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 (2:04 PM)
Hey, good afternoon. What a great Final Four we had, and now we're on the verge of the WNBA draft. Let's get started.
kevin (macon ga)
Ratings for the NCAA final were up 8% over last year. Will that finally put the nail in the coffin of the idea that we want to see UConn and/or Tennessee every year?
Mechelle Voepel (2:06 PM)
Let's hope so! Some of the other reporters were grousing about "who is going to watch this?" after the semifinals. I was like, "For crying out loud, there are human beings with televisions in places other than the East Coast." (My Midwestern hackles were up.) I felt sure this game would get a good rating, and it did well. These were compelling teams, and they played a great game.
With Brittney Griner coming back and the other 3 starters do you think baylor will be preseason No. 1 and Griner preason player of the year?
Mechelle Voepel (2:11 PM)
Right now, Baylor would seem pretty likely as the preseason No. 1, depending on whether there are any off-season injuries (hope not). And both Notre Dame and Texas A
Tom R. (Wisconsin) [via mobile]
How do you think Danielle Adams will fare in the WNBA?
Mechelle Voepel (2:17 PM)
Lots of questions today about Adams and the next phase of her career. WNBA coaches/GMs are intrigued by her because she has such great touch, range and offensive skills. She put on quite a show in the NCAA title game, of course. But will her fitness improve significantly, and if it doesn't, can she still be effective against all types of post players in the WNBA? I've talked to a few coach/GM folks who really like her but are most worried about her ability to defend in their systems. This is going to be up to Danielle to try to do whatever her pro team wants in terms of improving fitness.
Jason in Grapevine, Texas [via mobile]
Who is the coach that voted UConn #1 and doesn't have the guts to give their name?
Mechelle Voepel (2:26 PM)
The Associated Press does its final poll before the NCAA tournament. The coaches do their last poll after it. So it's always seemed to me that the media poll reflects whom the voters thought was the top team for the regular season, and the coaches poll then reflects whether or not that team made it through the tournament unscathed. So ... it almost makes it automatic that whoever wins the tournament gets the coaches' vote, of course. Obviously, this particular person - I don't know who it is - decided not to award his/her No. 1 to the tournament champion, but to the team he/she thought was best all season. I think if you do that, perhaps you should have the courage of your convictions to say that's why you made that choice ... but at the same time, I figure most coaches would not want to publicly say why they voted a certain way. In the end, Texas AM still is the coaches' poll No. 1, and that person who didn't vote that way is probably feeling some discomfort now for being on an island.
Who will filling the master of ceremonies role at the WNBA draft? Anybody we've heard of?
Mechelle Voepel (2:29 PM)
If you mean who is going to be announcing the draft picks, that will be Renee Brown, WNBA's chief of basketball operations and player relations. No more news to my knowledge today on the president search.
Mechelle Voepel (2:32 PM)
By the way, this chat for some reason randomly does not like ampersands and will delete anything after the ampersand. I say random because sometimes, it won't. So if you post a question that includes Texas AM, try to leave out the ampersand. Sorry, it's goofy, but I've found it to be a bug in the system.
Is there any thawing in the Cold War relationship between Pat Summitt and Geno Auriemma? Will we ever get to see the Vols and the Huskies play a regular series again? How long, O Lord, how long?
Mechelle Voepel (2:35 PM)
I really don't know if/when this will happen. The committee tried to set them up to meet in the semifinals, but Notre Dame prevented that. Not sure Pat would want to resume it, or how Geno would respond. It does seem a shame that Maya Moore concluded her career without playing Tennessee, but I'm glad we got the championship game we got. It was very entertaining.
After Diana Taurasi graduated, UConn went five years before winning another championship. Do you think the same thing will happen now that Maya Moore is graduating?
Mechelle Voepel (2:40 PM)
They have a very good recruiting class coming in, and I'd imagine as long as she's healthy, Caroline Doty will take over the leadership role on that team next season. Next year, there will be a group of teams with a lot of talented veterans, so it would surprise me if UConn broke through and won a title in 2012. But I also don't know that is will be five more years, either. If it is, that willl be because other programs are stepping forward, and that's great for the sport.
New Mexico's coaching job came open unexpectedly this week -- considering that the the Lobos are consistently in the top 10 nationally in attendance, might this job attract some high-profile candidates?
