Behind The Scenes

A new look and new challenge for ESPNU’s College Basketball Live: NCAA Women’s Special

Lya Vallat in the control room. (Photo courtesy of Lya Vallat)
Lya Vallat in the control room. (Photo courtesy of Lya Vallat)

Lya Vallat has produced many shows in her five-plus year career at ESPN, but when ESPN women’s basketball announcers Beth Mowins and Debbie Antonelli wanted to make their ideas a reality, Vallat had to put her experience to use.

Today, Mowins and Antonelli, along with Cara Capuano, Maria Taylor and Brooke Weisbrod, will take part in the execution of those ideas with a revamped, four-hour ESPNU College Basketball Live: NCAA Women’s Special beginning at 1 p.m.

In previous years, the show focused on conducting interviews with all 64 head coaches participating in the NCAA Championship as well as getting reaction from the basketball community. This year, the show will focus not only on interviews, but also in-depth analysis of the bracket. Capuano will handle interviews with select players and coaches from the 64-team bracket. The rest of the crew will conduct an expert-style panel with a complete bracket breakdown and big-picture topics.

Vallat spends most of her time outside of the studio working various college games and she considers herself as one of the lucky few who gets to produce both studio and remote events.

What goes into the preparation for a four-hour studio show?
It takes a village! What began as an 8 a.m. phone call between myself, two hosts and two analysts scattered across three time zones became four hours chock-full of NCAA Championship insight. Before lights and cameras comes coordinating with SIDs, prepping my ESPNU production team, gathering video for edits and organizing the rundown.

What was the thought process behind revamping this year’s show?
Beth and Debbie have had this idea for a few years. Fans of women’s basketball are knowledgeable and fully invested. They said, Let’s roll up our sleeves and delve into the X’s and O’s of top teams. We will hit on Bracketology and seeding, but with the addition of roundtable discussions, high-end breakdowns and interviews with some of the most recognizable coaches and players in women’s hoops – it ups the ante. We are going with quality over quantity.

Any thoughts on which iteration is harder to produce?
I’ll let you know at 5:01 p.m. today!

But having Beth and Debbie must make the job easier, right?
Have you ever listened to their espnW podcast? They are the best of the best (and pure entertainment) and just great ambassadors for the game. It’s the first time we’ve ever done a show like this – and we’re not afraid to mix things up. Putting the top minds in women’s hoops under the same roof – you should expect insight, fun and debate.

How do you decide which teams to interview?
ESPN’s season-long campaign “3 to See” has been so popular, so we decided to ride on that. Fans want to hear from top talent in the game, so we pared it down from 64 teams to 10 or 15 this year.

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