Chat with Mechelle Voepel
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, women's basketball writer Mechelle Voepel will stop by to chat some hoops.
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 (2:09 PM)
Good afternoon! The Huskies are celebrating their eighth national title, and the draft is around the corner. Let's get started.
Greg (La Crosse)
Where do you see Baylor in the national landscape next year in the post-Brittney Griner Era?
Mechelle Voepel (2:13 PM)
Baylor isn't going to just fade away. They still have Odyssey Sims, of course, and now it's time for the younger players to get their time on court. Kim Mulkey rebuilt after the 2005 NCAA title, she'll do the same now. That said, it's not going to be a case of them being a top-rated program to start next season, so they go back to being a hunter rather than the hunted.
When will USA Basketball announce the new coach of the Women's National Team? Is Geno without a doubt not returning? Who do you think should be considered for the job?
Mechelle Voepel (2:18 PM)
It's expected to be named sometime this summer or early fall, but there is no hard timetable or deadline. That's what the USA Basketball people told me when I spoke to them at the Final Four. Geno Auriemma is not going to return as senior national team coach. Dawn Staley may be one of the front-runners. Gail Goestenkors actually would be interested, as would Kim Mulkey. I think any of the three would be good choices.
So ... Liz Cambage. Help me make sense of what, if anything, Tulsa can or should do about this situation.
Mechelle Voepel (2:22 PM)
Best I can tell, Liz tends to tell people things she thinks they want to hear, as opposed to firmly making up her mind and being straightforward with everybody about it. She's still a kid who wants to do what she wants to do, but also doesn't want anyone to be upset with her. So she waffles and fudges and hedges and says one thing to one party and a different thing to somebody else. At least, that's how it looks to me. So it's a difficult position for Tulsa to be in ... do you keep hoping she'll "grow up" and decide she wants to fulfill a commitment to the Shock? Or do you say, "It's not going to happen," and deal her? Either way, it's a tough spot for Tulsa to be in.
Matt (South Bass Island)
Are the UConn Huskies already favored to repeat as the national champions again in 2014?
Mechelle Voepel (2:24 PM)
Yes. If they're healthy, they are very much the favorite. I'm sure they will miss the tenacity/defense of Faris, but what she brought is not impossible to replace with the roster they'll have.
kevin (macon ga)
Is Cynthia Cooper a good fit at USC? Remember that no D-I WCBB team has ever been coached to a national championship by one of its former players.
Mechelle Voepel (2:29 PM)
I think she could be a good fit, and don't think that historical factoid really should matter that much in terms of the decision about her. I think it's imperative at that school to have somebody who really loves the greater LA area, is comfortable there and really wants to live there, understands some of the benefits but also the challenges of recruiting to that school. Also, we've seen Cynthia Cooper turn around smaller programs relatively quickly. Can she go to a big-conference school, get it going in the right direction, and then keep it that way?
Duke only loses one player to graduation and brings in a talented recruiting class. With a healthy Chelsea Gray and the returning players like Alexis Jones, does Duke have a shot to finally compete with Uconn and win a national title? What is the status with Amber Henson? She has been out the past 2 seasons and it seems with her size and athleticism she could be a player to give E Williams much needed help down low.
Mechelle Voepel (2:33 PM)
I am not sure of Amber Henson's status, future. If someone on the chat knows, post it and then I'll post it. As to the question of can they finally compete with UConn and win a national title ... they haven't shown it in the past four seasons with a pretty good collection of talent. They've had four consecutive EE losses: to Baylor, UConn, Stanford, Notre Dame. All terrific programs, of course, but should Duke have been able to break through against one of them? Obviously it hurt not to have Gray this year in the tournament. But at what point is this about running into the same old issue of not being able to run an offense that can truly stand up in the biggest games against the best teams? Because if Duke can't do that, they will continue to hit the same wall.
USC has finally announced - to no one's surprise - that they are hiring Cynthia Cooper-Dyke. This is a huge jump from Texas Southern and the other schools she has coached at to a program at the level USC wants to reach. Is there any reason to think this is a good hire? I am having trouble coming up with one.
Mechelle Voepel (2:39 PM)
I have thought always that both for UCLA/USC WBB programs, the best coaches would be people who are native to the area or grew up there and/or really love living there. It's just not for everybody. Coop was born in Chicago but grew up in LA, and so her roots are there. I think she's probably the best person they were going to get. Will she be a success? That ... we'll have to see.
Going into the NCAA's, the conventional wisdom was there were three elite teams. Perhaps the 3rd of those Big 3 won, but were you more surprised by who won than by who did not make the FF or stumbled before the EE?