Mechelle Voepel (2:45 PM)
Really depends on what New Mexico's goals are and what they want to pay. Tell you what ... TAMU's Gary Blair is doing all he can to get assistant Vic Schaefer some looks as a head coach. He talks him up constantly, has for several years. He doesn't *want* him to leave, but he wants Vic to at least have some opportunities. Now that Schaefer's defense has helped win an NCAA title, will ADs have more interest in him?
What are Sydney Colson's chances in the WNBA? She is a superb passer, great defender, and great leader, not to mention a fun personality. However, she is prone to fouls due to her aggressiveness. How do you see her future career?
Mechelle Voepel (2:51 PM)
Lots of questions about Sydney today, too. You are right about all of those things. I think most coaches/GMs would say the younger players who have the best chance to "stick" in the WNBA are true point guards and true centers, provided they are talented enough. Shooting guard/tweener types have a tougher time getting/keeping jobs because there are so many of them. Colson is a true playmaker, and even though she had that ACL before her sophomore season, she never missed a season and was out only a handful of games in her entire career. So she's been very durable. She is not a great perimeter shooter, but she runs a team well when she can stay out of foul trouble. You saw the difference in TAMU when she wasn't on the floor Tuesday and when she was. So I think there is a spot for her in the league, but she's going to have to make improvements as a pro or she won't stick. She knows that.
Gloria (Richmond, VA)
Why were there so many empty seats at the Championship? I found it pretty disheartening.
Mechelle Voepel (2:57 PM)
I really didn't see that many empty seats except at the top of the arena, and a lot of them were filled on Tuesday. A lot of coaches who get tickets do not stick around for the Tuesday championship game ... they go home. But that aside, the last time the Final Four was in Indy, in 2005 when Baylor won, it was at the RCA Dome and the crowd was almost 29,000. Is women's basketball less popular now than it was six years ago? No ... but the economy is in far worse shape. We reporters were talking about the number of apparently homeless people begging for money/food that we saw on the streets of Indy. We have been in rough economic times for a few years now, and I think that explains the attendance drop-off at many events - sports and entertainment - everywhere.
I was really disappointed when Notre Dame beat Tennessee. Nothing against the Fighting Irish, but I was looking forward to UConn-Tennessee, for the first time in four years. Did you feel the same?
Mechelle Voepel (3:02 PM)
Honestly, no. Sure, it would have been fun to watch UConn-Tennessee play again, but I enjoy seeing different teams at the Final Four. Notre Dame had lost 20 times to Tennessee, so it was terrific for that program's sake to break through and finally win that matchup. It's a shame that the Tennessee-UConn regular-season series ended to begin with, but what's done is done. I think it's great to see other programs in the spotlight.
How did u feel about about Baylor and TAMU in the same region?
Mechelle Voepel (3:08 PM)
I wasn't crazy about it, but the NCAA apparently did it to boost regional attendance, and that worked. There are always going to be issues with the women's tournament because they're trying to balance having a competitive, fair bracket with trying to maximize attendance and minimize travel costs. Sometimes the objectives they have actually contradict each other, and they have to make a choice. And the committee is made of human beings who all have their own points of view about what the tournament should be like, and bring those thoughts with them into the process. There is no perfect bracket that will satisfy everyone, but different people will feel more upset with it year-to-year. This year, Baylor is likely not at all happy. Next year, Baylor may find its draw/situation more favorable. You just never know how it will turn out.
Stacey (Chapel Hill, NC)
When will people get over the "need" to see UConn and UT play during the regular season? Plenty of top men's programs do not play regularly.
Mechelle Voepel (3:12 PM)
I don't think there's anything wrong with a desire to want to see these programs go head-to-head for the simple fact that they have combined to win 15 of the NCAA titles, and they tended to have really entertaining match-ups. I also know there are a lot of fans who are "tired" of both programs and actually have a lot of animosity toward the matchup and the media talking about it. I understand all sides of this. I get why some people wanted to see them meet in the semis, and I get why people were thrilled to see both of them lose.
Do you see Miami as a sure Top 10 club next year?
Mechelle Voepel (3:14 PM)
I think so ... I really like the make-up of this team, and the players got the chance to experience the NCAA tournament and learn from it. They could be the top team in the ACC next year and build on everything they did this season. I think sometime in the next week or so - it might come after the WNBA draft - ESPN.com bracketologist Charlie Creme will offer his top 64 teams for next season.
