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 NCAA tournament.
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 4:30 p.m. ET!
Graham Hays (4:34 PM)
Hello from Louisville, getting ready for Kentucky-Michigan State in a few hours and hoping to get yet another good game.
Erin Hengesbach (Portland, MI)
Which player had the best first round game this year?
Graham Hays (4:37 PM)
Tough one, so many good individual performances, and I definitely didn't see all of them. Two of the best I saw in person were A'dia Mathies for Kentucky against Liberty and Ta'Shia Phillips for Xavier yesterday against East Tennessee State. But I'd throw in Virginia's Monica Wright in defeat, as well as Gonzaga's Courtney Vandersloot, who had 15 assists and could have had 19-20 with ease. And I know I'm missing a few.
Glenn (Fresh Meadows, NY)
Ok biggest shocker, biggest letdown of round 1 team and individual...
Graham Hays (4:40 PM)
I wouldn't call it a shocker because San Diego State is a good team, but Texas, it's tough to know what to say. Any way you cut it, that's the third-best program in the state right now behind Texas A&M and Baylor, and fair or not, that's not the expectations Texas fans have for any of their programs.
With another relatively weak regular season and early round loss in the tournament, do you think Gail G.'s time at Texas could be shortened?? Seems like she hasn't been able to do much there and it's not really getting better with time. What's your take?
Graham Hays (4:44 PM)
Disappointing as they were, I would hope not. I agree with you that it would be easier to look at the disappointing finishes if there was more of a consistently upward track for the program in general. And that's not there right now. But I also feel like that program was more of a rebuilding project than might have been assumed when she took over. I imagine Goestenkors knows exactly what she signed on for, so she knows there will be some heat, but it's not like she doesn't have a track record. I'd hope for at least another year or two before we start talking about a real, true hot seat.
Glenn (Fresh Meadows, NY)
Team in most trouble going into Round 2? I got FSU as they looked real shoddy against La Tech and only won taking advantage of foul trouble in the 2nd half. St Johns is very similar but with 5x the backcourt scoring and proof that they are NOT afraid of large posts (Ask Tina Charles in a losing effort or Deveraux Peters in a winning one) I think the Noles are in some trouble...who else may be in for a rude awakening
Graham Hays (4:48 PM)
Never understood how Louisiana Tech was a No. 14 seed, so I'm not quite as down on FSU for a first-round struggle. But totally agree with you about St. John's. I thought Princeton would make life difficult for them, and wow was I wrong. Of the 1-3 seeds, I wouldn't be taking things for granted if I was Notre Dame. It helps no end that the game is in South Bend, but Vermont has the bodies to hold its own against an Irish team that isn't great on that count, and Pilypaitis and Kotsopoulos takings on Diggins, Lechlitner, Barlow, etc. should be fun to watch.
jeff (newport beach , Ca)
hey Graham, as a Cardinal grad, im sad about the boys season, but i am stoked for the ladies, i know uconn is uconn, but.....do you see uconn facing Stanford in the final? and do they have the best chance of any team in the tourney for an upset?
Graham Hays (4:52 PM)
That was my (chalk) pick, and nothing in the first round did anything to change it. Stanford and Tennessee are the most interesting matchups (beyond the coaching drama in the latter) because both have legit rotations 1-7 and have a lot of athletic size. But I'm interested to see how tonight's game goes for Stanford, not so much because Iowa is likely to be in it late but to see how the Cardinal handle a really talented backcourt. We know what the Cardinal have with Ogwumike, Appel and Pedersen, but if their guards shut down the Hawkeyes' backcourt, that's a big statement.
Which number 1 has the greatest chance do you think Graham of getting upset first?
Graham Hays (5:02 PM)
Sorry for the pause there. Toss up, Nebraska sure didn't look vulnerable yesterday, but I'd say they have the smallest margin for error of four really terrific teams. At the the same time, if Baylor gets by its second-round game (no given), then Tennessee has far and away the toughest Sweet 16 game.
Erin Hengesbach (Portland, MI)
Which team besides the number one seeds looked the best in the first round?
Graham Hays (5:06 PM)
Duke did what it does with a great defense, and Ohio State did what it does with a great offense. Both were impressive, but take the competition into consideration. UCLA had a really impressive win, going far away from home to race away from NC State in the second half. And Iowa State. It was in Ames, where the Cyclones are pretty much unbeatable anyway, but that wasn't a bad Lehigh team they destroyed yesterday.
Erica (Boise, ID)
In regards to Stanford's backcourt, I think one thing has been overlooked this year and that is Ros Gold-Onwude's defense. She shut down Alexis Gray-Lawson three times and Taylor Lilly twice and really did a great defensive job all year. Pohlen has also picked it up defensively. On the offensive side the guards have been more inconsistent, but I think the defense is a big plus that people have overlooked.
Graham Hays (5:08 PM)
Good points, Erica. Come to think of it, even UConn didn't shoot the 3 well against Stanford, if the Cardinal perimeter defense gets some credit for that.
Loved watching Courtney Vandersloot. Do you think she would have a shot at the WNBA?? Reminded me a little of Linday Whalen -- although probably not as physical.
Graham Hays (5:11 PM)
Yeah, as you suggest, the thing about Whalen is how solid she is physically. And even then, she's had her own difficulties staying healthy. Size will be an issue for Vandersloot, and people will say she floats too much on defense, but someone with the kind of vision passing to people with WNBA hands and WNBA finishing skills? Not to mention an outside shot to keep people honest? I'd give her a chance.
