Chat with Graham Hays
Welcome to SportsNation! On Tuesday, ESPN.com women's college basketball writer Graham Hays will be here to chat about the women's bracket.
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 Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET!
Graham Hays (4:01 PM)
Well, I guess we can thank Tiger Woods for not saying anything yesterday, right? At least the women's tournament got a few hours to itself. Anyway, thanks for stopping in, let's talk some hoops.
Erin (Portland, MI)
Which of the 12, 13, or 14 seeds has the best shot at an upset and getting farther into the tournament?
Graham Hays (4:04 PM)
My favorite part of the first day or two with the bracket, looking for upsets. Interesting batch this year, especially those 13's and 14's you're talking about, Erin. For the 5-12 games, Bowling Green is always a team worth worrying about because of how well they can shoot the ball. Question for me is will Michigan State be able to wear them down physically? But that's probably my best bet for that line. But for the lower seeds, the WAC teams are really interesting. I was really surprised to see Fresno and Louisiana Tech seeded that low and think both could be dangerous. Plus, you've got Chattanooga as a 13 playing Oklahoma State without Andrea Riley. Finally, Lehigh is worth watching, even if they'd have to do it vs. Iowa State on the latter's home court. Mountain Hawks might have just been happy to get to the NCAA tournament last year, but now they have that experience to build on. They also throw a lot of defensive looks at teams, could disrupt Iowa State's shooting rhythm.
Seems to me the Women's and the Men's Selection committee have two different criteria for selecting at large bids. What do you think?
Graham Hays (4:06 PM)
I'm not sure I follow, but I'm interested. What's your theory on the criteria? I'll be honest; I don't get much time to pay attention to the men's side. Which explains why I'm picking Cornell all the way.
Sharon (Cleveland, Ohio)
Is it possible that the selection committee may have changed a team in/out of the bracket altogether because of location? Did they maybe put in Green Bay instead of Southern California because of proximity to site?
Graham Hays (4:08 PM)
Don't think so. I also cover soccer and softball, and in those sports, where there is a lot more regional loading of the pods for the first two rounds (or the regional round in softball), you do hear rumors about that kind of thing. But even there, the committees will swear up and down that plays no part whatsoever. The basketball bracket is a much more national thing, so I just don't see them weighing that at all, even subconsciously.
What's your favorite first round matchup?
Graham Hays (4:10 PM)
Gonzaga vs. North Carolina. Should be a high-scoring, up-tempo game and just the nature of the two programs gives it a little extra something. TCU-Dayton is also up there for me, along with James Madison-Temple and St. John's-Princeton. Very strong seed for an Ivy champ, but honestly, I think they might be even better than a No. 11, so I'm interested to see what the Tigers bring. Both of those are relatively young teams.
Erin (Portland, MI)
Does Marist have any chance of getting past Georgetown in the first round?
Graham Hays (4:13 PM)
I think so. That's one I forgot to mention earlier. Georgetown is a really good team, and you don't see a lot of talents like Sugar Rodgers in MAAC play, but the Hoyas aren't an especially big team for the Big East and didn't dominate on the boards, so the Red Foxes could be able to hold their own inside. A lot could depend on how Marist's guards handle Georgetown's pressure. Best, Caron and even Allenspach are really going to have to avoid turnovers, which has been a hit-and-miss thing for them at times this season.
It seemed to me the Men's selection of at large teams is based on wanting teams to play strong competition in the non conference, while the women's selection of at large teams especially Green Bay was a reward of just winning games
Graham Hays (4:16 PM)
I see what you're saying now. I guess I'd argue that Green Bay's inclusion, along with teams like UALR and some other mid-majors, surprised a lot of us this season. Those kind of teams haven't always been rewarded in the past. Maybe there's a pattern there, but I think it may be more a case of a weak overall bubble this year -- BC, USC and Michigan had cases, sure, but not great cases. And a team like Green Bay, that did go out and play Wisconsin, Marquette and DePaul non-conference benefitted from it this time.
