Chat with Mechelle Voepel
Welcome to SportsNation! On Friday, women's basketball writer Mechelle Voepel will stop by to chat about the women's tournament.
Voepel is a regular contributor to ESPN.com's women's basketball coverage.
Send your questions now and join Voepel Friday at noon ET!
Mechelle Voepel (12:01 PM)
How about that Kansas State-Xavier double-overtime game last night? I imagine the Xavier women were living and dying with that one out in Sacramento. I can empathize with all the folks who were trying to write that one on a newspaper deadline! OK, now, let's get started!
Blake (Washington, DC)
Hi Mechelle! I love your coverage. I was wondering if you could talk about the trouble Ohio State has had in the postseason and why you think that is. I was also wondering if you could talk about Samantha Prahalis: She's a remarkable talent but she seems to lose her cool at unfortunate times for her team.
Mechelle Voepel (12:04 PM)
Tell you what ... it hasn't been great to be a Buckeye in the women's NCAA tournament for a while now. In Jim Foster's nine seasons, Ohio State has lost to worse-seeded team six times. Two of those were seeds that were just one seed "worse" so those aren't true "upsets" but ... losing as a No. 1 to No. 8, a No. 4 to 13, 6 to 11 and 2 to 7 ... at some point, you have to start wondering about OSU's approach to the post season. As for Sam Prahalis, the meltdown spoke for itself. She had to learn better self-control to be counted on a leader for her team.
Thanks for all your great coverage, Mechelle. I'm curious about what seems to be a relative lack of journalistic reverb on Sam Prahalis' latest tantrum. Comment?
Mechelle Voepel (12:07 PM)
I guess probably too many other things going on, frankly. Once you're out of the tournament, the spotlight is quickly on to the next thing. She hurt her own image and her team by losing control, but I don't know what there is to say except we hope Ohio State finds some ways to help her better deal with her temper. Because it's damaging to her team if she doesn't get it better under control.
The Florida State-Mississippi State game. Does the combination of Monroe and Bravard cancel out Mokongo? And if so, what are the chances of the inside duo doing some damage against UCONN?
Mechelle Voepel (12:10 PM)
Since we have to do picks, I did pick Mississippi State after agonizing over it for a while. I think this could be one of the best Sweet 16 games because these teams are pretty evenly matched. Like FSU's post duo a lot, and Courtney Ward at point. It's just hard at this point to see many posts doing much damage to UConn, if FSU does indeed meet Huskies ... that said, FSU played UConn pretty well when they met in December. But Monroe had 14, Bravard six ... and Charles 24.
Vivian Frierson has been the best player for Gonzaga so far. How has this helped her WNBA Dreft status?
Mechelle Voepel (12:14 PM)
Actually, her name is "Frieson" and I would bet that's been misspelled and mispronounced most of her life. :) She was tremendous in the win over Texas A&M, but I think the concern with a player like her in terms of the WNBA is that she's "tweener" size - a 6-0 forward. She's made 2 of 8 3-pointers this year. If you're that size and don't shoot the 3 at all, I think WNBA teams are not sure where they will play you. But let's see how they evaluate her.
Mechelle, My Musketeers are getting no love from any of the "experts". Don't you think if our guards are shooting the 3 ball well we have a GREAT chance of winning?
Mechelle Voepel (12:16 PM)
Oh, I think we were all swayed by a little Zags mania after that win over Texas A&M vs. Xavier's close call against Vanderbilt. I was one centimeter away from picking Xavier, then I thought, "Well, Gonzaga is a hot team now." So yes, there is no doubt that Xavier has an excellent chance to win. I always say don't take any of those picks very seriously. We're just guessing like everybody else.
In all the Sweet 16 matchups, which lower seed do you think has the best chance at pulling off an upset?
Mechelle Voepel (12:17 PM)
Since I picked the two No. 7s - Mississippi State and Gonzaga - the other day, I think I will stick with them. But I'm really thinking No. 4 Kentucky can provide a threat to No. 1 Nebraska, too.
