Chat with Mechelle Voepel
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, women's basketball writer Mechelle Voepel will stop by to chat about the women's college hoops season.
Voepel is a regular contributor to ESPN.com's women's basketball coverage.
Send your questions now and join Voepel Thursday at 2 p.m. ET!
Mechelle Voepel (2:06 PM)
Good afternoon, everybody. Let's get started.
kevin (macon ga)
Oklahoma got blown out at Baylor and Texas A&M. Any reason to expect a different result when they visit Connecticut?
Mechelle Voepel (2:09 PM)
No. The Sooners have some weaknesses that the best teams can exploit, and combined with the game being in Connecticut, there is not going to be an upset. But I would still look to the Sooners to potentially have a good NCAA tournament showing - not Final Four again, though - because of their experienced guard play.
Why does the Pac-10 get so much flak? If they had as many teams as some of the other power conferences, you would get the same results.
Mechelle Voepel (2:13 PM)
Is the Pac-10 getting a lot of flak? More than usual? When folks complain about the league, they're just griping about the dominance of Stanford and the relative lack of drama. The Pac-10 will be the Pac-12 next year, so we'll see if that changes anything. I don't know that it will, at least not right away. I have some hopes for what Linda Lappe can do at Colorado. There is also reason to believe UCLA and USC can continue to improve. But Stanford and Tara VanDerveer don't show much sign of slowing down.
At this point of the season, what do you think of Tennessee's chances of winning a National Championship?
Mechelle Voepel (2:18 PM)
I think they have a very solid chance of making the Final Four ... I am less sure of their national-championship potential, in large part because there are still questions about how reliably strong their post presence will be down the stretch due to a lot of health issues. And Pat Summitt acknowledges that she has some concerns about point guard because Meighan Simmons and Kamiko Williams are young and neither is a natural point guard. Summitt said this week that Simmons just isn't really a very good passer yet, although she's made up for that in a lot of other ways and Tennessee is very pleased with how she's played. All that said, Tennessee does have the talent to contend for the title.
Barry (Phoenix, AZ)
What did the Duke-UNC game mean to both teams, as far as the ACC is concerned and, down the road, for the NCAA Tournament? Are there larger implications for both teams, or is it just one close game that could have gone either way?
Mechelle Voepel (2:24 PM)
Duke at 7-1 still leads the league, and I'd project its toughest remaining games are at Maryland and at home in the rematch with UNC. The Tar Heels are 7-2 and still have Miami, Georgia Tech (who beat UNC in Atlanta already) and Duke. Florida State is 7-2 with the likes of Maryland and Miami still left. I felt like had Duke won that game vs. UNC, the Blue Devils were very, very much in the driver's seat for the ACC title. Now, it could slip away from them. Still, since Duke is probably going to end up on the 2 or 3 seed line in the NCAA tournament, I'm not sure that the loss really "hurt" them as much as it potentially could help North Carolina. Provided the Tar Heels can consolidate it with more wins. Ultimately, I was frustrated watching both of these teams' ineffectiveness offensively on Monday ... these squads too often look as if their offense consists only of transition and trying to score one on one.
Prochaska, Vandersloot, Jaeschke, or Sverisdottir: Who gets picked highest in the draft?
Mechelle Voepel (2:28 PM)
I would say Gonzaga's Courtney Vandersloot. I'd like to see her 3-point percentage be a bit better (it's around 31 percent) but she's averaging nearly 18 points per game and has 234 assists to 70-some turnovers. I was talking to WNBA coach Brian Agler recently, and he mentioned how highly he values assist-to-turnover ratio for prospective guards in the league. The other players, to me, are more long shots for making a roster than Vandersloot.
Who would you project as Draft Picks #2, 3, 4??
Mechelle Voepel (2:34 PM)
I have no idea if I'm totally out to lunch on this one at all. I very well might be. But if Australia's Liz Cambage isn't in the mix, and we're only talking about this season's college seniors, as of today, I might suggest this: 2. Tulsa: Amber Harris (Xavier), 3. Chicago: Danielle Robinson (Oklahoma), 4. Minnesota: Kayla Pedersen, (Stanford). I might be way off base, but I think Tulsa has to get someone who they can rely on for points inside, and Harris should be able to do that. Chicago has guards, but could they benefit from a young, super-fast play-maker? D-Rob's perimeter shot is a concern to some coaches, but I think most really like her speed and decision-making. As for Pedersen, I believe she's a "true" four player who's been known for her versatility in college because Stanford has needed her to do that. But she's big and strong and I'd put her in the power forward spot, where she'd still have a chance to show off shooting range. Now, I have heard from some coaches who think that Duke's Jasmine Thomas may be in the top-four mix, too. And some really like Ohio State center Jantel Lavender regardless of the Buckeyes' team struggles this season.
Tell me how there's any hope for my beloved Courtney Paris to get a roster spot in LA...??? I wanna believe, but I don't see it.