Eran (Rockville, MD)
Not to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but there are too many storyline games in this tournament. For example, possible Duke-Texas match up. Temple-UConn. Even the UCLA-NC State game between former tennessee vols. Thoughts?
Graham Hays (4:18 PM)
Ha, and you can throw Iowa-Rutgers in that mix. I hadn't really thought about it much beyond the Tennessee-Connecticut angle, but you're right, there are a lot of them. Doubt it was planned that way, but unlike the geography on in-out, sure, I could see that sort of thing edging its way into someone's subconscious. As long as it's not a deciding factor, why not?
Does Texas A&M have a chance to make it to the title game? And if so, can they knock of UConn just as they ended Nebraska's chance undefeated season?
Graham Hays (4:21 PM)
Monday morning, I would have had Texas A&M as one of my Final Four teams. Even before the Big 12 title game, they just seemed to be getting things together. Getting a few more minutes out of Colson, Adams getting through any kind of freshman wall, just playing really well. But that's just a tough regional to get out of. If the seeds hold, the Xavier Sweet 16 game will push them physically. And then two days later they would have to turn around and play Stanford? I think that's too tough of a road.
I disagree, the committee knows exactly what is doing. Iowa-Rutgers is not accident,. Neither is Tenn-UConn. How about Duke-Texas? The men's tournametn does the same thing.
do you think Nebraska will have a short run due to lack of bench strength
Graham Hays (4:25 PM)
Not at all. They got a very favorable draw. Doesn't mean it's an easy draw, but Notre Dame, Oklahoma and Kentucky are all smaller teams that don't have enormous rotations. They're really good smaller teams that don't have long benches, but that's still better for Nebraska than going up against a Xavier or a Duke or a West Virginia that would make things very physical and make it tougher for Kelsey Griffin to stay on the court.
Erica (Boise, ID)
What do you think of Tennessee as the 4th #1 seed vs. Nebraska being in that spot? If I were a conspiracy theorist, I'd say the committee wanted the best possible chance of a Tenn/UConn matchup in the Final Four.
Graham Hays (4:27 PM)
As Rich pointed out, you may not have to be a conspiracy theorist to believe that. It may be the majority opinion.
Rich (Statesboro, GA)
Seems to me UConn(and Tennessee) got the short end of the stick despite being the overall #1 seed. Why does UConn have to play Tennessee and Stanford to win it all? Stanford the #2 seed only has to play one of the top three seeds, as if they were teh #1. The RPI has UConn, UT, Stanford, Duke the first four. Both Tennessee (who is the legitimate #3) and UConn have a far more difficult path to the final game than Stanford. UConn-UT is the late semi-final game with more hype than any game the last ten years and then the winnner has to turn around in less than 24 hours and play a good Stanford team that will have an easier semi-final with no attention.
Graham Hays (4:29 PM)
I won't necessarily disagree with all of that, but I do think it sells Nebraska short. This is a team that went through the most competitive league in the country unbeaten in the regular season. They're a very legitimate No. 1. Could you argue Tennessee is the third-best team behind Connecticut and Stanford. Yes, and I'd probably agree, as Kara Lawson put it yesterday, on the eye test. But if it happens that all four No. 1 seeds get to San Antonio, it's not like Stanford would have a walk in the park.
Eran (Rockville, MD)
Dont forget about Melanie Balcombs return to the Cintas Center at Xavier. She has not been back since leaving for Vanderbilt and her former player Amy Waugh is the assistant for Xavier.
Graham Hays (4:30 PM)
Another good one. I think that's where I'll be for the Sunday-Tuesday games, and I'm sure there will plenty of questions for her on her return.
How hard is it to keep up with women's hoops given the lack of TV coverage? You really seem to know a lot.
Graham Hays (4:32 PM)
There are a lot of people who would disagree with you on that last point, but I've got to say, streaming games online makes covering women's basketball a hundred times easier. With a laptop, you can probably watch 50 percent of all games, maybe even more.
dave (morgantown wv)
has anyone looked at who Kentucky has played they only played8 teams incaa field . while wvu, syracuse, and kansas played double that.They should have been a 2 seed
Graham Hays (4:33 PM)
I was confused for a second by this question and then realized Syracuse was being used as an example of strength of scheduling, Clearly, this wasn't about women's basketball.
