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 (2:02 PM)
Good afternoon! The "big six" conferences are finished with their tournaments, and Selection Monday is on the horizon. We know Cheryl Ford will be playing this WNBA season, but Sue Bird won't be. Let's get started.
Since it is very rare for all four #1 seeds to stay intact and reach the FF's (a mere twice so far), which one or two #1 seeds seem the most vulnerable to an upset in either the SS or EE?
Mechelle Voepel (2:08 PM)
I think you have to say Stanford ... they were really pushed by UCLA in the Pac-12 final. And even though they have that win over Baylor in November, I don't think that carries a ton of weight right now. The interesting thing, of course, is who will be the No. 2 out in Spokane with Stanford. I don't know that UConn seems all that vulnerable to any team other than Baylor or ND. But we'll see if the Huskies' confidence is where it needs to be after losing again to the Irish.
Tom (San Francisco, CA)
What do you think of teams like Rutgers and Virginia publicly declining WNIT bids? Detrimental for the game and student athletes?
Mechelle Voepel (2:12 PM)
I think it's a mistake to turn down a chance to keep competing, but perhaps the coaches feel their teams are not learning anything at this point, or they're too beat-up to want to continue. There are a lot of examples of teams that gained from WNIT experience. I hope the decision to turn down the WNIT isn't made out of a sense of wounded pride by not being in the NCAA tournament. Because I don't think that's good for anybody.
Dre (Louisiana )
Do you think Florida Gulf Coast has a chance at a at-large bid?
Mechelle Voepel (2:20 PM)
Yes, a chance. As you probably have seen, Charlie has them in the "first four out." So they are on the wrong side of the bubble from his view. But that still means there is a chance, of course.
Ryan (Sacramento, CA)
Is Bone a guaranteed lottery pick if she comes out this year?
Mechelle Voepel (2:22 PM)
There's been a little bit of a knock on Kelsey Bone in terms of, I guess, that nebulous term "toughness" ... but you see what she can do when she puts her mind to it. She took over in the second half of the SEC final against Kentucky. So I can see Washington knowing that potential and not wanting to let it slip away. But ... we'll have to see if she does indeed go to the draft. It seems to me that she's leaning that way.
You're always on top of life in the Big 12: I'm most interested in hearing your thoughts as to which team might be the best contender to replace Baylor at the top of that conference?
Mechelle Voepel (2:26 PM)
While Baylor is bound to drop nationally after the Griner-led senior class leaves, I'm not altogether sure they're going to drop that much in the Big 12. Lots of teams are losing important seniors this season, not just Baylor. I think Oklahoma - if healthy, which is a big "if" in this sport - is probably in the best position to overtake Baylor at the top of the standings next season. I'll be curious to see how West Virginia does in its second B12 season, and things can only get better for Texas. But I swear to you I'm not going to be utterly shocked if Baylor finds a way to win the league again next year.
It has always been strange to me that Indiana can't field a solid NCAA Womens' team. Curt Miller seems legit, is he the guy to finally get the IU Women to the tournament?
Mechelle Voepel (2:31 PM)
I think this goes back to the athletic department at Indiana for many years not really caring much what kind of women's program they had. You can guess part of why that was. Hint: angry guy in a sweater. By the time Indiana seemed to want to actually do anything about it, they were far behind. Curt Miller is the latest coach to try to change the culture there, and we know he's done a good job at Bowling Green. But he has to get better recruits, period.
If in fact Notre Dame goes to Norfolk as the 1 seed and Duke goes there as the 2 seed and they meet in the regional final, do you think the Blue Devils have a shot? I think they match up fairly well with the Irish.
Mechelle Voepel (2:34 PM)
Yes, Duke does have a shot against Notre Dame. Alexis Jones has stepped forward very well at PG, and the Blue Devils are a deep team with a lot of potential scoring options. Duke has a mental block with UConn, though. That is not a matchup they want at all. Even thought right now, everybody sees Notre Dame as the hotter team, I still think the Blue Devils would rather fact the Irish. If it comes to that.
What are your thoughts on the North Carolina Tarheels as far as how they'd do in the NCAA? Strengths/weaknesses?
Mechelle Voepel (2:38 PM)
Carolina is about the same as usual: They are athletic, they can look pretty good when they hit shots, and pretty lousy when they don't. They lost three times to a superior team in Duke, but they might go a ways in the NCAA tourney until they meet a team as good as Duke; As always, a lot of this is match-ups. There are teams that just match up terribly with Carolina. They have some depth, as they proved in the ACC tournament.
After watching Stanford struggle to beat UCLA in the Pac-12 final, am I the only one who thinks the Cardinal don't deserve to be a #1 seed in the tourney?
Mechelle Voepel (2:43 PM)
Yes, they struggled, but they still got it done. The body of work is still there. Plus ... it's actually somewhat by default. Right now, the only other team that could conceivably lay claim to that other No. 1 seed would be Duke.
