Chat with Mechelle Voepel
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, 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 Thursday at 2 p.m. ET!
Mechelle Voepel (2:08 PM)
Sorry to get off to a little late start today. Here we go!
Is there any way I can convince you to withdraw your pick of Maryland making the Final Four? Now you've got me worried the Terps might lose to the Midshipmen.
Mechelle Voepel (2:11 PM)
Funny thing is, we all do these "picks" independently, and send them into editors. And I figured I would be the only one to pick Maryland. But I wasn't. Charlie and Kate did, too. So if the Terps run into any rough waters, I'm pretty sure I will not claim responsibility this time. :) Seriously, it wasn't a pick "against" Notre Dame so much as a belief that maybe the Terps are really peaking at the right time, as the cliche goes. Not to say that it's a done deal that ND and MD are going to meet in the final.
Terri (Palo Alto, Calif.)
Bill Plaschke of the LA Times was on Around the Horn on ESPN the other day and he came down hard on the women's selection committee for their mind-boggling draws for the tournament. He pointed out how Stanford was a No. 1 seed but had to go all the way to Virginia to play Hampton. Do you think if the media shines a spotlight on the committee's ineptitude they will ever do a better or more logical job of putting together the bracket?
Mechelle Voepel (2:18 PM)
I wonder how much Bill understands about the history and background of the committee and the different challenges that the women face with their bracket. I've been writing about the committee/bracket for 16 years for ESPN.com, and I actually think they do a better job now than they did in the early 2000s. But to some degree, as long as there are pre-determined sites, their hands will be tied. It makes putting together the bracket that much tougher when you add in that element. There were only so many options of places to send Stanford, and they opted to ship the Cardinal far away but have them on a neutral court. Pre-determined sites do not increase attendance, they make it easier for TV to televise all the games. I think having top-16 seeds host is still the best answer for attendance and for fair distribution on the bracket. But I don't know that we'll ever go back to that. So every year, there are these problems. The committee, no matter what they say, can't solve the puzzle they are presented without making some decisions that seem ridiculous to the average person who doesn't closely follow the sport. For that matter, they sometimes seem ridiculous to those who *do* closely follow it.
Matt (Sandusky, OH)
Why did the selection committe seem to de-emphasize the losing conference record factor this year?
Mechelle Voepel (2:20 PM)
I think because there were several conferences that had "logjams" in the upper to lower middle part of the standings. When you look at the Big 12 and see that the teams tied for second place both lost seven conference games, you know that a team in that league that went 8-10 is still a "bubble" team. You had situations like that in several of the "big" leagues. At least, that's my opinion on why it appeared that was the case.
Matt (Sandusky, OH)
Did Green Bay receive only a seven seed due to a weaker than necessary non-conference schedule?
Mechelle Voepel (2:23 PM)
It seems like that was probably the biggest factor. Green Bay fans are upset, and I can understand their frustration. But I also think that 7 was about where they projected based on the usual formulas. I think the Phoenix were put in a subregional, though, that they have a legitimate chance to win. Even if they do have to play Iowa State on the Cyclones' home court.
John (Shreveport, La)
Why has ESPN spent so much time and money on detailing how tobeat Baylor,is it a result of Baylor beating the ESPN home team fromStorrs, Ct.?
Mechelle Voepel (2:29 PM)
You're looking for conspiracies that don't exist. The only one of us ESPN.com writers who lives in Connecticut is Graham, and I hardly think he will ever be accused of being a UConn homer. :) Kate Fagan wrote a story about how you could try to contain Griner. Kate played at Colorado, so she was bringing in some expertise as a former Division I player who was in the same league (back then) as Baylor. When UConn was undefeated in 2008-2010 we wrote about various ways any team could beat them ... it was part of the general narrative throughout those season. I'm just saying from the ESPN.com writers' perspective, if you think there's some grand conspiracy against Baylor or for somebody else, it simply doesn't exist.
Matt (Sandusky, OH)
Should the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament go back to the "Top 4 Hosting" format in order to help the committee with the seeding process?
Mechelle Voepel (2:29 PM)
Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes and yes. YES!
kevin (macon ga)
What impact did the new RPI formula have on the bracket?