Erica (Boise, ID)
If Melanie Murphy is healthy(er) and gets some good playing time early in the tournament, do you think she could be an x-factor for Stanford? Tara Vanderveer has said several times that she believes Murphy could make a big difference in a game against UConn.
Graham Hays (4:35 PM)
Definitely agree with you, Erica. Tough to imagine Murphy playing 20-25 minutes in a game like that, but if that's not what they would need from her. If she could play a productive 10-12 minutes in that kind of game, give the other guards a little break and inject some energy, it could be a big difference for Stanford. The same way Lorin Dixon isn't going to be the star of any game for Connecticut, but if she plays well in a limited role, it makes them that much tougher to deal with.
Why was North Carolina considered such a lock? I understand why BC and Michigan were not included, but the unquestioned inclusion of NC surprises me--as does the 10 seed. Except for the final game against Duke, NC completely fizzled down the stretch. I have to agree with Dave from Michigan on this one--seems like NC was rewarded purely for the number of wins and not for playing a tough schedule.
Graham Hays (4:38 PM)
You won't find me arguing that. Win against St. John's does not a nonconference resume make. UNC usually gets away with playing a couple of big nonconference games and a ton of cupcakes because of what they do in the ACC. This year they didn't do it in the ACC. If I'm BC, that's what I'm ticked about more than Green Bay getting in.
Jimson Cuenta (Lumberton, NJ)
Got two questions: (1) Will Wisconsin-Green Bay make the Sweet 16?(2) Will my Lady Vols win Title 9 this year?
Graham Hays (4:41 PM)
I'l go with no and no. It was good, to my way of thinking at least, to see Green Bay make the field, but I'm not sold they've solved their defensive issues. A team like UWGB doesn't beat Virginia by getting into a high-scoring, last-team-score-wins game. And Tennessee could give Connecticut an interesting game, but who is going to pick against the Huskies going in?
Erica (Boise, ID)
How far do you think Gonzaga can go? I think they could surprise some folks, beyond just the UNC game.
Graham Hays (4:45 PM)
Don't love the potential second-rounder against Texas A&M for Gonzaga. Playing it in Seattle helps, but Gonzaga certainly loses any element of surprise after playing A
Ken (Dallas, TX)
While MTSU struggled against one of the toughest out of conference schedules and really only have one quality win agains Kentucky...how do you see them fairing agains Miss. St?
Graham Hays (4:49 PM)
Cautiously optimistic about MTSU. Clark's effort in the Sun Belt title game notwithstanding, they've got to get some points out of their 3-point shooters. That seemed to come around in conference play. How much of that was weaker defenses and how much was just the ebb and flow of shooting? I guess we'll see. But Mississippi State doesn't seem like the kind of team that's going to run away with any game. Seems like a better matchup than last year, and MTSU almost won that one.
Melissa (Frisco, TX)
South Dakota State has been playing pretty well towards the end of the season. Any chance you think they beat Oklahoma?
Graham Hays (4:53 PM)
More than a typical No. 14 seed, but not a great chance, especially not in Norman. A team like SDSU can't afford to give OU free possessions (they almost couldn't afford to give Oral Roberts free possessions), and they do seem a little turnover prone. But any team that shoots the way SDSU does from the 3-point line is going to have a puncher's chance.
Dave (Columbus, OH)
What will it take for Jantel Lavender to get her name pronounced correctly on the air? Sweet Sixteen? Final Four? A fourth straight conference player of the year award next year?
Graham Hays (4:54 PM)
Thankfully, I only have to spell it correctly.
You've already projected all four 1 seeds to make it to San Antonio, but if you had to choose a non-1 seed to make a surprise appearance, which one and why?
