.m. ET). Let's talk hoops ...
Mike Davis (New York, NY)
With March Madness a few weeks away, who are your final 3 #1 seeds behind Connecticut. Also do you think Uconn will go undefeated again and win the National Championshio again?
Graham Hays (4:04 PM)
Well, let's dive in at the top. I agree with Charlie Creme (his new Bracketology is up today) on the No. 1s: UConn, Stanford, Nebraska and Tennessee. And given Ohio State's loss and Notre Dame's skid, it seems like Duke might be the only team with a chance to sneak in the mix, should Tennessee lose in the SEC tournament. To me, the first three are all but locked in, regardless of conference tournament. As for the second question, I don't even think it needs a spoiler alert to say, yes, I think UConn runs the table.
Graham Hays (4:05 PM)
On the No. 1 seeds -- I think Xavier deserves to be up there right with Tennessee for the fourth No. 1. The Musketeers did everything they could with their schedule and the A-10 is a good league this season. But it's just hard to see then overcoming an RPI in the teens to grab a No. 1. Still, a No. 2 wouldn't be bad.
What's your honest opinion on Nebraska? Do you think they can head into March Madness undefeated? What do they still need to do to gain more respect nationwide?
Graham Hays (4:09 PM)
I'm honestly impressed, and in any season that didn't have a UConn like this UConn, I'd put Nebraska up there with anyone. One through five, or one through eight or nine, Stanford and a couple of other teams might have slightly more individual talent, but it's a team that really fits its star perfectly. You've got a shooter in Turner, a special young point in Moore, a good post in Montgomery and lots of people who can make something out of 10-15 minutes on the court. And Griffin really is that good. As far as national respect, it's going to come down to winning in the postseason. That's perhaps not fair, given what they've accomplished in the regular season, but it is what it is. Reach at least a regional final, and fans will remember you.
Eileen (Washington, DC)
Hi Graham, who are a few of the teams that surprised you this season (for better or for worse) and why?
Graham Hays (4:12 PM)
Is this where I get to remember how wrong I was about some teams? Good times. On the positive side, I'm surprised and impressed by what Oklahoma has done without Whitney Hand. Surprised by Kentucky and Georgetown, as well. On the other side, I had sleeper hopes for Wyoming that haven't exactly panned out. I thought Boston College could be really good, better than it has been even. I think I've tried too hard to forget the rest of my misses. I'm sure someone out there can remind me?
kevin (macon, ga)
You really think Xavier has a shot at a #2 seed with no Top 25 RPI wins?
Graham Hays (4:16 PM)
I do (although it's also worth saying I'd much rather be a No. 3 in a non-UConn region than No. 2 with the Huskies, if it comes to that). Would it be an easier case to make if they had that Michigan State win or LSU win? Absolutely, but I feel like this is one of those years where there are a lot of teams with good cases, not many with great cases. Some of it may depend on how the rest of the Big 12 plays out, if a team like Oklahoma or Texas A&M could run the table.
How can Michigan State not be ranked? 16 RPI, 6 non-conf. RPI, 12 SOS, wins over Xavier, OK State, Ohio State and North Carolina. Winners in 8 of last 9, including ROAD win Sunday at Ohio State on Nat'l TV. Extremely dangerous, deep, balanced & talented team (albeit underachievers earlier in the year) which is peaking at the right time.
Graham Hays (4:19 PM)
Tend to agree with you, although in saying that, I'm not sure who I move out of the current Top 25. Maybe Georgia Tech after the two losses at home? But then again, should they have beaten Duke or Florida State, even at home? Perhaps I'm in the tank for the mid-majors, but I think both Gonzaga and Hartford deserve their spots and Oklahoma State keeps losing to heavyweights. And honestly, Michigan State may deserve it on an individual basis, but this is what the Big Ten has earned for itself. It's not a league that gets the benefit of the doubt anymore, and it's not going to be without some postseason success.