Mechelle Voepel (2:32 PM)
I couldn't tell, really. One of you mathematical geniuses out there might be able to better discern that. But ... as the committee always says, the RPI is just a tool. Some stuff goes on in the committee debating process that can't be attributed to anything empirical. It's the nature of putting together the bracket.
tex (OCEAN NJ)
half of time spent on floor is on defense. but versatility is usually associated with offensive players only. glory johnson is most versatile defender i've ever seen. who are some other great defenders in the nation?
Mechelle Voepel (2:37 PM)
She is very versatile, and that's why I would think GloJo will have a good WNBA career. She can post defend and actually go out and be on the ball as well. Some scouts have compared her to Seattle's Camille Little in that way, because Camille is so good at doing everything defensively. Off the top of my head, I'd say Baylor's Odyssey Sims and Destiny Williams are also fantastic defenders, as is Baylor's and UConn's team defense as a whole. I know there are lots of others individually, too, but those come to mind quickly.
I was surprised Virginia did not make the tournament. Does the fact that only 4 ACC teams taken surprise you?
Mechelle Voepel (2:38 PM)
I was a little surprised because I thought the Cavaliers were on the right side of the bubble. But I wasn't surprised that North Carolina was left out. All those non-conf. cupcakes hurt them, plus they really had no signature win except over Miami.
Jonathan (New York)
In terms of the development of basketball skills and aptitude, what do you think Elena Delle Donne gained by choosing to play for Delaware? What did she lose by leaving UConn?
Mechelle Voepel (2:41 PM)
I think she gained all the more confidence in the natural fluidity of her game by being the absolute go-to player in the CAA. I'm not sure there's many better places to learn to be a versatile and strong defender than at UConn, so that is something you might say she lost. Ultimately, I think she absolutely made the right decision for herself personally, and if she chooses to play professionally, she'll be a great success. She's just that talented and smart a player.
Rick (Charlottesville, VA)
Long time LSU Lady Tiger fan, and happy the team is back in the tourney this year. Since the Johnson/Augustus//Fowles and her class days, it's been frustrating to watch, even though the teams have been full of talent. How do you think the team will get along this March, especially w/o Destini Hughes, who was having her best season yet and giving us great point guard play both offensively and defensively.
Mechelle Voepel (2:44 PM)
If LaSondra Barrett is feeling well and the Tigers play anything like they did against Kentucky and Tennessee in the SEC tournament, I would not be surprised to see LSU in the Sweet 16. Being in Baton Rouge for the early rounds should help, of course.
Which first round games will you be attending?
Mechelle Voepel (2:47 PM)
I will be in Chicago for the first two rounds and then head over to Bowling Green for the second round. Then I'll be at the Des Moines Regional. Michelle Smith will be in Norfolk for the early rounds, Graham in Nashville, and Kate in College Park. Some of our ESPN.com writers from other sports are helping out in South Bend and Norman, I believe. Graham will then be at the Kingston Regional, Kate in Raleigh and Michelle in Fresno. We have more people on board that ever before, so I am excited about how we can cover the nation a little more fully.
What would have the biggest impact on women's basketball? Griner dunking in the Final 4? Diggins, most followed, winning a national title? Summitt getting number 9?
Mechelle Voepel (2:51 PM)
I actually think each one, in its way, would bring a lot of attention to the sport. It's kind of like picking out a winner for best actress when you think everyone is equally good. Somebody asked me about the Oscars and Meryl Street winning vs. Viola Davis, and I never quite got around to answering the question. See, I remember these things. I almost think they need to retire a separate award for Meryl Streep, because as far as I'm concerned, she's the best actor I've ever seen. Either gender. Oh ... but I'm far off topic. Technically, you could have two of those three things happen - Griner could dunk, and Diggins or Summitt could win. :)
Linsey Pawl (Sterling Heights Michigan)
How far do you think Michigan State will go in the Tournament?