Sofia (Durham, NC)
Who do you think are the top candidates for the now open USC job? Do you think previous NCAA violations (even though one of those was her assistant's wrong doing) eliminate Cynthia Cooper from consideration?
Mechelle Voepel (2:47 PM)
I don't think that would necessarily prevent Cynthia Cooper from consideration. Obviously, one of the names that will come up for jobs is Gail Goestenkors, but we'll have to see what her frame of mind is now. She was burned out on coaching when she left a year ago, and I'm not sure when/if she wants to come back. USC is a job that has its good points and bad points, but overall it has terrific potential. Whether that will be realized is another story.
The 2 and 3 projected seeds have been very inconsistent this year. Out of teams such as Duke, Cal, Penn State, Kentucky, Texas A&M and Tennessee, do you think any of them could be upset in the first round? Perhaps the year a 15 finally beats a 2!?
Mechelle Voepel (2:49 PM)
I would not say those teams have been inconsistent. All have had some losses, but I can see reasons for most of their losses. I don't see any of those teams losing in the first round.
Mechelle--your thoughts on the ND/UConn game this week. Should a foul have been called after the Diggins steal and UConn not yet in the bonus situation for free throws by the Irish? If they meet again in the Final Four, will ND win a 4th? Thanks and I enjoy your work very much!
Mechelle Voepel (2:53 PM)
Conceivably, they could have called a couple of fouls there, but considering the so-called "advantage/disadvantage" perspective ... Skylar was able to maintain advantage with the ball even when she was bumped. They let the play happen. I guess it seems like the "odds" might be in UConn's favor to finally pull out a victory against the Irish ... but I don't think so. I think Notre Dame has the edge of having a really gritty senior point guard, and that makes a lot of difference. UConn is still lacking in that area ... lots of good (and gritty) players, but PG is a tough spot for them.
With all the recent trades, acquisitions, and signings in the WNBA, I have to admit that I am excited about the Tulsa Shock and their prospects for a more competitive 2013 season. Do you believe that Nicole Powell and Candice Wiggins can go back to their play of seasons past and be a tandem of go-to scorers that the Shock so desperately need? Or is consistency going to be a problem? Both players are quite streaky, so that is my main concern. How does the almost certain addition of Skylar Diggins help bolster this team? I can imagine she and Wiggins will be a nightmare for opposing guards on the defensive end!
Mechelle Voepel (2:56 PM)
Especially with the news that Sue Bird is not playing this summer, there is more reason for Tulsa to be excited. Right now, it's hard to expect much from the Storm. Now, we could be surprised, but there are teams like the Storm and SASS that have injury woes going into this season. They are not as strong as they could be. And that does potentially leave some daylight for Tulsa. It's unfortunate for the league and for those franchises that star players are hurt. But sometimes other teams' bad luck becomes a previously struggling team's opening.
sporty67358 (adrift in my imagination)
If you concede Geno and Pat are #1 and #1A All-Time coaches, and Barmore, Conradt, Tara, Hatchell, Mulkey, Landers and 2 others are the probable other Top 10 All-Time coaches, is my darling Muffett getting closer to the Top 10 even without a second Natoinal Championsheep?
Mechelle Voepel (3:01 PM)
Yes. She's a really good coach. She hasn't necessarily gotten tons of great players over the years, but she's gotten a few. And she develops the ones she gets. Plus, she is one of the better bench coaches.
In 1988, 1989, and 1990 NCAA's Auburn lost in all three finals, so as to finish 2nd, which is very good, but perhaps disappointing to come so close, so many times in a row. Notre Dame has lost two finals in a row. If they do so again this time, might the WCBB version of a Buffalo Bills coming close repeatedly in the Super Bowl become an unfair tag attached to the Irish?
Mechelle Voepel (3:07 PM)
Yes, it would be very disappointing, but I don't think that's something a team should ever even think about. What "tags" people attach to teams is out of their control, of course. Stanford, LSU, Virginia are all teams that went to at least three Final Fours in a row (not to three finals in a row, though) and didn't win a title in that particular stretch. Stanford does have its two titles from the early '90s, of course. If you make it to the Final Four, you've done a lot right.
Would it be more fun to see a mid-round UConn-Delaware game or Tenn-Uconn game?
Mechelle Voepel (3:09 PM)
I think Tennessee-UConn would be more compelling. EDD deciding not to stay at UConn is very far in the rear-view mirror as far as I'm concerned. Maybe Huskies fans feel differently, but I actually don't think most of them begrudge her for that decision.
Stever (Ann Arbor)
Is Toni Young a "project" worthy of a mid to low first round draft pick?
Mechelle Voepel (3:13 PM)
She's an amazing athlete, and she hasn't been playing basketball for all that long, compared to a lot of kids. She really didn't get into it until her sophomore year in high school. So, yes, she might be a player that a team would take late in the 1st round on athletic potential.
Damian (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
Cheryl Ford signed with New York, what do you think about that?
