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 (2:03 PM)
Good afternoon. Quick turnaround, as usual, from the NCAA championship game to the WNBA draft, which is Monday. Let's get started.
Thomas (Ft. Lauderdale)
ESPN ignored the Wade Trophy. Just a feeling that if it had been a UCONNer who took it home, it would have been splashed across the pages. ESPN's pushing of one team, year after year afer year, is killing the sport.
Mechelle Voepel (2:07 PM)
I don't think we have lacked for coverage about Odyssey Sims and Baylor over the last several years. I, personally, have attended and covered more Baylor games than UConn games in the past decade. I don't think the sport is being "killed" and I think Odyssey will get a lot of coverage at the draft.
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
When will the 2014 WNBA Draft be?
Mechelle Voepel (2:08 PM)
It's Monday at the Mohegan Sun, to be televised at 8 p.m. Eastern time on ESPN2.
Peg (Baldwin, md)
When do you think Alyssa Thomas will go in the draft? What about DeVaughn?
Mechelle Voepel (2:09 PM)
Thomas seems pretty sure to go top three, with DeVaughn more likely about mid-way through the second round, I think.
Lifetime WBB fan (Iowa)
Another day where the largest photo on the ESPN WBB website is a man; same as all day yesterday. A painful reminder to many that Mr. Auriemma and 38% of WBB coaches are male (2012 survey) and only 3 women have had the opportunity since Auriemma became a head coach 27 seasons ago to obtain jobs as assistants in men's programs (USA Today, 2012). Which colleges are realistically open to women becoming MBB coaches in the near future? With so few female ADs, who are the male ADs out there that would step up and hire a woman for MBB?
Mechelle Voepel (2:13 PM)
It's hard to see this changing much in the near future. For one thing, women who want to coach men would have to really commit to that and find openings to climb the ladder. So first you would need that pool of candidates who really wanted to do it. Then, they would have to prove themselves in that realm, and frankly, would likely be judged more harshly. I wish I had a positive answer to this, because I think it's a serious issue. I think men's sports would be BETTER if there were at least some women in the coaching ranks. But I have not seen real progress on that in my entire career.
Glenn (Fresh Meadows)
So was Uconn Blowing Out equally Undefeated ND good or bad for Women's Basketball?
Mechelle Voepel (2:18 PM)
Every year, we seem to ask the "good or bad" question in regard to the final and who won. I know this game got really high ratings, so there's that. The ideal, of course, would have been a game that went down to the wire, right? Ultimately, I have to admit I get weary of what we all tend to do with women's sports: Constantly take the "temperature" of the sport. But I understand why it happens.
Do you think UConn will win another national title next season?
Mechelle Voepel (2:22 PM)
Despite their senior losses of Stefanie Dolson and Bria Hartley, the Huskies will be right in the mix again. It's fair to say they've been contenders every season for two decades. I think teams such as North Carolina and South Carolina, just to name two, will be stronger challengers because both teams will be "older and wiser" next season. Of course, we'll also have to see how injury situations play out. Next year is not a really strong season for seniors nationwide; there were no juniors this year on the WBCA All-America team. Although if UConn's Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis had been healthy, she might have been on that squad.
Glenn (Fresh Meadows)
Geno after the Semifinal win seemed to imply that teams don't even have the drive to try to compete...accurate? It does seem that even top teams just take the loss as a given and take the RPI boost and get ready for the next match.
Mechelle Voepel (2:25 PM)
I don't think that is the case. I give UConn all the credit in the world, and think Geno Auriemma is a brilliant coach and motivator. But the idea that nobody else is trying hard or is as driven to compete is just not true.
Joe (Dallas) [via mobile]
What will it take for Notre Dame to get over the hump? The sad part is that, this year, they finally had a post threat to match up with Dolson. Yet she wasn't able to play.
Mechelle Voepel (2:32 PM)
It's interesting that if you go back over the history of women's basketball, there are these "star-crossed" teams (as I call them) who do everything in a really great stretch for the program *except* win a national championship. It was like that for both Auburn and Virginia in the late 1980s-early 1990s. Stanford in the mid-1990s, and then again in the last six years. LSU in the mid-2000s. Notre Dame in the last four years. It tends to be a combination of reasons. For Notre Dame, I'm sure the one that feels like it "got away" was the 2011 NCAA title game against Texas AM. But that was a really good AM team, and Gary Blair has been in the game forever, so it's not like they lost to a nobody team and nobody coach. Then in 2012, they ran up against Baylor at its best, and that year there was no beating Baylor. Last year at the WFF, they had already beaten UConn three times, of course, and then encountered Breanna Stewart as she blossomed. And this year, they were matched up against a great team and didn't have one of their best players, who was - realistically - irreplaceable for them. So ... I would say by becoming a program that went to the Final Four multiple years in a row, Notre Dame has already gotten over a hump that most teams never do. Now, can they sustain their recruiting and get more chances at the title? I think they can.
Glenn (Fresh Meadows)
I've gone after Geno in the past but to put together this season was easily the best coaching job he's done. at times only playing 6 players, short roster, Injuries, Illnesses and still went undefeated by grand margins each time. Say what you want with talent, you don't go undefeated with that short a roster without a GREAT coach, well earned 9th title
Mechelle Voepel (2:35 PM)
I agree with you. And I give the rest of the coaching staff credit, too. But, ultimately, this was about those kids who stayed disciplined, stayed out of foul trouble, had each others' backs when Morgan Tuck was lost for the season and when KML was hurt/sick. This was a very cohesive, responsible unit. And it was Dolson and Hartley who set that tone. That's why, I think, Geno Auriemma was so emotional after the final: those two seniors have been really, really good kids for him to coach.