Mechelle Voepel (2:39 PM)
My initial reaction is that it could be pretty tough for her to catch on there. But as we talked about last week, the Sparks have been looking for more muscle and size inside. So maybe that is what they believe CP3 might give them. I spoke with someone who had seen her play not too long ago and gave some positive feedback on how she looked.
Shanda M (North Carolina)
I've been a Rutgers fan for some years now, but their offense is terrible. They have amazing talent, but the team constantly under-produce in that area. How can they be a great team with just defense?
Mechelle Voepel (2:44 PM)
I don't think they can be a "great" team with that philosophy. You can conceivably win a lot of games with a top-notch defensive team. But I just don't think it's possible to win an NCAA title that way. On another note, I just don't like that kind of basketball as much.
Are Rutgers' NCAA hopes on life support right now? In or out?
Mechelle Voepel (2:46 PM)
Well, they're 13-9 and their next three games are on the road: at Notre Dame, DePaul and Marquette. So they are really going to have to dig deep to avoid coming out of that stretch 13-12. So, no, I'm not optimistic about their NCAA tournament potential.
Any chance Marist is a single-digit seed? Giorgis, once again, has that team absolutely dominating the MAAC.
Mechelle Voepel (2:52 PM)
It's tougher for that to happen because of the strength of schedule and the conference. But those wins against Louisville and Houston are going to help. I think Charlie Creme had Marist at 10 in the recent bracketology, so it's at least conceivable they could bump up a bit from that.
Is Brian Giorgis at Marist the best coach not at a power-six conference school?
Mechelle Voepel (2:54 PM)
I think he's one of the top coaches even when you toss in the power-six conferences, too. He seems very happy to be where he is and working at Marist. But I would be very confident he could move to a "big" conference and succeed.
I followed Dawn Staley coaching career at temple and she got maximum effort from players she recruited because they were tough minded and had chips on their shoulders. It looks like she having trouble recruiting and keeping players at South Carolina because she is now going after the top rated recruits instead of the tough ones. Would you agree that Dawn Staley needs to stick with the same recruiting philosophy she had at temple to be successful at South Carolina and will they give her time to build her program?
Mechelle Voepel (3:00 PM)
I mean no disrespect to Temple or the Atlantic-10, but Dawn Staley probably believes she has to go after a the higher-tiered kids in recruiting to really make a move in the SEC. I don't know that the issue of departures/transfers is with Staley or South Carolina necessarily. We're going to continue seeing player movement because kids today travel all around in AAU ball, they keep in contact with friends nationwide, they watch other programs ... and the grass very often looks greener somewhere else. Players just didn't used to have the technology to be so aware of what was going on everywhere, obviously, and so there was probably less fuel for them being unhappy where they were and thinking the answer had to be somewhere else.
The Maryland Terps have climbed up the polls this season and appear to be a serious challenge for any team come tournament time. I think this team is better defensively than the Langhorne/Toliver/Coleman teams. What do you think of their chances this year?
Mechelle Voepel (3:04 PM)
This stretch run of the ACC regular season will be a good indicator of how much of a force the Terps could be in the NCAA tournament. They have three of the tougher road trips in the league still to take: Miami, Florida State and Boston College. And the rematch with Duke, which will be at Maryland. Of course, the "joke' about the Lang/Toliver/Coleman teams was that they were so good offensively that they didn't need to focus much on defense. This group of Terps needs to rely more on its defense, and it will get tested throughout the rest of February.
Nick (St. Johns)
Chances Michigan State holds on for a B10 title and a possible #2 seed?
Mechelle Voepel (3:07 PM)
Tonight's game at Penn State is a big part of that answer. If the Spartans get this road win, I would not be shocked to see them win out the rest of the Big Ten regular season.
Cambage has to be in the mix when projecting 2/3/4. No way on God's green Earth that she gets past the Lynx at #4, if she makes it that far.
Mechelle Voepel (3:08 PM)
That's why I said if she's not in the mix, here's a guess at 2/3/4 with current college seniors. Agree that if she is in the draft pool, she'll be a lottery pick. I don't know what her stance is on the WNBA right now.
kevin (macon ga)
You really think Danielle Robinson is a lottery pick? She doesn't exactly fit what Agler was talking about regarding ATO for prospective point guards.
Mechelle Voepel (3:12 PM)
All the college point guards/potential point guards have at least something that people are wondering about. D-Rob's current A/TO: 118-87. I like Robinson's mindset and how much of a clutch player she's been for Oklahoma. But whether that translates to what she can do at a pro level ... we'll see. I am in no way, shape or form a professional talent evaluator, and particularly find projecting guards' pro potential very difficult. But I don't have to do it for a living. :)
What did you think of the Super Bowl halftime show?