Graham Hays (4:58 PM)
I know, I went all chalk. Very lame, and I'm the first to admit it. Given your location, this may not be the answer you're looking for, but Baylor just keeps popping off the bracket. If Melissa Jones is some solid percentage of her healthy self, and that's a big if, that's a team that could beat just about anyone on a given night. I do think it helps the Lady Vols having played against Griner once, even if it was months ago, just to know how that changes the lane when UT is on offense, but that's the one I'd probably go with. Something about Kentucky also keeps intriguing me, even though the statistical measurables don't jump off the page.
Come on! Louisiana Tech is ripe to upset Florida State! Why isn't this a consensus. Florida State is clearly overlooking Tech and the second round match up simply because they played "well" against UCONN. But that's what they're looking forward to - playing UCONN... and not concentrating on the first two rounds.
Graham Hays (5:01 PM)
Another team that would be a better upset pick if they had drawn someone else. To be honest, I get what you're saying about FSU overlooking people, but I think people are sleeping on the Seminoles a little just because they're in that UConn black hole of the bracket. FSU does some things really, really well, with the size inside, a nice PG in Ward and some scorers on the wing. A nicely balanced team. The Dowdell-Monroe matchup in that first-rounder should be fun to watch.
COHuskyFan (Highlands Ranch, CO)
How much do you think Griner's issues will play a role in a potential Baylor / TN game? Will TN purposefully try to get under her skin?
Graham Hays (5:03 PM)
I think every team that plays Baylor is going to try and get under Griner's skin. Fair or not, that's what you do in the post against someone who has shown a temper, and that's one of the things she'll have to get used to dealing with moving forward. At the same time, Cain always has to be wary of foul trouble, so you don't want to do anything foolish.
Nick P (Waterloo, ON)
Do you think that there are any 9/10 seeds that have the potential to go deep in the tourney? It seems to me that there are a few teams (Vermont, Middle Tennessee, Rutgers) that could be a cinderella this year.
Graham Hays (5:06 PM)
Love Vermont. Don't love that they'd be playing Notre Dame on the Irish's home court, but still, that's a team I'd look out for. I saw them beat a really good Dayton team on a neutral court and play with Nebraska for a half (to be fair, the Huskers blew past them in the second half). Pilypaitis and Kotsopoulos, aside from requiring hazard pay to type, play really well together. Someone asked earlier about veteran backcourts, and the Catamounts are one of the prime example among double-digit seeds. They also have some decent size, by mid-major standards, in the frontcourt.
Steve ( (Pullman)
How come WVU was not sent to Pittsburgh and must play at texas in the 2nd round. 2nd place in Big East and runner-up in tourney I thought would have meant more than where they were placed. Thoughts?
Graham Hays (5:08 PM)
That surprised me, too. Once UConn was sent to Norfolk, it seemed to make sense to send WVU to Pittsburgh. Don't have a good answer for you. I guess Ohio State has the same claim to playing close to home, and South Bend and Louisville were both effectively blocked by Notre Dame and Kentucky.
Brian (Richmond, Ky.)
How far can the Kentucky women go in the tournament? Starting out in Louisville has to be a HUGE boost.
Graham Hays (5:11 PM)
Going to be there for the Saturday-Monday games and I'm very interested to see what kind of crowd they draw. It seems like a good draw for them, for the same reason it's good draw for Nebraska in that regional (and a good draw for Notre Dame and Oklahoma). None of them would have to play a team that is dramatically physically superior, which is a plus. I just think with all that being equal, the Huskers are the best of the bunch. But can't wait to see the Wildcats in person. They're really impressive on tape.
I'm surprised I don't hear more expert support for Duke. Have people seen them play? Kara Lawson has it right -- big, tough, edgy , great defense, terrific offense in Jasmin Thomas and Christmas. Speaking as a Lady Vol fan, Duke scares me to death.
Graham Hays (5:13 PM)
Definitely understand that point of view, but I guess when it comes to getting to the Final Four, I'm in the doubter camp. I just don't see the offense being consistent enough to win four or five in a row in March. They're a great defensive team, as you say, but they remind me of Texas A&M last year. This time of year, at some point it's going to come down to making big buckets.
Graham Hays (5:14 PM)
All right, thanks for all the questions. They probably provided more entertainment than the answers! Enjoy the games this weekend.