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. I'm guessing almost wherever you are today, the weather is not so great. I can't complain, I'm indoors. Let's tip off with a congrats to Candace Parker, whose jersey is being retired tonight at Tennessee.
jbb1985 (looking to Downton)
Some coaches scheduled very light Out-Of-Conference (OOC) teams this year. When your team loses the superstar and senior starters, in one instance, is this a clever approach or merely one that salvages their record and helps their seeding perception even if their lessened SOS is artificially bolstering their record?
Mechelle Voepel (2:05 PM)
Yes and no. :) I think it depends on the program. Some really do have to go more the cupcake route to recover after big graduation losses. Some, I think, need to challenge themselves more because of the institutional history of success. The bottom line, though, is that you can only avoid tough compeition for so long. Eventually, you have to figure out how good you are and can be.
I've recently read that the WNBA may be in danger of becoming a dying brand once David Stern, a supporter of the league, retires from the NBA. Is this something that's seriously being discussed around the league? Or just another "the WNBA is dead" rumor?
Mechelle Voepel (2:08 PM)
I saw that story and thought it was not a very-well researched Internet "quick-hitter." I don't think the WNBA is going away because David Stern is retiring. We've been hearing about the WNBA's impending death since its birth in 1997. :) I would like to get definitive word on the CBA soon, but I have a pretty good idea what it will be like. And that it will be business as usual this summer.
Mechelle, I watched my first women's volleyball games on tv last week for the Final Four. Thanks for the great coverage on that. Wisconsin had Penn State on the ropes in the second and fourth sets but could not get the key points to finish them off. If UW could have pushed it to a fifth set, who do you think would have had the advantage?
Mechelle Voepel (2:11 PM)
Still probably Penn State because the Nittany Lions ultimately had a bit more of an advantage in attacking and serving, both of which are so huge in the first-to-15 fifth set. That said, the Badgers were *so* close, really, to making that a five-set match and forcing PSU to feel that pressure. It was an impressive showing in Seattle by the "underdogs," but Penn State really was a force to be reckoned with.
Irving Matchen (Washington, DC)
What do we fans have to do to get ESPN to air some of the bigger matchups? We are missing far too many good games.
Mechelle Voepel (2:16 PM)
I can't really speak much for what is done on the television side, as I'm not involved in it. However, I do want to say this: ESPN can't just pick and choose every single women's hoops game it wants. There are other networks with contractual agreements with conferences. I'm not denying ESPN's obvious "power," just that it is not omnipotent in regard to rights to all games. I know a lot of thought and planning long before the season really does go into ESPN's TV choices, and I think it usually results in a good slate of games. But sometimes then the season starts, and teams surprise even people in the know, and their games end up being more in demand than expected.
jbb1985 (sunnier than Petticoat J)
It seems that Stanford's reliance on Ogwumike and Baylor's reliance on Sims are bolstering their respective stats. Do voters for POY take that into account or will their very high PPG and other metrics make this a 2-way POY race?
Mechelle Voepel (2:19 PM)
I don't know how all voters think, but I do try to keep in perspective how various players' numbers are affected by the teams they are on. UConn has had this issue in the past in regard to how balanced they've been in many seasons. I think the players most thought would be in the POY race - Ogwumike, Sims, Stewart, Thomas, etc. - are all still very much in the race. It is only Jan. 2.
Adam (New York)
What can Niya Butts do to turn around Arizona? Or could it be time for a new coach going into 2014 - 2015?
Mechelle Voepel (2:22 PM)
As you know, she signed what is projected as a really good recuiting class. So how the rest of this year goes, and the promise of that class, are things to weigh in regard to her future. I think one of the difficult things for an athletic director to do is know when to keep holding on to a coach to give her/him enough time to succeed, and when it's time to pull the plug because it's not going to happen.
Veronica (Chillie North)
ESPN has the list of ranked teams, so it's still baffling that they do not pick up some of the games between 2 ranked ooponents, when these games are also notbeing aired else where.
Mechelle Voepel (2:25 PM)
Just because the games aren't being aired doesn't necessarily mean that no one else has the rights to those games. And, ultimately, ESPN is like any other network: They have to approach airing any games from a business standpoint. I appreciate the fact that people are really passionate and want to see more games, though.