Larry (Arvada - CO)
still waiting for you to respond to ESPNs hate for WVU?
Graham Hays (5:11 PM)
I work for ESPN and don't hate WVU, so I can't really help you. Sorry.
Joe (Green Bay) [via mobile]
I shouldn't be complaining because the Phoenix came away with they victory, but I thought the officials in the GB - UVA game were atrocious. They had no control, no consistency and let it turn into a football game out there. That being said, have you ever seen a team commit 30 turnovers, not make a field goal in the last 12 minutes and still win?
Graham Hays (5:13 PM)
Certainly not in the NCAA tournament. I'm still wrestling with whether that's a good sign, in that they still won, or a bad sign with Iowa State looming. Either way, they get full points for perseverance. And for all the focus on the last 12 minutes, and maybe the first four, I thought Green Bay outplayed Virginia by a good amount in the middle.
UALR Trojans (Little Rock, Arkansas)
What's your gut feel on the UALR Trojans, and what do you know about Coach Foley?
Graham Hays (5:18 PM)
Only know Foley by his accomplishments, which are impressive. Haven't had a chance to talk to him this season. But they absolutely have a shot against Oklahoma, even in Norman. Their backcourt takes really good care of the basketball, they have a couple of people who can knock down 3-pointers and the matchup of Amanda Thompson and Chastity Reed (who I want to call Chastity Melvin every time I type her name) is one that won't get nearly enough attention heading into the game.
Larry (Arvada - CO)
Your reporting and coverage tends to lend itself otherwise...
Graham Hays (5:18 PM)
It's great to see the close games and upsets by the 11 /12 ranked teams. Do you think it signals a true move toward more parity beyond the top 5-10 teams -- could we get to a competitive Top 25-30??
Graham Hays (5:21 PM)
I think so, along with some of the 13-14 seeds playing competitive games. I don't think we'll look back at it as a short-term thing, as in one year there wasn't parity and the next there was. But my feeling is what we saw in the first round is an encapsulated version of the gradual growth over the last few seasons. I'd go beyond even 25-30 and say 5-40, certainly 10-40 is a lot closer.
Jeff (Los Angeles, CA)
I know this might come off as a weird question, but how does the landscape of NCAA Women's Basketball allow for two teams, at or near the top of their sport, not to play each other? Shouldn't both teams capitalize off this rivalry somehow? If Tennessee pulls a huge upset against UConn in the tournament, do you think they'll start playing each other in the regular season again?
Graham Hays (5:24 PM)
Not sure I follow where you're coming from. Seems to me like the top two teams routinely, or at least quite often, don't play each other in a given year on the men's side. But you're saying because it's the same two teams in the women's? That may be fair. I'd love to see them play every year; I do think the sport is better served with them playing than not playing. But they aren't playing, and with that the reality, I'd rather spend time worrying about the games that are happening, you know?
Donnell (Seattle, Wa)
What does LSU have to do to beat Duke tonite, and if they get past Duke do you see them making the Regional Final against Tennessee?
Graham Hays (5:28 PM)
Score 55 points? That one probably isn't going to be real high-scoring affair. I don't see Duke losing this one, but for it to happen? Big game from Hightower, teams gets hot from the 3-point line, which isn't usually a big weapon. Most importantly, limit the turnovers. LSU does a great job taking care of the ball, but looking at some of their big losses (Nebraska, Tennessee, etc). they don't have the weapons to make up for it when they do let the ball go.
Nice article on VU's Meredith Marsh and Jence Rhoads today. How do you see VU's matchup with Xavier? How long can VU go with the heighth disadvantage they have?
Graham Hays (5:34 PM)
Thanks, John. Vanderbilt has been dealing with size all year in the SEC, but yeah, as you're alluding to, this is a Tennessee-sized challenge. Literally with Ta'Shia Phillips and Amber Harris, not to mention good size from April Phillips and some of the wings. I'm not sure East Tennessee State provided much of a blueprint for other teams, unless those teams can count on shooting 50 percent from the 3-point line. Then again, until the SEC tournament, Vandy played two single-digit games against the Lady Vols, the team that best approximates Xavier's size. So how long? I'd say into the second half but maybe not into the final 10 minutes.
Who's your pick for the MSU / Kentucky game tonight? Speed vs. Size. Experience vs. Home Crowd. If MSU has less than 20 turnovers, I am guessing they make it to KC.
Graham Hays (5:38 PM)
That's a good number to focus on, Joe. How well do the Spartans handle Kentucky's quickness? They need a consistent game, not necessarily a big game, from Brittney Thomas. They also need Kalisha Keane to be a factor. And I think Jasmine Thomas could be a real X-factor, giving them a guard to go quick-for-quick against the Wildcats. In the end, my hunch is Kentucky makes MSU expend too much energy and comes out with the win.
Assuming they make it to the Elite Eight, who do you like in the Nebraska - ND match-up? Haven't been able to see Nebraska at all, so wondering how deep / strong they are beyond their All American?
Graham Hays (5:42 PM)
They've got the depth, not necessarily star-caliber players quite on par with the Nos. 2 and 3 players on a Connecticut or Stanford, but really good. Hate to quite harping on Notre Dame inside, because they had some good moments and getting Devereaux Peters closer to 100 percent helps immensely, but I can't see the Fighting Irish matching up with both Griffin and Cory Montgomery, a really nice post player who can step outside. And as good as ND's guards are, Nebraska's Yvonne Turner and Lindsey Moore would more than hold their own.
Graham Hays (5:43 PM)
Ok, got to run. Thanks to all the questions. Enjoy the games!