I thought it was great how ESPN embraced the whole "social media" aspect to fandom during the women's tournament. Do you think using these "non-traditional" tools (like Twitter) is something the WNBA and other women's leagues should concentrate on more? I know it can be a two-edged sword (Cappie and Angel being two cautionary tales), but the explosion of the popularity of Hartley and Diggins seems to show that it can be a powerful tool as well.
Mechelle Voepel (3:17 PM)
You said it perfectly: It can be a great tool to introduce people to the women's game and to connect fans in different parts of not just this country, but the whole world. The challenge for players is to realize that when you Tweet or use Facebook (or talk to a reporter or blogger) your words/thoughts are then on display for the world to see. You are never just Tweeting with "friends," and you need to safeguard your reputation and realize you are always representing your school/team/franchise.
kevin (macon ga)
I'm a little troubled by Skylarmania. I like the extra attention being given to WCBB, but it doesn't seem to all be for the right reasons. Am I off base?
Mechelle Voepel (3:26 PM)
This is a question Kevin sent me earlier, and I want to post it now in relation to the one I just answered. Again, popularity is always a mixed bag. Skylar Diggins is still a very young woman and a student-athlete with a lot of responsibilities. It's great for women's basketball and for Notre Dame to see her popularity rise. Is part of the reason for this because many viewers/fans find her physically very attractive? Yes, obviously, that is a part of it. Is that a "wrong" reason for someone to want to watch basketball or be interested in her? There is no right or wrong answer here, really. People will get into things for their own reasons, and attractive people - male and female - in any endeavor get more attention. The challenge for Skylar and Notre Dame is to not let that attention become a distraction from what goals she wants to achieve in the classroom and on the basketball court. Coach Muffet McGraw, when asked about all this, acknowledged she had some discomfort with the whole "Twitter" phenomenon, and I'd guess most coaches feel that way. It's one more thing they have to worry about. But by the same token, Muffet also said that's the world we live in now, and coaches/programs have to embrace the positive parts of it and make the most of these immediate ways people communicate.
Do you believe Cindy Blodgett will land another decent coaching post, or will her weak showing in Maine preclude that?
Mechelle Voepel (3:31 PM)
If you struggle that much coaching at your alma mater, you don't really have a very powerful resume to take in to the next place. So maybe you re-think your approach to coaching and really evaluate *honestly* how you've done what you've done. I think Blodgett complaining about being let go when her record was so poor suggests that she might need to really take a hard look at herself and whether this was ever the right fit for her, even if it was her alma mater. Maybe she needs to go to a different program in a non-head coaching role. Learn more about her craft and what it takes to succeed. I think to just blame Maine for firing her would be the wrong way to move forward into her next job.
Eric Olson (Minneapolis)
Who do you think the Minnesota Lynx should take with the #4 pick to pair up with Maya Moore at #1? I'm thinking they will go with Amber Harris or Jantel Lavender, but I'd love for them to take Courtney Vandersloot instead as a high-energy point guard off the bench.
Mechelle Voepel (3:39 PM)
There are so many moving pieces to this draft beyond the obvious pick of Maya Moore at No. 1. So many different scenarios. Minnesota liked what Nicky Anosike did on court, but not the way she left the team at the end of the last two seasons. Has that really been ironed out? Do the Lynx want another really strong post player that runs the floor well? I am not in Cheryl Reeve's shoes, but I lean toward taking Jantel Lavender. I like her game, her personality and her attitude ... which is not to say I don't like that about any other pick. I just see Jantel as a good fit. But maybe Minnesota is going to use the No. 4 pick as part of a trade. So ... there is so much to speculate upon. It's going to be fun to see it all play out.
Do you buy Liz Cambage's explanation that "things were taken out of context" in the article regarding her not wanting to go to Tulsa? Should we just let her off the hook this time? :)
Mechelle Voepel (3:45 PM)
Generally when people say things were taken out of context, they mean, "I wish I would have said it differently." And, yes, though I was critical last week of the comments because I thought they were not respectful to the city or the WNBA, I am *quite* willing to let her off the hook for this. She's a kid, from the other side of the world. It's hard to say the right thing all the time, especially when you're that young. And I'm sure - talking to some folks at the Final Four - that she's heard things about about how players were unhappy playing for Nolan Richardson in Tulsa last season because they had no sense of stability or understanding why he was doing what he was doing. One WNBA assistant told me, "Players talk, and that's probably what she's worried about." Now, we'll see if having Teresa Edwards as part of the Shock braintrust helps in regard to players feeling comfortable that the Tulsa franchise knows what it's doing.