Rica Shepardson (Austin, TX)
M, what do you think Texas needs to do to get back in to "elite" status in Women's Basketball? Or, more specifically, what does Coach Aston need to do?
Mechelle Voepel (2:26 PM)
It's mostly about recruiting. She's got to be in on the top players in both Texas and the entire country. That's the status Texas once had, and I think it's definitely Coach Aston's goal.
Do Colorado, Arizona State, or Cal pose serious threats to Stanford in the Pac-12 race?
Mechelle Voepel (2:30 PM)
I don't think any of the three is going to take the league title away from Stanford this season. Because the Cardinal may have potential to be upset, just not very often. That's the thing: Stanford is so consistent in how it plays in league games. But I would say of the other Pac-12 teams, Arizona State and Colorado have the best chance to at least push the Cardinal.
Brandon jenn (Iowa city ia)
Does Indiana have a chance at beating Iowa tonight?
Mechelle Voepel (2:36 PM)
With the game at Indiana, yes, I'd say there is a chance for the Hoosiers. It is now time for them to show whether their undefeated record has some relevance, or is mostly just an illusion that is more the product of advantageous scheduling. I would still give the edge to the Hawkeyes, but we will soon be learning more about the Hoosiers.
Happy New Year, Mechelle. I was very impressed with Stanford's win over the Lady Vols. In fact, it seems the Cardinal has improved significantly since the beginning of the season. Do you think by the time March Madness comes around they will be in a position to really challenge UConn for the title? Or is this season destined to be another iteration of UConn and the Seven Dwarfs?
Mechelle Voepel (2:38 PM)
Stanford has improved, and will keep improving. The problem is, UConn always improves, too. And the Huskies have a lengthy history of not having any let-ups during the NCAA tournament, even in years where they may have a few hiccups during the regular season. It would be more interesting, obviously, to think UConn will have one or two realistic challengers by March. I just don't think so right now. I'll be happy to be wrong.
jbb1985 (sunnier than Petticoat J)
When tall, multitalented WCBB players of the past and of the present are named, such as Candace Parker, EDD and now Breanna Stewart, is this just hype or is Stewie starting to get the pundits justifiably thinking of comparisons?
Mechelle Voepel (2:43 PM)
It's hard to imagine anyone who covers WBB *NOT* thinking that way about Breanna Stewart even last season when she was having some of her freshman struggles. Her skills and her size are just undeniable. We pundits don't always know what's right in front of us. :) But in this case it's obvious.
The "Five to Know" promo doesn't appear to be as far reaching as the "Three to See". Not being promoted or just less interesting personalities and story lines?
Mechelle Voepel (2:47 PM)
I think it's hard to replicate how "sellable" and catchy the "Three to See" promotion was. It was three seniors we knew would go 1-2-3 in the WNBA draft. They were all stars on good teams, and all with different _ but vibrant _ personalities. It's difficult to follow that up with something as successful.
Matt (South Bass Island)
Will the Buckeyes be able to keep pace with the Boilermakers' small-ball speed tonight during their Big Ten opener in Columbus?
Mechelle Voepel (2:48 PM)
Purdue is on the road, but I still favor the Boilers in this game. I have been impressed with Purdue so far.
Rob (Burtonsville )
Do we know who the new head coach of the Tulsa Shock will be?
Mechelle Voepel (2:50 PM)
When I last talked with the Shock brass, I was told "early in the new year." So I'm thinking this month.
jbb1985 (looking to Downton)
It seems the ACC will be the toughest Conference this season. Out of that frenzied fray, which one wins, and would it be both the season and tourney?
Mechelle Voepel (2:55 PM)
I'm actually leaning toward Notre Dame winning the regular-season title, and Duke taking the tournament title. But I could be out to lunch. I guess we can revisit this after a few ACC games. Whether it's the "toughest" league or not is always a debate, but I think it's perhaps the most interesting. At least in terms of how the newcomers like Notre Dame perform, and what Maryland does in its last ACC season.
Mechelle Voepel (2:58 PM)
Thanks for all your questions. "Downton Abbey" fans, I wrote a "for-fun" column on DA and women's hoops. It is to actual "analysis" pretty much what cookies are to nutrition. But it's OK to sometimes just indulge, right? Enjoy the start of conference season, and the start of DA season four!