Mechelle Voepel (2:43 PM)
I was most surprised by Baylor not making the Final Four. I was stunned, honestly. If Baylor had made it to New Orleans, and UConn played the way the Huskies did against ND and Louisville, they still very well might have won it all. The UConn team we saw at the Final Four was NOT the same team that lost the four games it did. Stewart playing as she did was just a huge elevation, but everybody else played well for UConn, too.
Greg (La Crosse)
With the top 3 draft picks on Monday are set in stone, if you were the Mystics, who would you take with the 4th pick?
Mechelle Voepel (2:45 PM)
I think I'd probably take Tianna Hawkins of Maryland. I think she's a pretty solid, dependable player who will play well for Thibault.
Who are your ?3 to See? for next year?
Mechelle Voepel (2:52 PM)
I'm wondering if it could be something like "Four on the Floor" or "Four-wheel Drive" or some other "four" thing. And highlight Breanna Stewart, Odyssey Sims, Chiney Ogwumike and Alyssa Thomas. Three will be seniors, one will be a sophomore ... so it wouldn't be just like this year's "Three to See" thing where the whole idea was to make that bridge between players to watch in the last year, at the draft, and then follow right into the WNBA. But the way Breanna Stewart played at the Final Four, it would be hard *not* to include her in any "players to see" kind of promotional idea. And, yes, I know that some people will be ticked off because they say this just promotes some players and not others. But the idea behind it really is to try to get some names of women's hoops players into more the mainstream consciousness.
Matt (South Bass Island)
Whose WNBA Draft stock rose the most due to her play in the NCAA Tournament?
Mechelle Voepel (2:55 PM)
I'd say Cal's Layshia Clarendon, because she finally got more of a spotlight and performed well in it. UConn's Faris played well in the tournament, but she's been on a team for four years with far, far greater visibility than Cal. So I don't necessarily think anyone needed this tournament to form an opinion of Faris.
Jono (Atlanta, GA)
Although the upstart Louisville Cardinals were eventually overwhelmed by a talented UConn squad that came together when it mattered most. Where do you think they need to improve to go deep again next year?Obviously, PG Bria Smith needs to develop a midrange game and, eventually, a decent outside shot to balance her hard driving game. They also need a stronger post presence down low. However, they have some nice players. I was greatly impressed by Antonita Slaughter's defensive efforts on Brittney and her 3-point shooting. Even when UConn worked hard to negate her 3-point threat, she demonstrated a willingness to drive hard to the hoop and convert with tough play. As flashy as Shoni is, she might have to reel in her Showtime! style at times for higher percentage play, especially when the going gets tough. And someone needs to tell super sensitive Jude that crying is only allowed AFTER the loss is fully consummated---not during actual play. ;-) They were such a fun team to watch and such a breath a fresh air! I wish that team and their coach all the best going forward!
Mechelle Voepel (2:58 PM)
I think you wrapped things up very well. Louisville had a remarkable run, but they hit a wall that wasn't going to budge in UConn. All these players you mentioned have a taste of what it's like to be in the tournament that long - it's a bit draining, even if it is fun - and they know what a championship team looks like up close. They spent 40 minutes on the court with it, so they know exactly what it would take to try to be that good.
Ohio State is still open, are they having difficulties finding a "big name" to take their suitcase of money?
Mechelle Voepel (3:06 PM)
Sure seems like it, and I have to admit I'm kind of surprised. Goestenkors is ready to come back ... but only in the right situation. She's not in need of $ ... she wants something that feels right to her, which is a program where it doesn't have quite the feel of a "corporation" like Texas and Ohio State do. Dawn Staley feels like she's headed in the right direction at South Carolina and likes it there. Jeff Walz is a Kentucky guy, and he loves it at Louisville. Geno is locked up. So ... what "big names" are out there who haven't already said no or aren't interested or wouldn't be interesting to Ohio State? I think the OSU administration maybe has been caught by surprise, too, that they have heard some of the "no's" that they have.
Sofia (Durham, NC)
What do you think of Harper to Missouri State? Her previous stop at NCSU saw her unable to move beyond the shadow of Kay Yow's success. Will she be able to do that at Missouri State with Cheryl Burnett still around? Or is recruiting 'easier' there than against other ACC teams?
Mechelle Voepel (3:10 PM)
I think she'll be a good fit there. As we talked about in a previous chat, Kellie Harper was in a tough situation following Kay Yow. She will be welcomed by Cheryl Burnett, who doesn't want to coach anymore but works for Missouri State and will do anything to help Kellie, I guarantee that. Burnett loves that program, and while her success may seem like a "shadow" over those who followed her, she herself is not creating that shadow. The Valley has some good coaches and programs on the rise, and I think Kellie Harper can be one of them.