Mechelle Voepel (3:15 PM)
Let's see if this "recreation" of the Detroit Shock actually works. Bill Laimbeer went overseas to see Cheryl Ford play. He thought she looked a little too thin, but otherwise was confident enough to lure her back. She said she feels good to go. I think there's some real risk here with what he's trying to do, because time marches on. But the guy has won three WNBA titles. So I suppose he deserves the benefit of the doubt.
Reflections on the demise of the Big East now that it's gone?
Mechelle Voepel (3:19 PM)
It seems a shame to lose the UConn-ND rivalry, of course. And this America 12 _or whatever the heck it's going to be called _ what a terrible conference that's going to end up being for UConn. But will the "new" Big East develop any stronger women's programs now that they aren't running up against the UConn or Notre Dame walls? I don't like most of this conference-swapping stuff, but it's happening regardless of how it affects women's hoops.
Sue Bird is going to complete her overseas season before having knee surgery and missing the upcoming WNBA season. Why does it seem like everyone is glossing over the fact that Bird is too hurt to play for the Storm but not for her club team?
Mechelle Voepel (3:28 PM)
I am reluctant to criticize Sue Bird for this because I've seen how many injuries she's played through in her WNBA career. The bottom line is the bottom line: She needs a break, and the most financially beneficial time for her to take one is in the summer. Add to it that LJ is out, and it seems the decision has been made that this is a treading-water type season for Seattle: hope for a good draft pick and a better 2014. A lot of people may say this is no different from what Phoenix did last year with sitting the players, including Taurasi, that the Mercury did. I think these situations are just part of the economic reality of women's pro ball.
Out of Tayler Hill, Sugar Rodgers, Alex Bentley, Kayla Alexander, Markel Walker and Lindsey Moore, who has the most potential to be added to the "Big Three"?
Mechelle Voepel (3:30 PM)
None of them are at the same level - I don't think - as the so-called Big 3 of Griner, Delle Donne, Diggins. But I'd say Hill and Rodgers would be at the top of that group you mentioned.
Sofia (Durham, NC)
For Katherine in Seattle and others doubting Bird, she finished the 2012 WNBA season with an injury that required surgery and missed time with her Russian team to rehab. She's doing the same thing now only it is the WNBA team that misses out. The cyst/damage potential is real.
Mechelle Voepel (3:32 PM)
I don't doubt it's real. I'm sure this is a tough decision for Bird and for LJ. The reality is that it's really hard to play nearly year-round without it catching up to you at some point.
Toni Young is no Sophia Young, wouldn't you agree? I make the comparisons not because the last names, but both are on the short side for power forwards in the league. If you don't have a motor like Sophia Young, you can't make it as a short power forward in the league, and therefore I would consider Toni Young a big risk as a high draft pick
Mechelle Voepel (3:37 PM)
One other interesting comparison is that they both took up basketball at a relatively late age ... Sophia didn't start playing seriously until she was about 14/15 as well. I'm not saying they are comparable coming out of college. Sophia Young was a much more polished player by the time she left Baylor. I was expecting her to make it as a pro. Toni Young is still quite raw as a player. But I guess I don't see a late first-round or high/mid-second round pick as being all that much of a risk. It would just depend on whether a team thought it was passing up a true "sure thing" to take that risk. And generally, there aren't lots of absolute sure things even late in the first round.
Clarification, please? What is meant by Muffet being a better "bench coach"? (pardon my ignorance...)
Mechelle Voepel (3:40 PM)
By that I mean that McGraw is very good at making in-game adjustments and substitutions.
Ragin' Cajun Cager (Home of the FInal Four)
Any news that the NCAA committee will return to the Top 16 for hosting the early rounds?
Mechelle Voepel (3:43 PM)
I have heard some talk that there is dialogue about possibly going back to that format of the top 16 seeds hosting. I still think it makes the most sense attendance-wise, and with the integrity of the bracket.
Shades (Minneapolis )
What's your gut feeling about Cambage? Is Tulsa shopping her, or do you expect to see her on their roster?
Mechelle Voepel (3:47 PM)
I think the Shock would at least have to explore what they might be able to get for Cambage. She didn't have a great first year in Tulsa, and then couldn't bring herself to come back for the end of last season. She said when I talked to her last year that she had no qualms about playing in Tulsa, in general. but you have to wonder if she wouldn't be happier elsewhere. That said ... you don't just give up on 6-8, young and talented. So it would have to be a good deal for the Shock to do it.
Sofia (Durham, NC)
If you had to pick one NCAA and one WNBA player to defend the other team's best player who is trying to make the game winning shot?
Mechelle Voepel (3:50 PM)
In college, that kind of depends on if the player taking the shot is on the perimeter or the inside. Clearly, inside I'd take Griner on defense. In the WNBA, I'd take Catchings no matter who was taking the shot.
Mechelle Voepel (3:53 PM)
Thanks for all the questions. Sorry for the ones I didn't get to. The NCAA selection show is Monday at 7 p.m. Eastern on ESPN.