Chat with Mechelle Voepel
Welcome to SportsNation! On Wednesday, women's basketball writer Mechelle Voepel will stop by to chat about the start of the college season.
Voepel has covered women's college and pro basketball for ESPN.com since 1996. Read her blog at www.mechellevoepelblog.com.
Send your questions now and join Voepel Wednesday at 2 p.m. ET!
Mechelle Voepel (2:08 PM)
Sorry for the delay, a few technical difficulties. Let's get started.
First of all, condolences to the OSU family. I feel in the OSU and Tennessee cases albeit different cases they have a lot to play for. I think OSU may do better than some may think by will alone. I feel the coaches spirit will guide them through even though it will be extremely hard for them. As in Tennessee's case, I don't think an early season loss will hurt them but it exposes the youth of the backcourt. Massengale will improve as they go on this year. However, I think by the end of the year both teams will have the same will that NC St. team had in 2007 or the LSU team that went to the final four after Sue Gunter left when she was ill at the time.
Mechelle Voepel (2:13 PM)
I must admit, it's been difficult for me to think about much else in women's basketball or sports in general since the news of the accident that took the lives of OSU coaches Kurt Budke and Miranda Serna. So devastating and sad. But the surviving coaching staff and players will now try to, as you say, play to honor those lost. The team does have talent, even though the Cowgirls are young. But what I have been thinking about even more than the players, who are struggling a lot, are the families who have lost their loved ones, and how difficult that will be, especially with the holidays upon us. Keep them in your thoughts.
kevin (macon ga)
Tennessee, of all places, justified paying its men's sports medicine and strength & conditioning staff more than the women's based on the financial importance of football to the athletics department. Even leaving aside the university's athletic mission statement, which suggests that the purpose of Volunteer athletics is to enrich the education of student-athletes, is this inequity fair?
Mechelle Voepel (2:16 PM)
Whether it's fair or not, unfortunately, it is apparently legal. The Tennessee staff's claims were dismissed. I have given this a lot of thought, and I think it comes down to this: Money is the bottom line. Not mission statements or any of the feel-good things that athletic departments do or say. The sports that make money will always be treated better and be more valued, and the people who work with those athletes will get paid more. That's all there is to it. I don't know if that will ever change. Sorry if that doesn't sound very uplifting. And I know there are a lot of people who see nothing wrong with this. Football makes money and is important to more people, they will say.
kevin (macon ga)
Will we see Chamique Holdsclaw in the WNBA again?
Mechelle Voepel (2:17 PM)
I saw her in Kansas last month at a charity basketball game. Will have a story on her coming up on ESPN.com. She said she is feeling good and would like to play in the WNBA next year if everything goes well and the right situation is available.
Matt (Sandusky, OH)
How did Elena Delle Donne & company defeat Big Ten pre-season favorite Penn State? Also, is she a top WNBA Draft prospect?
Mechelle Voepel (2:20 PM)
We all remember, of course, that Elena Delle Donne was widely considered the top player in her graduating high school class. UConn wasn't the right place for her, and she had to go through her "separation" from basketball time period, but she's clearly a great player. I saw her in person last year and thought, "If she really wants to, she will be a terrific WNBA player someday." The WNBA coaches/scouts I've talked to think so, too. And I think her presence makes other players better around her. When you've got someone on your team who can score 40-plus points, you get a lot more opportunities at open shots.
Barry (Phoenix, AZ)
May I add a plug for Loving Hut and their great vegan food? Great use of soy protein!
Mechelle Voepel (2:21 PM)
You know I'll always post a statement like that. :) I will be enjoying Tofurkey tomorrow. I highly recommend it!
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
Who will be the Best Women's College Basketball team this season?
Mechelle Voepel (2:22 PM)
It's still only November, but I will go with Baylor. We'll have a chance to see the Bears against the likes of Tennessee (Sunday) and UConn (Dec. 18), so that will show a lot, too.
Caldwell might have the baby bounce but Boyle got the Orange bounce with UVA upset over Tenn. Was that a surprise?
Mechelle Voepel (2:26 PM)
Sure, especially with how good Tennessee had looked in pretty much all aspects of their victory against Miami last Tuesday. The Vols didn't rebound great in the first half against the 'Canes, but they did everything else well. And then against the Cavs, they struggled without Vicki Baugh's presence inside, and the young guard play was really not up to par. But ... Virginia has a lot of upper-class experience and sometimes teams really ride that boost from a new coaching staff and outlook. I used to live in Virginia and the Cavs' difficulties against Tennessee are things I watched in person going back to the Staley days. It was interesting that the first "breakthough" for Joanne Boyle came so early and came against that particular team. The keys, though, will be whether the Cavs can sustain that and if they can compete consistently in ACC play.