I read an article in the Post-Gazette in Pittsburgh today that 11 of 16 schools lost money in the women's tourn. last year. And Pitt, a host school says they will lose money this year. My question then is: Why doesnt' the NCAA Committee considering going back to the old 8 and 8 format instead of trying the 16 sites with 4 teams? It makes fore better ticket sales and I would imagine more schools would make money rather than lose money.
Mechelle Voepel (12:21 PM)
The eight at eight didn't work well, either ... you had situations like 2006, where Penn State was hosting eight teams and not in the tournament, and nobody was there. I say go back to the top 16 seeds hosting, and if that means you can't get every game on TV, so be it. I know that sounds like sacrilege, but I think it makes more sense than spending lots of money to have games in places where few of the locals even want to see them. Put the product where you *know* there will be a buyer. That is my new motto, and I'm going to keep repeating it.
cary (south carolina)
Mechelle the Georgia Bulldogs seem to be back to their early season form. How far can they go in the tournament?
Mechelle Voepel (12:23 PM)
If anybody thinks Stanford is just going to cruise over Georgia ... I just don't think so. I think it's too easy to underestimate SEC teams by comparing them to Tennessee, you know? This is a good Georgia team ... I wish they would score more, but that seems to be coming around some, too. Georgia has weapons to use against Stanford, especially in the backcourt with the experience of Houts complementing the youthful energy and scoring skill of James. I think Stanford will win, but could be tested.
Mechelle, sometimes you look at the wider significance of women's sports (e.g. columns on Billy Jean King or Rene Portland). What wider issues do you think are really important now?
Mechelle Voepel (12:27 PM)
Economics. The recession has caused cutbacks on so many things, and women's sports are going to take a harder hit and take it sooner than men's. It's a reality that the pie is much smaller in the best of times. In the worst, it really starts to shrink. The collapse of newspapers and the general sluggish media climate for anything but the biggest-ticket events/sports is having an effect on women's sports, too. So many people who covered women's sports - including at the crucial, grass-roots level - have lost their jobs and are out of the business or doing other things and writing free blogs to keep a hand in it. I worry about how many really good people who professionally covered the game are going to be able to keep doing it and for how long.
Squall (Balamb Garden)
Hey Mechelle! My Women's bracket is doing so much better than my men's... How big are the threats Tennessee faces in the Memphis bracket? Will they win two to set up an epic showdown with UConn?
Mechelle Voepel (12:32 PM)
This kind of wraps up several different questions people have posted about Tenn. vs. Baylor, and the potential of a Tenn-UConn national semi. Griner was very impressive in the last round, as was Baylor's defense all-together. I think right now we're seeing the Baylor team that Coach Mulkey thought she might have in February if Jones wasn't hurt. So they are a little behind the expected development curve. I still see Tennessee as having too many skilled weapons right now, and I think their overall size at every position - save when Bass is on the floor - is kind of overwhelming for most foes. If Tenn gets past Baylor and Duke beats San Diego State, that's another matchup where I see Tenn. being as good defensively as Duke and better offensively. Then ... well, we might have a little bit to write if Tenn and UConn play.
First, very nice article on Fennelly and Iowa State today. Do you think that Fennelly's going to pull an Appel on UConn -- refuse to double Charles, give her her 30+ points, but make sure that Moore/Green/Hayes don't take any uncontested shots? I see some problems with that -- mostly that Charles is shooting 65% from the field -- but it may be Iowa State's only chance that doesn't involve food poisoning.
Mechelle Voepel (12:34 PM)
Obviously, the problem is that Iowa State does not have any true low-block experience to one-on-one defend with Tina Charles. Not like even the best veterans are able to do that well. So maybe Charles is not the player that the Cyclones chose to "let go" as it were. Maybe it's Moore? Or maybe Bill comes up with some mixture of schemes. Whatever the case, this is just not a good matchup for the Cyclones. But it will give UConn a good workout in guarding the 3-point line.
do you think Geno has more faith in his bench now that they have played more time and the results have been great?
