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 (4:00 PM)
Here we go. Big game tonight in Chapel Hill, but if you feel like rooting for someone, Arkansas-Pine Bluff (0-15) and Centenary (0-14) are in action and could use the support. Pine Bluff's last three losses by 3, 4, 3 points, respectively. Anyway, what's up?
kevin (macon ga)
Looks like we have five contenders for the four #1 seeds: UConn, Duke, Tennessee, Stanford, and Baylor. Which one is the odd woman out?
Graham Hays (4:02 PM)
Not sure Texas A&M can be ruled out of that mix. They didn't have any top-10 RPI wins out of conference, but it was a good overall schedule. If they end up winning the Big 12, I think they'd be right in there. But of the five you mention, strange as it sounds, Stanford might be the one on the outside as things stand today. I think they're one of the four best teams, a lot of people will think they're one of the four best teams, but the math may suggest otherwise. But there's a lot of basketball left, and a lot of chances for losses in that group.
Joe Foss (Athens OH)
Does Bowling Green still have any chance for an at-large bid after the loss to Kent State on Saturday?
Graham Hays (4:05 PM)
Doubtful. Not that losing at Kent State is a terrible loss. Kent is 4-0 in the MAC and second in FG defense, first in FG offense in the conference. But we also aren't talking about going from 100 percent at-large to 0 percent. Bowling Green had its work cut out to claim an at-large even before that loss, so to pull numbers out of thin air, maybe it's like going from 30 percent to 10 percent? But I also don't think they were counting on it. They know as well as anyone it's almost always going to come down to the automatic bid in the MAC. Buffalo tomorrow isn't an easy game, so it'll be interesting to see how BGSU bounces back.
A J (charlotte Nc) [via mobile]
With Uconn Losing And Then Struggling Against Notre Dame Do You Think That The Ncaa Tourney Will Take On A Whole New Feeling Of Excitement Now That It Seems To Be More Competitive?
Graham Hays (4:08 PM)
Definitely. I might be in the minority, but I thought last year's tournament, especially the first weekend, was as enjoyable as any in recent memory, but in terms of the bigger picture, it's not a case of 'Can anyone beat UConn?' this time around. The Huskies will still be right there, but there are probably at least five or six strong title contenders and maybe as many as another 8-10 teams that it really wouldn't be shocking to see in Indianapolis. Could be a fun March.
Jack Rabbit Fan (Brookings)
What do you make of the Jacks this year .. . .What's happened?
Graham Hays (4:13 PM)
I'm not sure. I haven't seen enough of them to offer even a semi-informed opinion. But on paper, the turnover numbers seem like a red flag, along with the rebounding numbers. It also seems like this season underscores that A) Programs like South Dakota State tread a very thin line between success and failure. And B) Jennifer Warkenthien was a really, really special player.
When you look at some of the top Mid-Major teams what you see is longevity in the head coaching position - BG (Curt Miller 10 years), Gonzaga (Kelly Graves 10 years), JMU (Kenny Brooks 9 years), Mid.Tenn St. (Rick Insell 6 years), Marist (Brian Giorgis 9 years) - If these where men's teams the big boys would have snatched these coaches up why not the case in the women's game? Is it the salary level in the women's game does not have a large gap between the BCS and the Mids?
Graham Hays (4:18 PM)
Tough for me to compare because I don't know the men's coaching ranks all that well. But it seems like they have some guys with long tenures -- Mark Few at Gonzaga, Todd Lickliter was at Butler for a good number of years before he left. And there are plenty of examples on the women's side of BCS programs pilfering talented coaches out of the mid-major ranks, like Suzy Merchant at Michigan State, Kevin Borseth at Michigan and Robin Pingeton at Missouri. But if there is more stability, I'd probably throw out as ideas that the money gap isn't as significant between a bad BCS program and a good mid-major program and maybe even that there are more former pro players who get into coaching in the women's game and prove attractive to big-conference programs. Sylvia Crawley, Coquese Washington, Suzy McConnell-Serio (albeit at a quasi-mid-major), etc. I don't know if that last thought holds up to a numbers test, but it might be something.
Follow up to the SDSU and Mid Majors Coaches question: I am a Gophers fan, and Pam Borton is terrible. She does not relate to the players. I want the U of M to hire Aaron Johnston from SDSU. Andy in Atlanta is right, there are awfully good coaches in the mid majors.