What kind of impact do you see Merecedes Russell having at Tennessee both next year and over her career?
Mechelle Voepel (3:12 PM)
She's apparently got all the tools to be a standout post player at the college level. And she joins the mix of Graves, Burdick and Harrison, a trio that - the Louisville game notwithstanding - really seemed to be clicking pretty well in the tournament. I think Tennessee is a top-three team next year in the preseason rankings, if they're healthy.
Matt (South Bass Island)
Is the 2013 WNBA Draft considered to be deep with talent in comparison to other drafts in recent history?
Mechelle Voepel (3:15 PM)
Bill Laimbeer and a few other coaches I've talked to say that it's probably deeper than people thought it was going to be. We all know, though, that most of the people who get drafted on Monday are not that likely to make WNBA rosters ... especially those after the first round. But there are always exceptions, and hope always springs eternal. :)
All of a sudden there seems to be a Sugar buzz going on during the pre-Draft. I don't understand why. Her shooting has been terrible.
Mechelle Voepel (3:18 PM)
I really don't know what the buzz is in terms of what fans/observers are saying. But most of the folks in the WNBA I've talked to tend to refer to Sugar Rodgers as a "high-volume shooter," which I don't generally take to be a compliment. :) Of course, let's see how she might play on a team with a lot of other scoring options.
kevin (macon ga)
If the Sun hadn't fired Coach Thibault would Asjha Jones have decided to play through her injuries this year?
Mechelle Voepel (3:22 PM)
That was the scuttlebutt at the Final Four from the UConn/ConnSun writers. They thought perhaps Asjha would have been more inclined to battle though this season because she had a good relationship with Thibault, and she was not happy that he was fired. I would imagine that isn't the only reason she's not playing, but probably contributed to it.
Ursula (San Diego)
The top 3 may be set, but does the Sky take Diggins or Della Dunne? And who should they take?
Mechelle Voepel (3:31 PM)
I think the Sky's best move is to take Delle Donne. She is such a multi-faceted offensive weapon, and that will help Sylvia Fowles. I just don't think the Sky can pass on getting someone like EDD.
Do you think Louisville will be a top 5 team next season? Isn't their like top 6 returning?
Mechelle Voepel (3:33 PM)
The Cardinals really could be, and I debated putting them in the quick top-five thing I wrote Tuesday night after the championship game. I ultimately didn't, but they could have been there. It's a matter of whether they can pick up where they left off in this tournament. Can they start next season with that kind of focus and energy?
which is a bigger disappointment for BG only 1 title or only 2 FF?
Mechelle Voepel (3:36 PM)
Griner said she is disappointed she "only" got one national championship. She thinks they should have won it in 2011, too, and at least played for it this year. But you know what? There is a very long list of great players - including the likes of Dawn Staley, Lisa Leslie, Teresa Edwards _ who never won any NCAA titles. So at some point, I think BG shouldn't be thinking about the word "disappointing." She did a lot of great things, she was part of a perfect season, and she has her whole pro career still to go.
ken (long island)
the draft invitees are set, when are you going to do a mock draft?
Mechelle Voepel (3:37 PM)
ESPN's mock draft is supposed to run Friday. I'll do my picks, as will some of the other writers/talent people.
While a lot can happen in a tournament - we saw that this year with Baylor and Stanford - will UConn be as big a favorite going into next year as Baylor was going in to this past year?
Mechelle Voepel (3:39 PM)
Yes, I think the Huskies will be that kind of favorite going into next year.
kevin (macon ga)
Oregon is apparently sticking with Paul Westhead. Is that the most surprising coaching move so far?
Mechelle Voepel (3:41 PM)
I'm going to guess that's a money decision, and not because they see things long-term getting better under him? It's hard to understand it any other way.
kevin (macon ga)
I asked my Magic 8 Ball whether Liz Cambage would ever play in the WNBA again. The answer came back "It is certain!" Do you agree with the Magic 8 Ball?
Mechelle Voepel (3:42 PM)
At some point, yes. For Tulsa, probably not.
Compared to 10 years ago, are the future prospects for WBCC brighter or not, in your view?
Mechelle Voepel (3:44 PM)
The future is always brighter. :) Coaching and players are getting better. The WNBA isn't going away, and that will continue to be an incentive for players to improve and have something else to look forward to.
Mechelle Voepel (3:44 PM)
Well, we're about to have a WNBA conference call, where I'm sure the coaches will NOT give away their draft strategy. But we'll see how much they will tell us. Chat with you again next week.