Mechelle Voepel (12:37 PM)
That's possible, and maybe he will look to give the bench some more minutes in Dayton if UConn is winning comfortably. Because where I think he may need to dip into that bench just a little for something a bit more substantial is in San Antonio. I'm not saying he'll play the bench a lot there or anything, just that even if what he needs is a minute or two here and there, those will have to be good minutes.
Any insight or information as to why Nebraska gets the late game on Sunday? All of the other #1 seeds get the early game?
Mechelle Voepel (12:40 PM)
I've been asked this a few times, and the truth is I don't know how the folks on the TV side make these decisions. So I would only be speculating. But, much as Nebraska-Ky. fans may find this irritating, the reality is that Oklahoma and Notre Dame are both former Final Four participants (ND winning the 2001 title) and that may be seen as more the marquee matchup. But again, that's just my speculation.
If the men are stupid enough to expand the men's tournament to a field of 96, do you think the women will follow or keep it sane at 64? Also, any chance if Gonzaga makes it pass XU tomorow they can squeak by Stanford?
Mechelle Voepel (12:44 PM)
I think it would be a mistake for either to expand. That said, what the men do is so different ... it's just a different-level sports event. I really believe that women's basketball has to constantly keep its eyes trained on what its audience is, how it could reasonably hope to expand that (not daydreams, reality) and then act in the best interest of the sport. Not worry if it doesn't align with what the men do with their tournament. As for XU ... I think when you've been one of the best teams in the country all year and have such powerful players inside, you have to think that you can beat anybody. So it's not like Xavier coming out of that regional is inconceivable. Even though I do think Stanford will win it.
UConn Steve (TX)
Do you think WCBB could actually benefit if a team other than UConn and Tennessee played in the final? After every UConn game, there are a lot of negative comments about the state of WCBB on the ESPN conversation board As you know, if UConn wins, it would be their 7th, including back-2-back. And if Tennessee wins, it would be their 9th, including 3 in 4 years. Even though i am a UConn fan, i do feel for fans of other NCAA teams. I hated it when the Pittsburgh Steelers won 4 Super Bowls in 6 years. Thanks for today's chat!
Mechelle Voepel (12:47 PM)
I think because it's women's basketball, it gets some degree of negative comments no matter what happens. It was only four years ago that neither Tenn nor UConn were in the title game or even in the Final Four. When Maryland beat Duke in the 2006 final, a lot of people said it was one of the more exciting games they'd seen. That was only FOUR years ago. So, yes, we got another big dose of Tenn and UConn after that. But I think that should just motivate other teams to be the next Maryland and Baylor.
Orin Day (Durham, NC)
Hi Mechelle, do you think that Duke's Jasmine Thomas and Keturah Jackson can put a lid on San Diego State's Jene' Morris?
Mechelle Voepel (12:49 PM)
I think they better, because Texas and West Virginia found out what happens if you don't. Duke is a better defensive team than the Horns or the Mountaineers, though, specifically at containing the perimeter. BTW, tell your Cubs to sit on better chairs when they sit down to eat. :) Couldn't resist!
Dee (Providence, RI)
Hi Michele, Love your work! Can you tell me why the committee would have a potential matchup btwn Uconn and TN LVs for a semi? Wouldn't they, along with everyone else like to see the matchup for the NC game?
Mechelle Voepel (12:53 PM)
I think the committee wanted there to be a meeting between these two, and didn't want to risk one or the other being bumped off in the national semifinals like happened with UConn in 2008. That said, let's not shortchange Stanford. The Cardinal beat Tennessee and I would say they deserved to be on the other side of the bracket opposite the Huskies. I guess the debate, of course, was whether Tenn and Neb. should have switched spots. But Neb did go undefeated up until the Big 12 semis.