Mechelle Voepel (2:54 PM)
Kind of depends, like is the case for several teams, on which Spartan team shows up. If it's the good one, they can beat Louisville and could test Maryland. Otherwise, they will be out in the first round. As for my "picks" - which you know I hate doing :) _ I have the Spartans advancing to the second round. Has to be, since I'm picking Maryland to the Final Four, much to the chagrin of Maryland fans who think I am inadvertently cursing them. :)
Damian (Brooklyn, NY)
Do you think Kelly Miller joining the liberty will get them over the hump and can help carry the offensive load off of Cappie?
Mechelle Voepel (2:56 PM)
I think it was a good pick-up because Kelly is a very dependable cog player for any WNBA team, and she can fit in well with anybody. Plus, she and Cappie played together before in Phoenix and won a title in 2007.
Joe (CT) (CT)
Since the beginning of this present season, Geno Auriemma has been talking about next season's incoming class. He has been bold enough to predict an unbeaten championship team, despite the fact the Brittany Griner should be back with Baylor next season. Do you think that was some type of motivational tactic for the present team? Or has he fallen prey to hype like the Boneyard has and just cannot wait for this season to be over. I am wondering if his statements about 2012-13 have increased the lack of confidence his 2011-12 players have shown all season. Thanks.
Mechelle Voepel (3:00 PM)
He's really excited about next year for good reason, but I hardly think he's ready for this year to be over or is giving up on this group. Heck, they just won the Big East tournament and are a No. 1 seed and, frankly, have the easiest path to the Final Four of the top seeds, I think. I don't know that everything Geno says is intended to have a motivational meaning, but maybe by him talking a lot about next year it will make the likes of Tiffany Hayes say, "Hold on a minute, I'm going to get it done this year!" I would also say that Geno talks a lot about everything, for which most reporters are quite grateful.
Mary (Lubbock, tx)
How did Texas get into the NCAA tournament? 8-10 in the Big 12 put them on the bubble, then they turned around and get smashed by Texas Tech in the first Big 12 tourney game. Is Texas' history/prestige such that they'll get into the tourney even when they don't belong?
Mechelle Voepel (3:03 PM)
Charlie Creme pointed out that when you crunch all the numbers, they actually did work in Texas' favor. But ... if you were in attendance for Texas' lethargic loss against Texas Tech in the Big 12 tournament, you really had to wonder. The Longhorns have looked so different game to game at times ... it's got to be frustrating for all involved. The Texas seniors played so well in their regular-season finale in Austin, and then looked terrible in the Big 12 tournament. So who knows what we'll get from Texas in the NCAA tournament. But with the Horns' propensity to have scoring droughts and West Virginia's defense, it could be an ugly final score no matter who wins.
Taylor (Joliet, IL)
Why do you think that the Committee slotted Kentucky in Kingston (opposite UConn) but stuck Tennessee in Des Moines (opposite Baylor). Seems that as the top no. 1 seed Baylor should have had the easier no. 2 seed, Kentucky. Did the Committee purposely try dodging yet another Tenn.-UConn battle? Was that the motivation?
Mechelle Voepel (3:07 PM)
I don't think the committee really gave a detailed explanation about this, except remember the S-curve is used to slot teams geographically. So the overall No. 1 seed isn't necessarily aligned with the "worst" No. 2 seed, which would make more sense to most people if it were done that way.
Marc (Malden, MA)
Seems like the selection committee did Baylor a disservice by putting Tennessee in their region, while giving UConn an easy region.
Mechelle Voepel (3:10 PM)
I think by season's end it appeared Tennessee was a tougher matchup than Kentucky, based on the Vols' big win in their regular-season rematch with the 'Cats and Tenn winning the SEC title. But maybe Kentucky is being a little underestimated ... they did win the SEC regular season and beat Tenn once. That said, with Tennessee's considerable history, I'd bet all the No. 1 seeds would have preferred taking their chances with Kentucky. No offense to the Wildcats.
kevin (macon ga)
Sylvia Hatchell turned down a WNIT bid without even consulting her players. What message is she trying to send?
Mechelle Voepel (3:14 PM)
I think she's just furious that the Tar Heels are hosting and not in the NCAA tournament. She'd be furious they were not in even if they *weren't* hosting, but that just adds salt in the wound. Maybe she feels it would do the team no good to have another tournament, and so instead she's sending her four seniors off and thinking ahead to next year. Ultimately, I don't know for sure what message she is sending, but I know what message was sent to her by the committee: All those cream puffs in the non-conference can catch up with you.
