Q&A with Catchings, Beard
Via e-mail from Korea, Tennessee graduate Tamika Catchings of the Indiana Fever and Duke grad Alana Beard of the Washington Mystics shared some thoughts on next season, their alma maters and Monday's big game.
Does it seem strange that Tennessee hasn't won a national title since your freshman season?
"That does seem strange! I haven't really thought about it, but now that you mention it, it's amazing that Tennessee has always been up there in the rankings, but we haven't won since 1998. It's definitely time to get another title."
"Should be a good game. Two great teams going against each other, two great coaches going against each other. Should be a fun game for everyone who's playing, watching and cheering!" What do you think of the Indiana Fever's outlook for 2006?
"We have a huge void to fill in losing Natalie Williams and Deanna Jackson. But I think the biggest thing for us is to get better on defense, and to try to add size and versatility to our team. If our defense gets better, and we're able to add quickness and athleticism, we will be very hard to beat." As a past summer Olympian (and gold medalist), are you also a fan of the Winter Games, which are coming up next month in Italy? What Winter Olympic sport would you like to try?
"I will definitely become a big fan and supporter of the Winter Olympics. Especially after attending the past few Women's Sports Foundation dinners and having the opportunity to meet such cool athletes. I don't know if there would be a winter sport that I would be good in. I've never skied before, and the only sport that I could possibly be good at is sledding. So maybe I'll try bobsledding. One day!"
Do you think this year's Duke squad is the deepest Blue Devils team ever, and may that help in potentially getting the program's first national championship?
"This year's team is by far the deepest team in Duke women's basketball history. They don't lose a step from first player to last. I don't expect anything less than a championship. The coaches are doing a tremendous job with this team."
"I think that game will be an ESPN Instant Classic, without doubt. Two great coaches and two great teams going head-to-head." What do you think of the Washington Mystics' outlook for 2006?
"Last year was a bit of a whirlwind for us, not really knowing who the coach would be at the start of training camp. This year, it will be different because the coaching staff [led by coach Richie Adubato] will have had time to [assess] last season and the players on the team. They will have a better sense of what each player can do and our team's continuity. I have complete faith in the players, as well as the coaches, that it will be a totally different team this year." Mechelle Voepel of The Kansas City Star is a regular contributor to ESPN.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.