Kyle Whelliston: Matt, it’s a real pleasure, thanks for having me on your fine site. Thanks to my readers, travel is a lot more stable and predictable this year. And honestly, I don’t know what kind of book I have until the season’s over. But there are some stories, like Bally’s wild night at the Gold Club in Atlanta last month, that will remain under wraps forever.
SSB: Siena is 12-0, do you think this team runs the table?
Kyle: I think they can afford a loss or two… I mean, come on, it’s not like there’s an at-large bid at stake here. As long as any drops happen soon, things will be fine. You and I know they’ve always had a tough time at Rider, and that’s coming up next weekend. If they do run the table, it’ll be because of the Iona game. They had that under control, almost whizzed it away, and came back and throttled Canisius with a new found sense of urgency. Sometimes it’s better to stand on the cliff’s edge and peek over than actually fall in. It’s a team that doesn’t want to feel the pain of losing now.
SSB: Do you see any other conferences that consistently hold their tourney in a place that gives one team a significant advantage? If so, how has it played out the past couple of seasons?
Kyle: First, you have to have a good team. Look at two years ago, when the tourney was in Bridgeport… Fairfield was horrible that year, and the home-court advantage didn’t do a thing for them. The year before, the KeeKee Show upset Siena on your own court and made it to the finals against Manhattan. And you could have done 2005 in Outer Mongolia and Niagara still would have won, they were just the best team in the MAAC by a longshot. This year, Siena is obviously head and shoulders over everybody, so it doesn’t matter where you play this tourney. It’s just going to look nice on TV when they win.
I’ve been going to the MAAC tourney for almost a decade now, and I’ve always been impressed how well this league’s fans travel. There’s always going to be good fan support for everyone, even when Siena packs its own place three-quarters full. The WAC and WCC are other conferences that move it around every year, but the travel distances are much greater out west… so it becomes more of a natural advantage for the home team.
SSB: Lets assume the CAA and A10 are the next level of upgrades compared to the MAAC, How do you think Siena would fare in either conference? Who [from around the nation] can you compare Siena with?
Kyle: Basketball-wise, they’d be fine, and the TUC is better than a lot of the arenas in either of those conferences. But wins and losses aren’t what rule college athletics, it’s money. Siena’s budget is around $8 million– there’s no football (undefeated since 2003), and the travel would kill the program financially. A-14 teams spend twice as much on hoops as Siena does.
There really isn’t a good parallel to Siena out there, other than maybe Creighton. I don’t think there are other teams at this level that have big-time arenas at their disposal (dude, Genesis played the TUC!), or are are capable of filling them because of unique relationships with the towns. Albany is a mid-size city, but Siena Basketball gets a lot of local press coverage because its primary competition for sports headlines is the River Rats. (Sorry, UA, not quite there yet.)
SSB: Why is storming the court the best feeling in college basketball? At what age do you recommend for others to stop storming the court?
Kyle: I’m not going to lie to you, storming the court is a sex ritual. Pure sex in all of its infinite beauty. Seriously, you don’t think that people rushing towards the center-court logo doesn’t look exactly like sperm rushing towards an egg? It’s primal, it’s passion, it’s the essence of life.
Storming the court is Darwinism at its finest. It requires peak physical condition, the kind that young folks take for granted but keeps getting more difficult to maintain as one spends more and more time at a desk.
So I’ve been preparing for this all season so as to be in the best floor-storming shape possible. I’m running 20 miles a week, eating right, watching my weight… I’m thin like Jimmy Patsos now. No McDonald’s for me, except for the Fruit & Walnut salad, which is very healthy. When it’s time to jump over the railing in March, you can bet I’ll be ready.
SSB: You can bet I’ll again be right there with you. Thanks for taking the time Kyle, we wish you the best of luck with your travel and we’ll see you in March.