As an Iowa native now stuck in the north east unable to get back home for the regionals I am SO bummed that Des Moines is hosting as a regional site now that I'm gone. However, looking at the Des Moines region will Baylor be able to withstand the likes of an extremely motivated Tennessee senior class, pesky Georgia Tech/Georgetown, and superstar led Delaware team (considering they all advance to that point)?
Mechelle Voepel (3:16 PM)
I think Baylor is so confident right now and playing well, it will be hard for anyone to beat them. But it could be a very entertaining regional, especially in terms of the individual talent on display. Hope you are enjoying Maine, though, my fellow Midwesterner. :)
The Jayhawk and I are going strong; it is a Duke-Kansas match. As for Duke, if the Blue Devils can beat Vandy on the Commodores' home floor, I see them in the Final Four. Is playing a second round game on an opponent's home floor a small price to pay for being out with the #1 seed that Duke has the best chance of defeating?
Mechelle Voepel (3:20 PM)
That is an appropriately optimistic way of looking at it. :) I still think Duke should have been in Chapel Hill for the first rounds to help that attendance and because they d
Joe (CT) (CT)
CT newspaper blog listed Final Four as when USA Basketball will announce the Olympic team. Is this just a cut down from something like 21 to 15? I know the entire team is scattered around the world, so I am not sure when the next camp will be. What big name WNBA stars do you think will not make the Olympic team or are at least on the bubble? Thanks.
Mechelle Voepel (3:24 PM)
I know it's way, way earlier than it's usually done, but, yes ... expect that the final 12 will be named on Final Four weekend. It will maximize exposure. I would be surprised if any of the "big" names are left off. However, the team can still make switches if someone has an injury this summer and won't be able to play in London.
Joe (CT) (CT)
Do you think ESPN tried to capitalize on EDD's personal situation? Her family situation has not changed since her 2 days at UConn summer school in June 2008. So why the sudden interest with OTL and several articles written, including Hays? Where was this interest last season when she was an All American?
Mechelle Voepel (3:33 PM)
Why do people find fault with when the media tells a good story? Yes, there is always an element of pack journalism on any good story - see Linsanity _ but think about it like this, too: Delaware is a No. 3 seed this year and has had a great season as a team. We all know that Delle Donne is the biggest reason for that, and I think she's individually raised her game a level this year. I was talking to some Big 12 fans last weekend, and they didn't know *anything* about her background and were very interested in her after hearing about it, and now can't wait to see her play. I realize it's annoying as heck to the hard-core fans who follow the sport all the time, because the Delle Donne situation is very old news to them. But not everybody follows the sport like that. And not everybody follows the East Coast. It's just the way it is. Graham did a wonderful job on the story. I'm not trying to be defensive, but sometime people are looking to find too many bad reasons for why a good story might get told a lot.
Do you think the refs will be "protecting" the super stars that people are paying to watch play during the NCAA tournament? Griner, Diggins, and Nmeka, specifically. If the refs start calling ticky tack fouls, that certainly changes the situation for Baylor, Notre Dame, and Stanford. Officiating for games involving Griner must be as difficult as officiating games involving Shaq were during his lean years. Physically gifted athletes unmatched by any of their opponents.
Mechelle Voepel (3:38 PM)
I don't know that any refereeing crew really starts a game with some specific intention of doing anything but the best and most fair job they can. But they have bad days like anyone else, and they can be influenced by the crowd/coaches. So sometimes it does happen that officiating can change the course of a game. I think in general, star players in every sport tend to get the benefit of the doubt. I'd watch Albert Pujols take a pitch on the outside corner that would get called a ball, while it would be a strike for another guy. So ... I think that's just a part of sports, even when it's unintentional.
Mechelle Voepel (3:40 PM)
Thanks for all the questions. I appreciate them all, even when they are critical. Sorry for the ones that I didn't get to. Hope you all are having a great March Madness so far. And I want to wish my big sister a happy birthday! She is the coolest sis a person could have.