Mechelle, there was opinion circulated during the NCAAs that UCONN's reign atop Women's College basketball could be over if they dont get out of the AAC soon. Without conference competition like Louisville and Notre Dame, it will become harder and harder to recruit top players. Louisiana Tech's fall from power was used as an example. Do you see the weakness of the American as a significant problem for UCONN? Who do you see as the most likely candidate to challenge them someday within conference?
Mechelle Voepel (2:44 PM)
That is the concern you hear a lot from UConn fans. I don't know how much it plays into recruits' decisions that, "Oh, do I want to go play for a team that beats all of its conference foes by a lot?" I think recruits are more swayed by whether they think they will be in the hunt for national championships and whether they will improve to become good pro players. And UConn can point to its past and say, "Absolutely," to both questions. UConn also has geographic advantages with its proximity to East Coast media (yes, including ESPN) and a coach who has been so media-savvy. Louisiana Tech was so far away from major media markets, and I can't help but think that did impact them, along with the whole change in landscape in college athletics. So ... I don't know if we'll see the American's weakness as a conference hurt UConn in the near future. It may impact fans in terms of coming to games and buying tickets, though; at some point, even the most ardent Huskies backers may say, "I can't sit through this many blowouts." As for who might rise in the American to challenge UConn? Right now it's hard to see that from any of the AAC programs (with Louisville and Rutgers leaving.) South Florida has had some success, and I would see them as possiby one of the better "other" programs in the league. But really a challenge to UConn? I don't see that.
hey Mechelle, Liberty has been really quiet so far...do you have any answers why? And assume he doesnt trade the 4th pick; which one he likes or want more: Thomas or Mcbride?
Mechelle Voepel (2:48 PM)
There is a conference call later today with some of the WNBA coaches, and Bill Laimbeer is on it. I have found in the past, he virtually never gives away any information on these calls - or in other interview settings - that is a reliable indicator of what he will do on Draft Day. :) So I think if he indicates he like Thomas more, then surely he likes McBride, and vice versa. Unless he's going for the double-double cross. As for why the Liberty has been "quiet," I've gotten that question a lot. It may be that Bill thinks his team is not as far away from being a contender. I don't get the sense the fans feel that way, though.
Does Geno need to be careful when bickering with other programs like Notre Dame? Tennessee already refuses to play UCONN. What if other schools start to refuse to play them also?
Mechelle Voepel (2:56 PM)
I will say that in this case, it seemed like Muffet McGraw was probably into the bickering mode even more than Geno was. Especially Monday before the championship game. She and Geno were also egged on by certain media folks who wanted to stir that pot. I thought the whole thing Monday was kinda silly, but once it started, we all pretty much had to write about it. I think Muffet was clearly ticked off by something specific Geno said - a lot of us theorized it was the "not nice to fib during Lent" wisecrack from Geno - and so she went to the Final Four mad. Geno's remark that "sometimes we act like a bunch of girls" did not endear him to the folks who already think he's condescending, but that ship has long sailed. So ... does he have to play nice (or nicer) to make sure top teams will play UConn? Maybe a little. But ultimately, I think if top teams refuse to play UConn for any reason - because the coach doesn't like Geno, because they are worried about being beat, whatever - that is their loss, big time. UConn is the best overall program and has been for quite some time now. If you want to reach that level, you need to face them whenever you get the chance.
who will be the Sun's First pick in WNBA Draft?
Mechelle Voepel (2:58 PM)
Chiney Ogwumike seems like a lock for the Sun. Pretty darn impressive for one family to have two No. 1 draft picks.
Jim R (Virginia)
When will you ESPN WCBB experts begin to realize that the Lady VOLs have yet to prove they deserve a Top 5 pre-season rating? When is the last time they made it past the Elite 8?
Mechelle Voepel (3:01 PM)
Tennessee's last Women's Final Four was in 2008. As for preseason top-five, all preseason rankings tend to be based on reputation to a large degree. And, yes, Tennessee tends to get the benefit of the doubt a lot of times. That said, Tennessee was one of the No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament this year, even if they didn't make it past the Sweet 16. I don't see that having them in last season's preseason top 5 was totally "wrong" if they ended up with a No. 1 seed.
WNBA: What is the Best first round pick for Tulsa? Considering her connection to JayZ, will Skylar ask to be traded to a big city team? Time to move on from Liz and acquire a replacement?
Mechelle Voepel (3:05 PM)
I think the Shock will opt for Odyssey Sims with their pick. Skylar has seemed very committed to her role in publicizing the Shock. And when you consider that Kevin Durant has done just fine in global superstardom despite being in Oklahoma City, I think maybe - especially in our world today - it is less of a big deal that Skylar isn't playing in a major media market because she has Twitter, Instagram, whatever to get her image out there, and she's really savvy about that. As for Cambage ... I think it's probably time to move on.
Glenn (Fresh Meadows)
Stock Up, Stock Down for WNBA draft: Dolson, Thomas, McBride, Hamson, Hartley
Mechelle Voepel (3:07 PM)
If the postseason had an impact on the decisions, I'd say stock up for Dolson, Thomas, Hamson. I think Thomas and Hartley probably unchanged. Thomas making the Final Four was great for her personally, but I think she was already top-3, or fourth at the very latest.
Mechelle Voepel (3:08 PM)
Thanks for all the questions. Tune into the draft on Monday!