Trevor (Richmond, Virginia)
I've been following the new Pac-12 alot now that my Utes have joined and I'm pretty impressed with Cal... caught a little bit of their game against Illinois on live stream and their freshman Brittany Boyd, Justine Hartman and Reshanda Gray looked scary good. Any chance they compete for a conference title with Stanford?
Mechelle Voepel (2:29 PM)
We saw Stanford have some flaw exposed on Monday night in Connecticut, but I'm not sure that was really a bad thing for the Cardinal. They do have young players and others who are older but in different roles. That said, I think it will be very tough for Cal or the other Pac-12 teams to expose Stanford in the same way. But it's important that Cal and other teams at least feel they can stay on the court with the Cardinal, because that's part of the problem the league teams have had for years in facing Stanford. They truly don't believe they can beat the Cardinal. Bears coach Lindsey Gottlieb thinks she can, at some point.
Tom (San Francisco, CA)
Azzi, Weatherspoon, Lobo, and McClain are all up for the Naismith HOF. Which two get in?
Mechelle Voepel (2:33 PM)
I guess it depends on what criteria the selection committee is most valuing. But I tend to lean toward Weatherspoon first for her playing success in college, in the WNBA, internationally and what she's doing in coaching, and then either Lobo or McClain. Lobo really had a huge impact on the popularity of the sport, and her work in broadcasting is stellar. She is still one of the most recognizable figures in the women's game. McClain was a tremendous player who never got as much acclaim because of when she was at the peak of her career. And none of this is to shortchange Azzi, who I hope will grow into her role as head coach. But that's how I'd rank them as candidates.
Tom (San Francisco, CA)
After the BYU game, Duke is putting up some 80+ points per game numbers. With Gray and Williams the seeming focal or end points, is the offense going to find itself in Durham and can McCallie silence her critics? Or should we hold our breath?
Mechelle Voepel (2:36 PM)
I have heard from some Duke watchers that McCallie this season (so far) seems more comfortable in how to best utilize the players she has offensively and to allow those players more freedom and decision-making, rather than trying to micro-manage them. If that's true _ and if it's something she can commit to doing _ I think it will benefit Duke. There is so much talent there, and there's no reason from that aspect that the Blue Devils shouldn't be the kind of team that puts up big scoring numbers.
Tom (San Francisco, CA)
What was your favorite Budke memory?
Mechelle Voepel (2:42 PM)
Seeing the Cowgirls get to the Big 12 tournament championship game for the first time, in 2008, and remembering a conversation I'd had with Coach Budke just two years earlier when OSU couldn't win a conference game. That had been hard for him because he was so used to winning, but he was absolutely sure that once he got a few more players in and they committed to playing the way he wanted, they would rise quickly. And they did. The personal loss for those who knew him is staggering, but the sport of women's basketball also suffered a loss. He was a very good coach, someone who could have stayed on the men's side and had success. But he came to love the effort given in women's basketball, and he believed in the women's game. He had the right personality and work ethic for the Oklahoma State job. It's just a big blow to lose someone like that from the coaching profession. And seeing the devastation on the faces of his wife, children, parents and sisters at Monday's memorial service in Stillwater was heart-wrenching. He will be sorely missed.
Andy (Vestal NY)
Do you think Baylor has enough talent behind Griner to win it all?
Mechelle Voepel (2:44 PM)
I do, although it should be pointed out that I thought Baylor was going to win the championship last year, and that didn't happen. I think we've already seen a more mature game from Griner and from Odyssey Sims even this early in the season. And I like the supporting cast they have. We'll see what kind of fire Tennessee brings on Sunday, though, after having lost, and how they deal with all of Baylor's weapons. Fortunately, I will get to cover that game and am looking forward to a big crowd at Thompson-Boling.
Mechelle Voepel (2:47 PM)
Again, sorry to change the time this week and getting off to a late start. Good luck with your holiday shopping if you're up for that. Enjoy Thanksgiving. Next week, I will chat again on the normal day, Thursday, but the time will be 4 p.m. Eastern to accommodate some travel issues. Talk with you then!