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 women's 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 (4:03 PM)
Hey. sorry I'm late. Good opening weekend of basketball, so what's on your minds?
How about that 95 that the Huskers dropped on Vermont? Griffin is gone, but the Huskers are here to stay!
Graham Hays (4:06 PM)
It was a great opener for Nebraska, no doubt about it. Are they a top-10 team after losing Griffin, Montgomery and Turner? No, definitely not, but they showed the cupboard is anything but bare. Jordan Hooper didn't have the most efficient shooting night, but I loved that she came out in her first game looking to make plays, not awed by the surrounding at all. Of course, it helps when your team is up 20 by about the second or third timeout. Early though it is, Nebraska still looks like a tournament team to me.
Barry (Phoenix, AZ)
Why is it women's basketball fans simultaneously beg for coverage, then trash and berate the commentators and analysts for not picking or ranking their team where the fans want? Can you explain this?
Graham Hays (4:10 PM)
I don't think that's exclusive to women's basketball fans. I think the comments on any story about the BCS standings in football prove people tend to see things how they want to see them when it comes to college sports. But if there is a segment of the women's basketball fandom that is sensitive beyond even that, I get it. It's not easy to get coverage of the game (much easier than it was in the past, but a challenge all the same). I don't have a problem with fans being protective of a game or a team they care about. Although I reserve the right to be annoyed when they berate me.
Glenn (Fresh Meadows)
My favorite part of the Womens Game compared to other college sports is the prelveance of high quality matchups throughout the year, not just in conference play...Besides Uconn Baylor what matchups are you looking forward to in the early going (and which this weekend were true treats)
Graham Hays (4:12 PM)
Good to see you back for another season, Glenn. Tomorrow's game is obviously something special, but as you suggest, it's not alone. I haven't really scoured all the holiday tournaments in warmer weather, but I feel like we wait a little bit after tomorrow night until things really heat up in December. But then you've got Tennessee and Notre Dame going to Baylor, Xavier and UConn going to Stanford, Stanford going to Tennessee (the same day as UConn-Ohio State in MSG). It's like an advent calendar but with basketball.
No love for Toledo in your top 20ish MidMajors? You like Naama, but question the team this yr? BG lost to Evansville, Toledo defeated StFrancis this week-end, play Purdue tonight.
Graham Hays (4:15 PM)
Case in point of a passionate fan sticking up for her team! I don't think not putting them in the top 20 is the same as questioning the team. There are a lot of teams that didn't make the top 20 that I like a lot this season, and Toledo is in that mix. The Purdue game is a great test. Toledo probably isn't going to Ohio State or UConn or Tennessee and winning. But the Boilers are just on the edge of what could be reasonably considered within range for an upset. Good to see other scorers step up against St. Francis without Mays around.
What are your thoughts on the Florida State Seminoles. New offense, influx of top talent mixed in with some veterans. Your thoughts?
Graham Hays (4:17 PM)
That's a bandwagon I'm on. Seems like a lot of people downgraded them, understandably, after losing Monroe, Gray and Harvin, but watching them in the postseason last season, I came away thinking just about all of their role players had the talent to step into larger roles. Throw in a great recruiting class and a potentially really special player in Natasha Howard and it's still a top-10 team to me with a chance to challenge for the top in the ACC.
On paper, it didn't seem like Rutgers *should* have given Stanford a tough time in this last game....but they did. Is Rutgers underrated?
Graham Hays (4:20 PM)
I don't know, Rutgers looks decent on paper because it's a lot easier to play 38 minutes in the box score than it is on the court. If you look at that top six for Stringer, there's a lot of talent in that group -- maybe not all of them have lived up to their recruiting hype, but they've all shown at least flashes of being really quality players. But if you're playing six players in the second game of the season (and if any team made use of every hour of the early start to practices, it was probably Rutgers), how do you last an entire season?
kevin (macon ga)
Does Penn State's win over Dayton tell us more about the Flyers or the Nittany Lions?
Graham Hays (4:24 PM)
That's a good question, by which I mean, I wish I had an answer. Can we go with a bit of both? Coquese Washington is someone I'd trust to get the program going, but it's a pretty young Nittany Lions team. I'd read it more as a sign Penn State has some potential than a failure for the Flyers. As an aside, I wonder if any team has ever had a great swing in points allowed in consecutive games, from 107 against Dayton to 21 against Rider.
Glenn (Fresh Meadows)
Panic or Don't Panic, early early Edition: St. Johns, Dayton, Gonzaga, UTC, Illinois
Graham Hays (4:27 PM)
If I haven't put a turkey in the oven yet, I'm not panicking over any team. I get where you're coming from with St. John's after the loss to Kansas State, but every team gets a pass for that kind of day in November. I am curious, if not yet concerned, about where the Red Storm are going to get their outside shooting without Kelly McManmon. Can Amanda Burakoski fill that role this season?
Matt (Ann Arbor, Mich. )
Any chance Michigan upsets Xavier tonight?
Graham Hays (4:31 PM)
I don't see it. Seems like Xavier is on a bit of a mission and these early road games at BCS programs, even if they aren't the top of those conference, are a good way to stoke that fire. Not sure how the Wolverines stop both Phillips and Harris. Then again, not sure how anyone outside of UConn, Stanford, Baylor, Tennessee and Duke match that size.