What has happened to the University of Colorado women's program? Do you see hope for improvement?
Mechelle Voepel (12:57 PM)
I was just writing something about Iowa State yesterday having lost to Colorado in the 1997 Big 12 tourney, which the Buffs went on to win. And thought, "Wow, what a different time that was for CU." I think that when Ceal Barry left coaching, there was an uncertainty where to go next. There was so much negative going on in that athletic department, the women's basketball program was not a priority. Then there was the change in ADs. There was Kevin Borseth taking the job and then changing his mind. There was Kathy McConnell-Miller coming in as second choice. Maybe things turn around in the next couple of years, but if they don't ... Colorado has to totally re-evaluate what it wants and expects from it's women's program. I've heard some coaches say that program out to be a gold mine because of the positives of recruiting there.
John (Lawrence, Kan.)
Any insight on the Missouri coaching vacancy or the soon-to-be-vacant Colorado head job?
Mechelle Voepel (1:01 PM)
Illinois State is still alive in the WNIT, having just beaten Kansas, so we'll wait to see if Robin PIngeton is on the radar for either of those programs as has been speculated. I'll say this ... Missouri and Colorado used to be Big Eight powers. Colorado maintained a lot of that into the Big 12. These schools have great advantages to be good women's hoops programs. It's not easy, but it's not like trying to split an atom. It can be done at both. It should be done at both.
Who had the better career and TENN, Candice Parker or Chamique Holdsclaw?
Mechelle Voepel (1:03 PM)
Hard to say anybody save Diana Taurasi had as good a college career as Chamique, as she won three titles to Candace Parker's two. But CP3 was also hurt her first season and didn't play a fourth season when she was eligible for it. The nod there goes to Holdsclaw in college .. BUT ... who do I think is going to have a better overall career, including the WNBA and USA Basketball. That's Candace.
Chipper (Bristol, CT)
What is your take on the Nebraska-Kentucky contest? I see it as a very even match between two teams who represent programs that have earned their way up the ladder.
Mechelle Voepel (1:05 PM)
Absolutely ... and it's nice to see it in the women's game. Nebraska and Kentucky have both energized their fan bases and they are getting exposure now to help in recruiting. Yes, the Huskers lose a ton this season in seniors, but Nebraska will have name recognition now in recruiting that it did not have before. The next two years will be the time to take advantage of that.
kevin (macon ga)
St John's is having trouble filling their men's coaching job. Would that be a good opportunity for a female coach who wanted to cross over?
Mechelle Voepel (1:08 PM)
I always say the same thing for this ... if a woman wants to do this, she probably needs to decide early in her career and come up the ranks in men's coaching. I see that as a more viable path than getting really successful in the women's game and then trying to switch over, especially since I don't even know may people who've even thought about doing that. I do think there are some women in coaching who would be fine coaching men if that was their goal and they really were prepared to spend their time in that game and climb the ladder.
Allie (Berkeley, CA)
What do you see happening w/ the Cal Bears program in the next few years?
Mechelle Voepel (1:11 PM)
Hard to see the Bears having any worse luck than they had this season with so many awful things happening. This sounds simplistic, but it's all about recruiting. Joanne Boyle knows how to coach, but you have to have enough talented bodies to work with. I am going to be very interested to see how the balance of power below Stanford shakes out in the coming years. I see no pending dropoff for the Cardinal, so it's still a scramble for everyone else to position themselves. Liked what I saw of UCLA in Minneapolis. We'll see how committed Michael Cooper really is at USC. How long will the struggle at Washington continue or can it turn around unexpectedly. What of Westhead's system in Oregon? A lot to keep an eye on.
Mary (Minneapolis, MN )
It was great to have you covering the games in Minneapolis. Any thoughts on what is going on with the Gophers?
