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 (2:12 PM)
Sorry for the late start. Let's get going!
With Chelsea Gray's injury, Notre Dame's arrival, Maryland being healthy and the emergence of North Carolina's youth, who do you think will win the ACC this year?
Mechelle Voepel (2:14 PM)
I have been leaning toward Notre Dame, even if the Irish are the league newcomer. But it is one of the more intriguing conference races, for a lot of reasons. Very sad, though, to hear the news of Chelsea Gray's season-ending injury.
Moriah Jefferson was the best guard on the floor during UConn's win over Baylor. Do you think she's established herself as the best point guard in the country after Sims, and as an All-American this year?
Mechelle Voepel (2:15 PM)
Moriah Jefferson definitely showed a lot in that game, and it's something she's been doing consistently as a sophomore this season. She filled up the stat sheet except for the turnover column, so it was quite a night for her at Baylor. I don't think All-Americans are established yet in January, but she's certainly on her way.
Matt (South Bass Island)
Which was a more important factor in Vanderbilt's upset over Tennessee: free throws or home court advantage?
Mechelle Voepel (2:18 PM)
I think free throws. The home-court advantage hasn't worked all that well for Vandy in their long series with Tennessee. As you know, this was just the Commodores' ninth win in that series. But Tennessee made just six FTs in that game, compared to 18 from Vandy.
The Warriors have expressed publicly their interest in taking over the Sparks. Have you heard any rumblings about anyone in LA who's interested? Was hopeful Lisa Leslie or the other minority owners could try to team up and find other investors. But have not heard any news?
Mechelle Voepel (2:22 PM)
There are rumors about a "possible" buyer in the LA market, but to my knowledge that is still in the rumor stage. I don't get the sense that Lisa Leslie had any practical involvement with the way the Sparks were run. Even though the Lakers don't own the Sparks, of course, might they have some connections to people who may decide to step forward? That remains to be seen. It makes sense that the Warriors would want to grab this franchise, as opposed to an expansion franchise.
Matt (South Bass Island)
Which conference has the most parity from top to bottom?
Mechelle Voepel (2:25 PM)
I think for the top-to-bottom parity question, I would say the Big Ten and the SEC have the most. The SEC has more top teams, but in terms of parity in conference, both these leagues have a lot. The ACC would be next for me, followed by the Pac-12.
Sara (San Diego)
How is it possible that Stanford's Ogwumike was not one of college players in USA pool? Her contributions and skills are certainly at least equal to some of those collegians invited
Mechelle Voepel (2:29 PM)
All I can figure is that they gave more weight to those who attended the training camp in Las Vegas last year. I respect USA Basketball, and it's hard to argue with their track record in winning. But they sometimes do things that I don't get, and not having Chiney Ogwumike at least in this big pool of players doesn't make much sense to me. That said, of course, she could still be added at some point.
After Seeing Mondays game. Is Baylor better than we thought or was UConn just having a bad game?
Mechelle Voepel (2:31 PM)
I think Baylor is better than most people thought, and even Kim Mulkey was a little surprised at how well her young players responded in that atmosphere vs. that good an opponent. Now, can the younger Baylor players build on that and play that hard every game? That's the challenge. I give kudos to UConn, too, though, because they haven't been really challenged late in a game this year until Monday, and they executed offensively and defensively at crunch time. You see how effective UConn practices are when you see how they respond in games.
ISU, Baylor, OK State, WVU and perhaps OU make for a talented crowd in the Big XII. Who wins the regular season and who is #2 when the dust from the plains settles?
Mechelle Voepel (2:34 PM)
I think Baylor will win the league now. I didn't predict that at the beginning of the season, but I have liked what I've seen of them. As for No. 2 ... sheesh. Ask me today, and I'll say West Virginia. I might have a different answer next week. :)
Mechelle Voepel (2:37 PM)
It isn't easy going into Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa, and winning, but Oklahoma State and West Virginia have just done that. And West Virginia also won on the road at Oklahoma State. Those are two really impressive wins. Meanwhile, Baylor won at West Virginia. So that's what I'm working with so far in terms of projecting who will finish first in the Jumbo Dozen (Minus Two).
Blake Whitney (Washington, DC)
Everyone thought Tennessee and Kentucky were the obvious favorites to win the SEC, but they've already combined to lose 3 league games already. Who do you like in tonight's South Carolina-Texas A&M game, and how good do you think the Gamecocks can be this year?
Mechelle Voepel (2:39 PM)
TAMU's Gary Blair said on the SEC teleconference yesterday, in regard to his game with South Carolina, "First to 50 points wins." I thought, "Good Lord, I hope not," but it could go that way. It will be interesting to see how young players such as Alaina Coates for the Gamecocks and the two Courtneys for TAMU perform. My predictions on this chat have been stellar: I've been wrong about virtually game. So ... let's go with South Carolina. Sorry, Gamecocks.
If you were the legendary coach of the vaunted Voepel University's WCBB team and you were going to play Baylor, do you have your players guard Sims like the Huskies did? Will most teams try to guard her that way/ scheme?
Mechelle Voepel (2:44 PM)
If my university had guards like Moriah Jefferson and Bria Hartley, yes, the Twilight Zoners would guard Odyssey Sims *exactly* like UConn did. However, they don't actually exist, and most teams don't have the likes of MJ and BH. So they can try but ... let's put it this way. I kind of feel sorry for Kansas on Sunday. Sims might score 50 to make up for "only" getting 20 against the Huskies.