Tony (Emporia (KS))
Brittney Griner often gets criticized for not having post moves and good footwork, not being a "power" type player like Tina Charles, cant rebound, doesnt like contact, gets pushed off the block easily, rushes her shots, doesnt run the floor hard or play with intensity. From your observations what do you think she needs to work on? I've seen her first 3 games this year and she's taking 14 foot jump shots instead of getting post position close to the rim for high percentage shots. If she had a reliable hookshot she'd be a devastating inside scorer.
Graham Hays (4:36 PM)
You've got a three-game lead on me in terms of watching her this season, so I'm not in the best position to assess how her offensive game has grown. I remember talking to Kelli Griffin (ironically enough) at the Elite Eight last year about how much Griner had to learn about how to use her body. For someone that tall at such an early age, it only makes sense to stand as tall as you can and wait for people lob the ball to you -- her peers at that age didn't have the physical tools to push her away. But while there may not be many D-I equals in size, there are a lot of players who can knock her off balance or push her out of position. That's what I want to see tomorrow in person, how well does she make use of leverage and position? If she gets that, the moves will come.
Why are you such a sellout?
Graham Hays (4:36 PM)
My A&R rep told me it would work for me.
Other than the realignment of 'what we're used to', do you see any real significant impact to come from the upcoming shifts in the Big 10/12, Pac 10, etc., when it comes to women's hoops?
Graham Hays (4:39 PM)
Mostly the first thing. It'll take some time to get used to, but it doesn't seem like a seismic shift. Nebraska should be good for the Big Ten, giving it another upper-tier program like Michigan State to challenge OSU. Utah is going to be a really nice add for the Pac-10, with the consistency they've had in Salt Lake City. And Colorado is yet one more underachiever to go with a few in that category. I'm curious to see how Boise State does in the Mountain West. Don't think it'll be immediate, but that's a program I could see growing.
How does Vanderbilt match up with Florida State in this sunday's game?
Graham Hays (4:42 PM)
Haven't seen an update on Jence Rhoads, but I'd be worried if I was Vanderbilt and she's not 100 percent. But Holzer vs. Howard could be fun to watch in the post in that one.
Glenn (Fresh Meadows)
On the shift of conferences...what about BYU going to the WCC...It seems with only a burgeoning Gonzaga and very little else that could stunt the growth of the mid major.
Graham Hays (4:46 PM)
How so? I'm inclined to see it the other way. BYU is always going to have a recruiting pool - half that roster is from Utah, and those players aren't going somewhere else just because it's in the WCC. Having both of those programs could push some of the other programs to get better. I don't think programs like Loyola Marymount and Portland are all that far from being quality competition for Gonzaga.
ian (new york)
whts up mr. hays. i know this is a random question but do you see brittney griner being on the 2012 usa olympic basketball team. A front line of her, parker, fowles, and charles would be pretty impressive. Also, do you think Griner will ever develop into a player who can impose her will on the offense end every game and having multiple dunk games consistantly?
Graham Hays (4:50 PM)
As you list, there's some competition there for her. It's only two years away, but maybe the only honest answer is who knows? I think it's entirely possible that Griner's offensive game takes such an enormous leap in the next two years that it will be impossible not to take her. I also think it's possible that it takes her a little longer to become that kind of player. She's unique, so there's not a lot to go on in terms of projecting what comes next. All that's clear is the potential is there to be the best.
Fred (Walpole, MA)
Hey Graham, big fan of yours here, keep up the great reporting! Huge UConn fan, just wanted to get your take on the matchup between Britney Griner and Stephanie Dolson/Heather Buck. I think that those two can effectively shut down BG with Heather being the anchor and Stephanie from the front. I don't think BG has a chance, thoughts?
Graham Hays (4:54 PM)
Thanks, Fred. I'm working on something about that topic right now (well, not right now, but you get the point). I have a hard time envisioning the two of them out there together a whole lot. Seems like that takes UConn out of what it does best, pushing the tempo and being more nimble. If the Huskies can get good (15?) minutes out of the two of them, put a body on Griner and, at least in Dolson's case, draw her out to the free-throw line on defense, that seems like a pretty good outcome for UConn.
Do u think Coach Insell and MTSU can get it done again this season without Alysha Clark?
Graham Hays (4:56 PM)
He got it done when Chrissy Givens left. And he got it done when Amber Holt left, so I'm not putting it past him. Is Ebony Rowe the name we all need to learn now? I don't know, but it was a heck of a first game. And I'll admit, I was a little surprised to see them take down South Florida, even in Murfreesboro. It's never wise to underestimate Insell, and I get the feeling I may have done that in the preseason.
Quinn (Washington DC)
Graham, don't dance around the topic. Who is your pick for winner in the UCONN/Baylor match up? Who has a bigger night, Griner or Moore?
Graham Hays (5:01 PM)
Trust me, no dancing here. Nobody needs to see that. I'll take UConn in a close game in a matchup that will tell us something about what both teams could be my March but almost nothing about what they will be for sure. If the Bears had Griffin to run things and calm things down when needed, I might lean the other way, but I think it's going to take some time for them to adjust. And UConn's defense, on the road in Hartford, is a tough place to do that five days after the start of the season.
Graham Hays (5:03 PM)
All right, I've got to run. But thanks for all the questions. Enjoy the game tomorrow night!