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 (4:01 PM)
And away we go.
How big of a win was Texas Tech's win over then No. 1 Baylor in terms of making the NCAA tournament?
Graham Hays (4:02 PM)
Everything is bigger in Texas, right? It was huge. I'd still worry if I'm a Red Raiders fan and they don't at least split a tough final four games in the regular season, but it sure seems like that result moved them from potentially the wrong side of the bubble to having a smidgen of breathing room.
Dan in Boulder (Boulder, CO)
Graham, do you have any thoughts regarding Oklahoma's big win over Texas on Saturday? Do you think that the Sooner team might have turned the corner on their season to become a real threat now?
Graham Hays (4:06 PM)
Huge in terms of margin, right? Because I fear beating the Longhorns doesn't necessarily qualify as a monumental win these days. Not sure about turning the corner, but Sooners fans definitely would have had reason to worry big time (and start watching Jessica Shults blast home run after home run for the softball team) if the team didn't respond like that after the Connecticut loss. And one thing that I'll never do is count out Sherri Coale in the postseason, especially with offensive talent like Robinson, Ellenberg and Hand.
The Mountain West Conference has been disappointing this year. Sole-Winner of the conference tournament in Vegas heads to the NCAA field of 64. Who do you see taking it?
Graham Hays (4:08 PM)
Someone with reason to know took me to task for putting TCU ahead of BYU in the last mid-major rankings, and, well, I think I'm the one eating crow after that last game. So I don't have reason to pick against BYU right now, although as unwise as it might be to pick it away from Laramie, Wyoming still intrigues me.
Jim J. (New York)
Graham, what's your feeling on where Marist might end up being seeded? It's a bit interesting that there is such a disparity in the projections between Green Bay and the Red Foxes despite the fact that they are now just four spots apart in the polls. I know the MAAC is down a bit, but it seems like Marist should be looking at around a 7.
Graham Hays (4:12 PM)
I always contend it's better to be an underrated No. 12 seed than a fairly rated No. 7-10 seed. Try you luck against two flawed No. 4 and 5 seeds rather than a No. 1 or No. 2 in the second round. Then again, I'm not the one that has to coach those games. But it does seem like Marist is going to get caught in the back end of that 7-10 range, when it's a better team than that. I agree with you on Green Bay. I think both are two of the best 25 teams in the country, but the RPI is dragging down the Red Foxes.
Graham Hays (4:12 PM)
Congratulations to Rachele Fitz, by the way, for having her jersey retired in Poughkeepsie last week. Well earned.
Graham, what are you thoughts on Coach Mulkey's calm demeanor at the Tech game..It seems as if she and Curry switched attitudes..Baylor seemed quite flat..do you think it had anything to do with the environment they were headed into, given last year's turn of events?
Graham Hays (4:17 PM)
I don't know that it would have served her team's long-term interest to fly off the handle. That game was always going to be a bit tricky emotionally and mentally, and I have to imagine she had plenty of her usual fire in the locker room at halftime. But as it was, it's just one loss they can use as fuel going into the postseason, instead of any kind of distraction that lingers.
In terms of seeding, what is the best the Houston Cougars can do? Also, what is worst case? Are they a lock?
Graham Hays (4:19 PM)
Not sure they could lose out and make it, but barring a catastrophe of that level, the Cougars seem pretty safe. If they win out convincingly and get some breaks elsewhere, maybe a No. 6 seed? I think Charlie Creme had them at a No. 8 seed in today's Bracketology, and that's probably more realistic.
msufanatw (Dansville, Michigan)
I've been reading espn.com wcbb regularly for the entire season and enjoy reading articles about all the teams and players. Where is the love for Michigan State? Kalisha Keane and Lykendra Johnson have been star players all year but this is a well balanced (and under-sized) team...whom nobody really picked to be 24-3 at this time of the season. Suzy Merchant lost her one McDonald's All American (6' 7" Madison Williams) before the season even really started and yet here they are...at the top of the BT. Don't you think she deserves some consideration for Coach of the Year? Or that they deserve a story?
Graham Hays (4:24 PM)
Michigan State deserves a lot of credit, and while it's probably worth letting a few recruiting classes come through to judge any coach, I'd put Suzy Merchant in a top 10 list of coaches and feel pretty comfortable defending it. The Big Ten has been a mess of inconsistency this seaosn, with one exception in East Lansing.
sup my favorite sportswriter, Hays! Now assuming that Green Bay will be in the NCAA tournament, how do you think they will be seeded?
Graham Hays (4:26 PM)
Probably lower than the final ranking might suggest. Leaning on Charlie again, I know he's had them at No. 5 for a long time, and it's really tough to see the math working out for them to break into that top 16 in the seedings.
kevin (macon ga)
How much of a headache will Syracuse be for the committee? Two top 25 wins and no bad losses is usually a lock, but the Orange are 9th in the BEast and had a very weak non-con schedule.