Mechelle Voepel (3:16 PM)
Absolutely hated it. Must admit that after being in Beijing for the magnificent 2008 Opening Ceremonies, I have been ruined for enjoying all future "shows" that have people with lights on them dancing around. I just thought the Super Bowl show was cheesy and not entertaining. My big Super Bowl "loves" were the commercials with little Darth Vader (Volkswagon) and the beaver who cuts down the tree to save the guy's life after the guy had swerved to not run over him/her (Bridgestone tires). I've probably watched them both on YouTube 30 times. But I could not even watch all of the halftime show as it was happening, I was so underwhelmed by it
Mechelle Voepel (3:16 PM)
Yes, I spend way too much time at the computer.
Blake Whitney (Washington, DC)
Louisville and Kentucky have both made tremendous progress in their women's programs over the past few years. I think UofL is second nationally in attendance. Which of these two do you think has more staying power on the national level?
Mechelle Voepel (3:19 PM)
I actually don't see why both of them can't have staying power. They are in a region with a pretty good amount of high school talent. They have energetic coaches who have connected with their communities. They have fan bases that have grown in spite of being in a state where men's basketball is worshipped. I think the growth of these two programs is a big, big plus for the women's game.
What are your thoughts on Brian Agler's signings, and what this means for the Storm (Or should we be calling them the Seattle Opals now?!) and the upcoming season? What about those teams who have yet to visibly make any moves - Phoenix, with the loss of Tan Smith, especially?
Mechelle Voepel (3:23 PM)
Storm fans ought to be really happy. Seattle was a team with great cohesion last season as it won the championship, and it seems like all of Agler's moves have been designed to keep that going just as well. I think Phoenix's hands are a little tied right now waiting to see just how things play out with Diana Taurasi's situation.
Saw where speculation is that the Big 12 might only get 4 teams in the NCAA tournament. I think Baylor, Texas A&M, Oklahoma and Iowa State are locks. I also think Texas will get in, and Texas Tech can get in if it gets back on track quickly. What do you think?
Mechelle Voepel (3:29 PM)
Just saw Texas last night get back over .500 in the league with a win over Kansas State. It's still a tough haul for the Horns, though: They have to go to Baylor, Oklahoma, Iowa State and Oklahoma State, plus they have Texas AM - a team the Horns have really struggled against - at home. It's not being overly optimistic, though, to suggest the Horns could end the regular season 20-10 overall and 9-7 in the Big 12, which I think will get them in. Texas Tech, though, has lost six in a row, and all the promise of the 3-0 start in league play is fading. Tech really can not afford a loss at Colorado on Saturday.
Given the mess at the end of last season in Minnesota, care to take a 1-in-12 shot at where Nicky Anosike might be playing in 2011?
Mechelle Voepel (3:34 PM)
Talking to some folks in Minnesota, I sensed that while they were not very happy with the way Anosike handled the end-of-season issues, overall they were pleased with her play and what she brought to the team. I was told they wanted to keep a good relationship with her. But perhaps her future in Minnesota might depend on team chemistry and whom the Lynx take with the No. 4 pick.
Donnell (Baton Rouge)
Mechelle, what are your thoughts on this years LSU Lady Tigers team and do you think if they get their offense fixed that they have a good shot of making the sweet 16.
Mechelle Voepel (3:41 PM)
At 16-9 right now, LSU has a lot of work to do in terms of being ready for any kind of postseason run. I always wonder about whether teams that have offensive slumps can really "fix" them at this point in the season to a really effective degree. LSU has proven that - with the exception of the Tennessee game - that if they can score around 63 points, they are pretty likely to win. But it's getting there that's been a recent struggle. It was good for LSU to play as well as it did Sunday against Mississippi.
What are your thoughts about the WVU-UConn game? The 'Eers started off really well this season but have stumbled lately. Coach Carey is now concerned that they might not get a tournament slot at all. Do you share his concern?
Mechelle Voepel (3:46 PM)
The game with UConn just wasn't that pleasing to watch in regard to either team. It should bug W. Va. that UConn was vulnerable but still escaped with a victory. I can see coach Mike Carey's concern being that at 6-5 in the conference, with four losses in their last five games and still three road games in the Big East regular season, they may not present nearly as strong a resume to the committee as it looked earlier in the season like they would. These next two games at Louisville and Pittsburgh are pretty crucial.
kevin (macon ga)
How will the coming NBA lockout affect the WNBA?
Mechelle Voepel (3:48 PM)
When I talked to David Stern in December, he said he did not think whatever happened in the NBA labor issues was going to really impact the WNBA. He claimed there was significant separation between the two entities. So you can take that for whatever it is worth. Would be nice to have a new WNBA president to get a response from about this issue, wouldn't it?
Mechelle Voepel (3:53 PM)
And with that little jab, I will call it a chat. Thanks again for all the questions. Hope everyone tunes in for the Sunday February Frenzy games on ESPN2 and/or watches on your computer. Chat again next week.