What do you think about the off-season coaching carousel so far? Caldwell jumping to LSU and the UVA job still open? And Xavier is open, now, too.
Mechelle Voepel (3:54 PM)
It seems like a shrewd time to move for Kevin McGuff of Xavier, when you're losing your two superstars inside. As for him going to Washington, it's a different part of the country for him, of course, but he undoubtedly feels there is support for the program and a chance to build it back up. I think a lot of folks were disappointed to see Nikki Caldwell leave UCLA after the progress she'd made in three years there, but the SEC is her "home" conference as a former player, and so LSU is one of the jobs I am not surprised to see her go to. She probably will be a big success there, and heaven knows the SEC could use a lift after a down season for that conference. Everything I've heard about the way this U.Va. thing has been handled seems unfortunate to me. Debbie Ryan did not want to leave, and to my knowledge is being excluded from the search for her replacement. It's sad that it's happening like this. It's always hard for a coach to step away, and I wish that U.Va. and Ryan could have come to an agreement on when it was "time" and then had her help groom her successor. But that would have taken cooperation on both parts, and that's a hard thing to negotiate. I'm just sorry it's happened the way it appears to have happened.
Jonathan (Houston, Texas)
With Kelsey Bone taking over for Adams, and Alexia Standish coming in to challenge for the starting PG spot, do you think Texas AM has a realistic shot of repeating?
Mechelle Voepel (4:00 PM)
A realistic shot? Yes. Even with losing Adams and Colson, the Aggies have three starters returning and the players you mentioned coming in. Once again, they will be a deep team with a strong defense. But, will Vic Schaefer get a head coaching job elsewhere? Will Kelsey Bone show the toughness that was at times lacking in her freshman season at South Carolina? (Texas AM has liked what she's done in practice this season). How will Sydney Carter play without Sydney Colson? Will Tyra White be comfortable being the team's "star" and potential go-to player? Plus add in how many other good teams there will be next season, including Baylor in the Big 12, and it's going to be tough obviously to repeat. But, yes, the Aggies have a chance.
Jack, WA [via mobile]
Where do you think Courtney Vandersloot will end up on Monday?
Mechelle Voepel (4:05 PM)
Indiana has had their eye on her for a couple of years and really, really wanted her. But the Fever pick No. 9 and think she will not be available then. Various teams liked her before the NCAA tournament, but liked her more after it. Again, so much is going to depend on whether Tulsa does take Liz Cambage as No. 2 and keeps her or makes a deal with her. That may have a domino effect on a lot of other things that happen, including with Vandersloot.
MB (San Francisco)
How does Stanford look next year?
Mechelle Voepel (4:09 PM)
It's tough to lose the leadership of Kayla Pedersen and Jeanette Pohlen, but the Cardinal has a strong nucleus returning, led by the Ogwumike sisters, and a really good recruiting class coming in, including a lot of speed at guard with players such as Amber Orrange. Tara VanDerveer, sad as she was for her seniors, said she was very optimistic for next season. Maybe more speed in the backcourt will make the difference for the Cardinal being able to win the national championship again. No team has come closer more often and not quite been able to do it for the last 19 years than Stanford.
I'm kinda shocked that Gary Blair didn't get Coach of the Year. Your thoughts?
Mechelle Voepel (4:13 PM)
One thing about all the awards - they are voted on by different groups of people at different times near the end of the season. For instance, when we voted for AP - which is the only coach of the year award that I vote on - we do it before the NCAA tournament bracket is even announced. So at the time we voted, Gary Blair's team - while very good - had lost three times to Baylor, which was the Big 12 regular-season and tournament champ. UConn had lost just one game and was the overall No. 1 seed, despite having lost a lot to graduation/injury/transfer. So there were reasons then why others would have gotten the nod over Blair. If I were voting today, Gary Blair gets my vote. :)
Brandon (ohio) [via mobile]
Can Notre Dame be a realistic challenger for the NCAA title again next season? And how will Ohio State look next season?
Mechelle Voepel (4:17 PM)
Absoutely, Notre Dame will be a challenger for next season. The Irish likely may be the Big East favorite, and their experience in the Final Four should really help them. I would not be surprised, if everyone stays relatively healthy, to see the Irish in Denver next year. As for Ohio State, some good pieces are still there, but can they collectively make up for what is lost with Jantel Lavender? That's going to be very tough. I think Purdue will be the Big Ten favorite next year with basically everyone back.