Graham Hays (4:20 PM)
There absolutely are some great coaches there. If I was doing a coaching top 10, I think mid-majors would have significant representation. Brian Giorgis, Curt Miller, Kelly Graves, just to name three that would probably make that cut. It's a great part of the women's game.
Kevin (Princeton, NJ)
Princeton lost last year's Ivy ROY Niveen Rasheed for the season...Tigers are still favorites to win the league, but do you think they can make any noise in the tourney?
Graham Hays (4:23 PM)
To state the obvious, that's a big loss, as the ACL curse strikes again. All depends on the draw, of course, but it's tough to see Princeton making noise in March without her. She's one of those players who didn't look like she was at a disadvantage physically against the kind of teams a double-digit seed would face. I'm with you that they still seem like the team to beat, but it also seems like the Ivy was going to be more competitive even before she went down.
Ellen (College Station, TX)
Baylor v. TAMU on 1/30UConn v. Duke on 1/31Predictions?
Graham Hays (4:27 PM)
I predict two good games? The thing that worries me about Duke, especially going on the road, is teams like Baylor, Stanford and Notre Dame all have top-tier individual offensive players. Duke can play defense with any of those teams, maybe even better than them, but can they hit enough shots to outlast Connecticut? Jasmine Thomas is as clutch as they come and is going to knock down big shots eventually, but she can also be a bit of a volume shooter. The Blue Devils need her to be efficient and someone else to create points to win in Connecticut.
Graham Hays (4:29 PM)
Baylor and A&M, that's the College Station game, right? Give me a coin and I'll flip it. I love the way the Aggies and Colson have been taking care of the ball -- with the way they play defense, and if Danielle Adams is on, that's a championship-caliber combination. But I just don't know who they have to stop Griner. I remember her eating them up in College Station last season, and she's only gotten better on the offensive end. Both of those A
Marist loses the greatest player in their history in Fitz - are they better this year?
Graham Hays (4:33 PM)
Not better, I don't think, but different. They brought just about all the other key parts back, so it's not like it's last year's team minus Fitz. All of those kids -- especially people like Kate Oliver, Elise Caron and Brandy Gang are better versions of the players who surrounded Fitz. And Erica Allenspach and Corielle Yarde are special players. Especially with Allenspach, I hope people get a chance to see her play (Are we showing the MAAC tournament final? I'll plug that if so). She's just a fantastic all-around player.
How important was it for the Buckeyes to win over MSU yesterday?
Graham Hays (4:36 PM)
An 11 on a scale of 1-10? Ohio State has a bunch of home games and some manageable road games (not easy, when you look at Penn State recently, but manageable) in the next few weeks. If they're going to get this turned around, and that's still an if, that win yesterday sets the stage for it. But I haven't seen any word on Sarah Schulze. If she's out for a long time, that's a bigger negative than the win is a positive.
Marist vs Iona ESPNU 2/11
Graham Hays (4:37 PM)
There you go, I'll probably be fined for not knowing that. Thanks, Andy. Do yourself a favor and if you have a spare hour or two, watch Allenspach and watch Brian Giorgis.
Ridor9th (Hopewell, VA)
How come the ACC seems to be weak this year?
Graham Hays (4:39 PM)
It seems like the ACC suffers in comparison to the run it had three, four, five years ago, when it was the league to beat with Maryland, UNC and Duke constantly vying for top-five spots. I kind of felt like it was holding its own this season. Duke is a title contender, UNC is better than it was last season, Georgia Tech, Florida State and Maryland are all frisky. Virginia is down, but there's some quality in the league.
Is Penn State for real? They may be a sleeper pick in the Big 10.
Graham Hays (4:43 PM)
Not sure. Yesterday was the first time I saw them for an entire game, and it's hard not to like their backcourt a lot. Their scoring is down significantly in conference, as might be expected, and they have a lot of road games coming up in the next month. But that it's the middle of January and it's still an open question as to whether or not they're for real is good news for Penn State fans.
Graham Hays (4:45 PM)
All right, that's going to do it for today. Don't forget Connecticut at UNC tonight at 7 ET on ESPN2. At the very least, should be a better game than the last two seasons.