Graham Hays (4:29 PM)
Unless they do something strange against Cincinnati and Providence down the stretch, I don't know that they'll be one of the teams giving the committee the biggest headaches. You hate to see a program rewarded for that kind of scheduling, but at the same time, they did what they needed to do in getting wins against St. John's, Marquette and Louisville, in addition to the Ohio State win that is looking better now than it did a week or two ago.
Can the Xavier women land close to home as the 2 seed in the dayton region if they sweep the rest of their games and texas a&m has one loss to baylor
Graham Hays (4:32 PM)
Sure, that scenario isn't out of the realm of possibility. But it seems more likely they end up going elsewhere as the third or fourth No. 2 seed. I question whether Xavier would drive that much attendance in Dayton, short though the drive is.
Which conference is clearly the more challenging conference? THE BIG 12, or the big east?
Graham Hays (4:35 PM)
Depends how you define challenging. The Big East is weaker at the bottom, so there aren't as many gimme wins in the Big 12. But DePaul and Notre Dame are at least as good as Texas A&M and Oklahoma this season in my book, and the by virtue of being bigger, the Big East might have a few more mid-rung challenges. So to answer, I guess neither is clearly the more challenging.
COHuskyFan (Denver, CO)
What team out of the top 10 do you feel has improved the most since the beginning of the season and what team has disappointed you with their improvement or lack there of?
Graham Hays (4:41 PM)
Hmm, that's tough because was a team just underrated early or has it improved a lot? A team not currently in the top 10 that has improved ... maybe Louisiana Tech? Great individual talent in Adrienne Johnson and things have come together around her. James Madison definitely playing better now than it did early. Wisconsin, although I guess that has gone a little off the rails of late.
Dot (Altadena, CA)
What far do you think the Pac-10 women's teams like Stanford and UCLA go in the Tournament? Why does Stanford dominate the Pac-10?
Graham Hays (4:45 PM)
On the last part, I think Nikki Caldwell put it best after the game yesterday. Stanford plays at a national level. They history of success there means they're playing with championship aspirations -- and attracting the corresponding talent -- every season. The rest of the league is still trying to find Pac-10 consistency on a year-to-year basis. As for the tournament, assuming Nnemkadi Ogwumike is healthy by the postseason, there's no reason Stanford can't be right back in the title game. UCLA is going to depend a little more on the draw. It's a good team, and a better-than-good defensive team, but there isn't a lot of go-to offense there. They could get to a regional final if they play the right kind of teams. But they also could be the kind of No. 3-4 seed vulnerable early.
Who is your COY (Tenn)
Geno won't be considered but should be with 3 new starters, Doty injured and Walker transferring and one of the toughest schedules in the country and UConn only has one loss.
Graham Hays (4:48 PM)
If you're really in Tennessee, I can see why you aren't using your real name. I agree Auriemma is a deserving candidate, and I'm not so sure he won't win it. But without having put a lot of thought into it yet, my initial inclination might be to go with Doug Bruno from DePaul.
So, now that Baylor has lost, is UConn the unquestioned favorite heading in to the tournament? It's hard to imagine a scenario where they lose again this year, at least until the final four or even the national championship. I don't think any team is going to be able to challenge them with the way they have been playing lately. All five starters have shown they can impact and dominate a game; it's hard to find a more imposing and dominating starting-five in the game right now.
Graham Hays (4:52 PM)
I don't know if it's more imposing or dominating, but I saw one I'd rate as equal down here in Los Angeles over the weekend (granted, Nneka Ogwumike is more imposing in sneakers than a protective boot). And regardless of what happened in Lubbock, Baylor is still right there. And Tennessee and Texas A&M can't be counted out. I absolutely agree with ou that Connecticut has gotten much, much better. Hartley and especially Dolson are much more effective than in November. But I saw the same thing on Sunday from Chiney Ogwumike and Toni Kokenis for Stanford. So unquestioned favorite? I don't think so. I think it's a much more interesting question than it has been in recent seasons.
Michigan Fan (Michigan)
Graham, what are your thoughts on Michigan. They seem to be playing well these days and with a road win over Wisconsin on Saturday seem poised for the Dance?
Graham Hays (4:55 PM)
You know, that's another name to throw in the COY discussion. Both Big Ten coaches in Michigan deserve mention there. The thing I worry about with Michigan, and to a lesser degree Michigan State, is that when a coach gets just about everything a team has in the regular season, it's a credit to the coaching but it's also a question mark for the postseason. How much better can Michigan be once we get to the postseason? But all that aside, an 11-5 record in the Big Ten, which is well within reach, and a good seed in the NCAA tournament would be a tremendous accomplishment for Kevin Borseth.
Graham Hays (4:59 PM)
All right, I'm afraid I've got to wrap this up. Thanks for all the questions. It's tough to believe we're almost to conference tournaments.