Jacob (Provo, UT)
Who's your favorite coming out of the mtn. west?
Graham Hays (4:22 PM)
Still TCU, even after the San Diego State rout. But I'm hoping to get a look at a couple of challengers Wednesday night when BYU heads to SDSU. I guess San Diego State might qualify as one of the teams I'm a little surprised hasn't been better, but it's not like they've had a bad season. And they still seem like a team that's built well for the condensed schedule of a tournament setting.
kevin (macon, ga)
Has the game passed C Vivian Stringer by?
Graham Hays (4:25 PM)
No more than when she got to the Final Four a couple of seasons ago. I'm not sure she's the most flexible coach in the world -- all right, I'm sure she's not, but that's been true for a long time. Her style can still work in the right scenarios, as it did with that Carson, Prince, Ajavon, Vaughn team, but when things go wrong, it does seem like they go wrong in a big way. It strikes me that it's a little like how the Marlins run a baseball team. When it works, it works. The rest of the time it's going to frustrate the heck out of fans. There's not any middle ground.
Stephen (Hempstead, NY)
Graham, How great of an under the radar conference has the CAA been this season? Big win by Hofstra over Drexel yesterday.
Graham Hays (4:29 PM)
Very nice win for Hostra, and a big game from the Pride's Nicole Capurso going head to head with a star in Gabriela Marginean. The Big 12 is probably the most interesting conference tournament, and the SEC could be compelling if Tennessee falters. But outside of that, I'd probably rather be at the CAA tourney than anywhere else. You have four or five NCAA-caliber teams fighting for maybe two spots, three if everything breaks perfectly.
kevin (macon, ga)
Why does the Big 12 get the benefit of the doubt while the Big 10 doesn't? Each has had only two F4 teams in the last six tournaments combined.
Graham Hays (4:30 PM)
I could be wrong, and it would be worth running the math, but I'd wager a decent sum that the Big 12 has a significantly better record/winning percentage in the first four rounds.
Ashtyn (Jefferson City, MO)
So, has Connie Yori essentially wrapped up Coach of the Year?
Graham Hays (4:32 PM)
Seems that way. Not to be completely contrarian after making a case for Kelsey Griffin as POY ahead of Tina Charles and Maya Moore, but I'd also be very tempted to vote for Sherri Coale for COY. To do what she's done with the Sooners in a league like the Big 12 -- after losing Whitney Hand -- that's just an amazing coaching performance.
Trevor (Burlington, VT)
Hey Graham: Appreciate your coverage and analysis of the mid-major ladies. Wondering about Vermont getting into the tourney: do you think a win over Hartford is a must to get a bid, or is their resume enough as long as they don't stumble to a team other than Hartford? Looking at other at-large hopefuls, it seems they should be rewarded over a middling BCS team.
Graham Hays (4:35 PM)
I'd worry if they lose two more to Hartford (although obviously it's a moot point if the split came by virtue of a win in the conference tournament final). But even in that scenario, with both games coming at Hartford, I think they're on the right side of the bubble. Dayton, NC State and Boston College are all wins that are holding up well with the passage of time.
Eileen (Washington, DC)
Does past success earn Maryland the benefit of the doubt -- and a spot in the field of 64 -- or do they miss the cut this year?
Graham Hays (4:40 PM)
To me, their fate is in their hands. Beat BC and Florida State, they finish .500 in the league and I think they're in. And maybe it's hypocritical to say, given wins against potential mid-major bubble teams I'd favor like ODU and Drexel, but finish under .500 in the ACC this season and I have a hard time making room for you in the bracket.
Graham Hays (4:41 PM)
Logic which, I realize, would also put UNC in a precarious position, although I don't think the committee leaves out the Heels.
If the Lady Vols make the finals of the SEC tourney - who do you think they'll face in the championship game?