Regarding the Collective Bargaining Agreement, are both sides actively talking or will the talks resume at some point?
Mechelle Voepel (2:45 PM)
Supposedly, the negotiations began again this week after a break. Right now I don't have anything firm on a prospective date we may see this agreement done. And maybe Tulsa will have a coach by then, or maybe not.
kevin (macon ga)
The timing of this Sparks thing is still confusing to me. On December 5th they announced an extension for Carol Ross. Then on the 16th, not even two weeks later, they're reportedly begging the league for financial help. Help me make some sense of this, please!
Mechelle Voepel (2:50 PM)
I only wish I could make sense of it! There are some really well-run, professional franchises in the WNBA. Then there is a sliding scale of competence that goes down to the Sparks, who we now find out were the worst-run (apparently) of the current franchises. It seems like there was either some major denial going on inside the Sparks' inner sanctum, or some deliberate deception. Or both. And the people who were close to the inner sacntum but still didn't know probably feel very betrayed. This also made the WNBA as whole look bad, and I think the other franchises are irritated that the Sparks allowed this to happen. Because other owners/execs did NOT know the Sparks were in trouble like this, according to those I've spoken to.
kevin (macon ga)
Someone has to ask; how will Chelsea Gray's injury affect her draft stock?
Mechelle Voepel (2:53 PM)
I talked to some of the coaches/GMs who were at the Baylor/UConn game about this. They were worried about her health just from what they saw of her this season before the most recent injury. Now I think they will have to do more research on her condition and consider what they think the real time of recovery will be, and how that will effect her pro potential. It's unfortunate, and there's a lot of "unknowns" involved.
Do you think the SEC conference race will come down to the wire?
Mechelle Voepel (2:55 PM)
It definitely could. Just because there are several good teams and then others who are more than capable of pulling some "spoiler" upsets.
Should the fact that half the league's teams reportedly broke even/made a profit put fans' anxiety at ease or is it solely a product of the lucrative ESPN deal?
Mechelle Voepel (2:57 PM)
I don't know that anything can fully put fans' anxiety at ease; the WNBA is still establishing itself, and with the losses of previous franchises, people are going to be worried about any bad news. But I think the league is OK, even thought individual franchises all have to be evaluated on their own merits/lack thereof.
Allen (Columbia, MO)
Do you see Mizzou making the tourney this year? If not, how about next year? Pingeton seems to be putting it all together, but the Tigers have been a lower-tier team for too long imho.
Mechelle Voepel (3:02 PM)
Let's see how they do in the battle of Tigers tonight as LSU visits Mizzou. Missouri is sort of carving a space as the "Iowa State" of the SEC - a team that shoots a lot of 3's and plays defense as well as it can despite not having the athleticism of some teams. Can Mizzou finish in the middle or just above in the SEC this year? I really am not sure, because they didn't play all that challenging a non-conference schedule to give us an idea of their full potential.
Becky Hammon Miller Sisters (Epiphany Prince's House)
If the USA National Pool list is the exact same list as the roster of the last national team camp, what is the point of this list anyways? Excuse us while we dust off our Russian passports.
Mechelle Voepel (3:03 PM)
I just posted this question because I love the name you picked. :) USA Basketball has its politics. It always has. I do think, though, that typically they put together the best teams. However, there always seems to be some players over the years that get "left out" for various reasons.
Hi Mechelle it's me again lol. You did a great job with the Downton Abbey piece. Are their anymore columns like that in the future? I would love to see a comparison using my favorite show: The Good Wife.
Mechelle Voepel (3:06 PM)
I have to apologize, Kelly ... "The Good Wife" is one of those shows I've heard a lot of positive things about, but I've never seen it. Some people liked the "Downton Abbey" comparison, and some thought it was just dumb. :) But it was fun for me to do, so at least I and some Downton fans enjoyed it. I'm not sure an "American Horror Story: Coven" basketball comparison will be coming, though. Although that would be fun, too.
With all the names in the pool for team USA, Do you think the committee will mix and match before the Olympics to make the team?
Mechelle Voepel (3:08 PM)
Considering that the Rio Games are a long time away, I think there will be changes between the World Championship roster and the Rio roster. There's injury factors we can't predict, of course.
There seems to be a lot of hype surrounding the high level of scoring by Sims. She definitely has been given the green light to create for herself whenever she wants and seems to be thriving on that style. Do you agree that no way is Sims taken before elite post player Ogwumike despite any perceived team needs? Size is a huge premium in the WNBA.
Mechelle Voepel (3:10 PM)
I can say what some of the GMs I've talked to have said. A lot of them feel a true scoring point guard who plays really elite defense is a rarer commodity than a really athletic, talented "big." Both are very valuable, though. Does that mean Sims will go ahead of Ogwumike as the No. 1 pick? I don't know. But I do think it's still an open question as to who will be that selection.
Mechelle Voepel (3:12 PM)
Well, I've actually got to switch gears and get ready for my upcoming Skype chat with the great Dottie Pepper on the LPGA season opening. They begin next week with a tournament in the Bahamas! (No, I don't get to go.) Thanks for all the questions!