Mechelle Voepel (1:13 PM)
Same stuff. Recruiting. Keep Minnesota talent at home and poach where you can. The Gophers just had a talent/experience deficit this season, as I'm sure their fans could attest.
What Sweet 16 game are you most looking forward to?
Mechelle Voepel (1:16 PM)
I really think all the Sweet 16 games are going to be pretty good ... save ... well, I have to admit I don't know how long Iowa State will hang in with Connecticut. Not that that's any great revelation. But I'm really intrigued by everything else. Notre Dame-Oklahoma could be really close, down-to-the wire game. I'm excited to see Xavier and Gonzaga face off. And it will be fun to watch Tennessee-Baylor go at it again.
UConn Steve (TX)
Diana Taurasi carried UConn on her back to the 2002-3 NCAA title. Do you think there is 1 player who could elevate her team to this year's championship? Thanks!
Mechelle Voepel (1:20 PM)
Obviously, I think UConn is going to win, and it won't be because of one player because one alone won't have to do it. But if I look at the remainder of the Sweet 16, the team that has *one* player who can take over games and who, I think, can't win if she has a poor game is Nebraska and Kelsey Griffin. That is not meant to short-change the rest of the Huskers, because she can't do it alone. But she has carried a lot of weight and will continue to.
Brian (Columbia, SC)
What do you think of Dawn Staley's efforts to build a program at S. Carolina. With her recruiting these 2 years and a Maryland transfer eligible next season, do you think they can make a little noise in the SEC next season?
Mechelle Voepel (1:21 PM)
Dawn Staley has been a winner everywhere she's been, and Year 3 for her at South Carolina could be a breakthrough season in terms of SEC results and making the NCAA tournament. She had a good team this year that wasn't quite ready to win some of the big games they had a chance to win. Next year, they will be ready.
Do you think that UK's Victoria Dunlap should have been on the list of Wade finalists?
Mechelle Voepel (1:23 PM)
Yes, I think Dunlap as SEC player of the year should have been on the list. But as a junior, maybe she's opened enough people's eyes this season that she will be on the awards "radar" even more next season.
Melissa (Brookings, SD)
Which mid-major programs do you see as having the tools to be consistent in making the NCAA tournament and making noise once they get there? Gonzaga, MTSU, both SDSU's?
Mechelle Voepel (1:28 PM)
Just based on what we've seen the last couple of years, I think we will regularly see Gonzaga, South Dakota State and Middle Tennessee be able to get talent and make it to the NCAA tournament. They need to convince more "major" programs to play them in the non-con., which we all know is tough to do. The key will be to have a few victories over some of those teams and a gret conference record so that, for a change, the Zags, Jacks, Blue Raiders can come into the NCAA tournament with a better seed and don't have to trying to pull upsets all the way through. Plus, the committee will have to give them the better seeds that they earn. Not sure you could say the seeding last year for a team like South Dakota State was really fair.
I know vulnerable is just not a word to use with Connecticut, but do you think there is any area in which they are somewhat and could opponents use that to their advantage?
Mechelle Voepel (1:30 PM)
I won't be able to break any new ground here, but the best thing anybody has come up with is if Tina Charles gets in foul trouble early, if the opponent is playing a really effective zone and UConn is not finding the holes well and/or hitting shot, and if the opponent is not turning the ball over and hitting a high percentage of its shots. Plus, the opponent can not feel like it's already lost 5 minutes into the game. All of that can be accomplished ... and the opponent might still lose. But only a few of the teams left, I think, have a chance to really do all of that.
Mechelle Voepel (1:32 PM)
Sorry I didn't get to everybody's questions, but thanks for asking them. Don't forget to watch the Division II championship game tonight on ESPN2 at 8 Eastern time! Emporia State vs. Fort Lewis. Should be some great hoops between two teams that upset the favorites to get to the title game. And enjoy the D-I Sweet 16 this weekend. Thanks for reading our stuff and ESPN.com!