Graham Hays (4:44 PM)
LSU is the team I wouldn't want to face, but I'm not sure the bracket is going to break in a way that would potentially pit them in the final. I like Kentucky, and I don't think the Wildcats' success is a fluke at all, but I worry about a team without postseason experience of that sort playing Tennessee on that stage. Seems like Kentucky might actually be more dangerous in the NCAA tournament, as a result of experiencing that kind of game, than it might be in a potential SEC final.
Bo (new orleans)
How can the Uconn coach not win Coach of the Year. They can't lose!
Graham Hays (4:46 PM)
To be fair, neither has Nebraska's coach to this point. But there is a larger truth in what you're saying, Bo. Geno Auriemma probably isn't going to get the credit he deserves for the coaching job he's done with this team, precisely because of how dominant they are. Anyone could coach a team that beats everyone by 25 points, right? No, they win by 25 points because of who is coaching them.
Do you think Britney Griner is one and done?
Graham Hays (4:47 PM)
I think Kim Mulkey is very glad she doesn't have to worry about that sort of thing.
How many teams from the BIG East will make the NCAA Tournament? Who do you think has the best chances of making it?
Graham Hays (4:49 PM)
The five givens: UConn, Notre Dame, West Virginia, St. John's and Georgetown. Despite the Syracuse debacle, I think Rutgers' strength of schedule gets them in as long as they don't lose out. Beyond that six, DePaul seems good if it can win two of its remaining three (particularly if one of them is Syracuse). I think that's it.
kevin (macon, ga)
You'd lose that bet re: B10 vs B12. Over the last six tournaments the Big 12 is 41-24 in the first two rounds, a .631 winning percentage. Big 10 is 31-16, a .660 winning percentage. The Big 12 is really good at gaming RPI, but they always underperform in March. Why haven't the pollsters or the committee noticed this yet?
Graham Hays (4:51 PM)
I'm impressed that you ran the math that quickly, and am happy to stand corrected. But in my defense, I did say first four rounds. It's that second weekend that goes a long way to setting perception (and I might well be wrong if you run those; I'd be interested to hear).
Helen (New York)
What's your pet peeve when you read/see coverage of women's baskeball (not written by you or Mechelle)?
Graham Hays (4:53 PM)
The lack of space people who are out there covering it are given, I guess? I meet a lot of really talented writers/reporters, some of whom love the sport and some of whom may not love it but are extremely professional about covering whatever they're assigned in an expert way. But if they don't have the space or support to write it, there's not much they can do.
I know we're on the verge of March Madness, but I was able to see some fantastic softball when UCLA, Tennessee, Georgia, Michigan, Oklahoma a some smaller Mid-major play in an invitational two weeks ago to start the season. Question is, do you have any early favorites for the CSWS?
Graham Hays (4:56 PM)
I went 54 minutes without giving in, but indulge Kara and me in some quick softball. Not necessarily a WCWS favorite, but I've been really impressed seeing Texas A&M the last two weekends. Jo Evans is always going to get the most out of her teams, and they may have enough pitching to complement a vastly improved offense. Washington is still the class of the country when Lawrie pitches, but it looks like a really deep pack chasing them. I wasn't sure Georgia had the pitching to get back, but Sarah McCloud and Erin Arevalo are getting it done so far, and that lineup is frightening.
Graham Hays (4:56 PM)
All right, back to basketball to finish ...
Jeffrey Slatton (Little Rock, Arkansas)
Both UALR and Middle Tennessee are on long winning streaks. If they win their final two regular season games and two Sun Belt Tournament games, they would meet in the championship. Would the loser still merit an at-large selection?
Graham Hays (4:58 PM)
I think so, and the Sun Belt is worth mentioning as one of those conference tournaments worth watching, both because of the potential title clash you're talking about and a few teams capable of spoiling it. But Alysha Clark vs. Chastity Reed would be must-see viewing for fans of the sport.
Graham Hays (4:59 PM)
All right, thanks for all the questions. They're always appreciated. And hopefully we'll make this a weekly thing as we count down to the NCAA tournament.