UConn Steve (TX)
Chamique Holdsclaw and Maya Moore have eerily similar statistics for both the NCAA tournament and career. For example, in the NCAA tournament, Chamique scored 3 more points and had 3 more rebounds than Maya. Career wise, Maya scored 11 more points than Chamique. Who do you feel was better? How much weight do you put on 3 titles for Holdsclaw and 2 titles for Moore? Thanks.
Mechelle Voepel (4:23 PM)
They are different types of players, of course. I sometime think the difficulties that Holdsclaw had personally in the WNBA have affected what some folks remember about her from college. I saw her in person almost single-handedly engineer a huge comeback at Virginia in the Elite Eight her freshman season of 1996. She was also the go-to person in 1997 and '98, even though in 1998 she had a more talented team around her. But she was every bit as important to Tennessee as Diana Taurasi or Maya Moore were to UConn. And like DT, she won three titles.
Mechelle Voepel (4:25 PM)
Which is to say I don't like questions about who was "better." :) Holdsclaw, DT, Maya ... all among the greatest of great college players. Only DT of those three ended her college career with a victory, of course. Holdsclaw had probably the her worst game of her college career in her last game at Tennessee, losing to Duke in the Elite Eight when she had a very, very rough game shooting. And Maya did everything she could to beat Notre Dame on Sunday, but it didn't happen. She did go out with a great performance. I think Maya will be a very successful pro player.
Charlie, Hartford [via mobile]
I've been having a month-long debate with a friend on this... who had the better UConn career- Maya Moore or Diana Taurasi? Obviously DT's case was strengthened with UConn's early exit but I still could really use your opinion!
Mechelle Voepel (4:31 PM)
Hah! Another "better" question. It depends on parameters, right? If you say, "How many titles did you win?" then DT wins, period. If you put in other factors, maybe - maybe - the edge goes to Maya. I think you could make a great case for either one. If I *had* to pick, I'd go with DT because of the titles. I have some sports/movie arguments with my best friend from college that will not end until both of us croak, and if there is an afterlife, we will continue these debates for eternity. :) So maybe you can keep this one running, too.
Enough already about Tenn/UConn. I am SO glad they did not meet in the Tourney. WBB is about so much more than those two teams. This year's Championship game was fantastic, a breath of fresh air.
Mechelle Voepel (4:38 PM)
I think there are plenty of folks that would agree with you. I appreciate so much what Tennessee and UConn have done to elevate the sport, and don't want to take anything away from them. But it was a blast to see the Texas AM-Notre Dame final. The kids were new to it, and the emotions for the Aggies after they won were so fresh and genuine. It's been awhile since I've seen that many kids shed tears of *happiness* at a Final Four. It's not that the Huskies or Lady Vols don't have their emotions, too. I don't want it to sound like they don't appreciate winning just as much. But they tend to *expect* it more, and in both cases, the coaching staffs have won a ton. Gary Blair got to win his first title as a head coach at age 65. You think how many practices, how many interviews, how many speaking engagements, how many recruiting trips he's done in almost four decades of coaching. It was just a great night Tuesday in Indy - you empathized with both teams and both coaches. It really was a fun thing to cover.
Mechelle Voepel (4:52 PM)
OK, will try to wrap up here. Several questions about the new Mystics uniforms; I'm not crazy about them. ... Will Lindsey Harding be playing for the Mystics this season? Everything I've heard points to her really wanting a trade. ... Will we see some deals on draft day? I'd be shocked (no pun intended, or maybe there is...) if we don't. ... I will be at the draft at ESPN headquarters and look forward to seeing how it all goes down and writing lots about it. ... Chris Hansen of HoopGurlz will offer some draft thoughts this week. ... Charlie Creme has a top 64 for next season coming up. Graham Hays will have lots of softball coverage. I will have WNBA coverage all season, try to wrap up the college hoops coaching carousel, and will be covering other spring sports for ESPN.com's colleges page. ... I am *THRILLED* that women's ski jumping has finally been allowed in as an Olympic sport for the 2014 Winter Games. It's about damn time, to say the least. I've been wanting to see this since I was a little kid, seriously. ... Congrats to Tara VanDerveer and Teresa Edwards on upcoming Naismith Hall of Fame induction, and Muffet McGraw on upcoming Women's Basketball Hall of Fame induction. ... And congrats to Gary Blair and the Aggies (and Reveille!) on their 2011 national championship. It was a great season. ... Please tune into the WNBA and other women's sports on TV and continue reading about them. We'll keep the chats going!