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December 13, 8:11 AM ET
Chat with Kyle Whelliston

Kyle Whelliston
  (3:59 PM)

Helloooo and good afternoon, mid-major aficionados and those of you who stumbled into the wrong chat. I'm Kyle Whelliston, and I'm here for an hour to talk about the other 23 conferences. We're going old-school today, I'm typing at you in a parking lot at an undisclosed location in Knoxville. I'll give a quick heads-up if I'm run off by security.

Darren (Omaha, NE)

How good could Evansville potentially be in the Valley this year. Yea, they let the UNC game get out of reach late in the first half, but they definitely earned more of my respect. Also, what is a Purple Ace?

Kyle Whelliston
  (4:02 PM)

It's difficult to gauge a team when it's up against a team full of future NBA players, but Evansville did okay. Kept good care of the basketball, shot fairly well, and played UNC even in the second half after the game was virtually over. "Ace" is a dude in a white suit and a mustache who's fly with the ladies. The UE cheerleaders, anyway.

Brad (Gadsden,Alabama)

Kyle, What do you think of Jacksonville State Do you think they have a chance to win the OVC?

Kyle Whelliston
  (4:04 PM)

Brad, you've been with me through thick and thin over the years, asking me this same question. Even through the single-digit wins. This time, I'm going to say yes. This team's outside shooting is phenomenal. And they beat UMass, which is like a win over Kansas by proxy!

Tim Jankovich (Normal, IL)

Any excuse for our terrible non-conference schedule? Will my team be ready for a quality opponent after beating up on the local high school teams so far?

Kyle Whelliston
  (4:05 PM)

I love it when the coaches show up. The SOS is one of the worst in the nation, but make no mistake -- UIC is a quality opponent coming up tomorrow. They beat Georgia Tech and Vanderbilt on the road. This will be the best (only?) test yet to see if the Redbirds are ready for the Valley.

Kyle Whelliston
  (4:06 PM)

Michael from Evansville, asking your question 1000 times makes me 1000% less likely to answer it. Please stop.

Justin (NJ)

Kyle, how do you see a team like Cleveland State or Temple faring in the latter part of the season? Any chance for a cinderella run?

Kyle Whelliston
  (4:08 PM)

Both teams have posted great wins. But I think Cleveland State is better poised to make magic, they can beat different teams. Temple's defense just isn't very good yet, the Tennessee situation was mostly the Vols just not having an answer for Dionte Christmas. The season is young, though.

Kevin (Richmond, VA)

Are you excited to see VCU square off against Oklahoma this weekend?

Kyle Whelliston
  (4:10 PM)

I think every fan of every other CAA team should be putting their allegiances aside and rooting for VCU against the Sooners. A win like this would have serious repercussions throughout the league, and show the country that the CAA means business again. This really is the CAA's last chance before BracketBusters for a conference statement like this.

Bryan, NYC

Why can't the MAAC follow the MVC's lead and order all it's teams to schedule smartly to raise our overall RPI to two-bid status? I am a Rider gad, and ardent follower of them, and I am sick of playing the NJIT's and Monmouth's of the world each year. When Rutgers is your big nonconference game, there is a problem.

Kyle Whelliston
  (4:13 PM)

I feel your frustration. Some leagues definitely still have a one-bid mentality, and it's probably going to take the MAAC having a heartbreaking razor-thin selection snub to wake up. League scheduling initiatives work, plain and simple. Two years ago, the Sun Belt put an RPI plan in place, and guess what? Two bids in 2008.

Adam (Columbia, MO)

If Davidson can get one victory either over Purdue or Duke and then trip up in the SoCon tournament, do you see them getting an at-large bid?

Kyle Whelliston
  (4:15 PM)

How's this: they lose both, run the SoCon, and still get in if they fall just short in the league tourney. The difference between last year and this is that every Davidson game has been on TV. Everybody knows who they are. I know what the NCAA says, but don't tell me that doesn't have an impact when humans are making the final decisions (instead of RPI-bots).

John (Chicago)

Think the Spiders can take down Wake tonight?

Kyle Whelliston
  (4:18 PM)

I'd love to see it. One thing I noticed when I saw them against Wright State on Sunday was that Wake got frustrated when WSU slowed the tempo and played patient. That's all they're going to get with Richmond.

Brett (Normal, IL)

Kyle - Please tell Bryan in NYC I feel his pain about his school's scheduling

Kyle Whelliston
  (4:20 PM)

We should start a support group for schools with talented teams and lousy schedules. Rider and Illinois State can be charter members.

Mike (NC)

What are the chances of a Liberty vs Davidson matchup for the bracketbuster game?

Kyle Whelliston
  (4:23 PM)

I'd say pretty low. Davidson will probably get a team that's high in the Valley or Horizon League standings. If Steph stays another year, the coaches have to get this game together so he and Seth can face off. Put it on TV. Bro vs. bro, take it to the hole!

Adam (Columbia, MO)

Also, what's the deal with Siena? After dominating Vandy last March and only losing Tay Fisher, I thought they would be a force to be reckoned with. They are anything but that right now.

Kyle Whelliston
  (4:25 PM)

They haven't been able to hide their size disadvantage, even with all that outside shooting. They aren't getting rebounds, and are one of the worst teams in the country in paint points. More alarmingly, their free throws are at Memphis-like levels. Can't win like that.

Terry, Detroit, MI

Kyle, plain and simple what mid major do you see causing the biggest headache in the NCAA tournament this year? Merry Xmas!

Kyle Whelliston
  (4:28 PM)

I really like this crop better than last year's at around the holidays. Even if you cut out the Atlantic 14 teams, since they don't want to be counted, there are a lot of squads that have multiple scoring options and can beat different types of teams. Saint Mary's, Creighton, Cleveland State, Davidson of course, Butler... all really good teams.

Bill (Snowed in in RI)

Kyle, your favorite America East homer here. What's up with Hartford? I thought they would be more competitive in the OOC than they are. It's not good for the league for them to perform as abysmally as they have. Also, are you surprised that nobody on Binghamton has killed anyone yet?

Kyle Whelliston
  (4:31 PM)

Hi, Bill. I wish I was back there (OK, no I don't). Have to give Hartford props for scheduling a little bit over their heads, but they're just being overwhelmed physically. Their ball control has been good, and that should help them contend again in the A-East. LOL on the last point.

Mark (Bayonne, Nj)

Kyle how long is it going to take John Dunne to make Saint Peter's competitive again. I know Leckie had Keydren Clark, but went to the game vs Seton Hall last week, and they have no offense or size, and can't hit free throws.

Kyle Whelliston
  (4:33 PM)

SPC deserves a good team, every time I've shown up there's been solid support. Dunne is still in the process of finding players out of that big pool of freshmen last year, Wesley Jenkins is a keeper, especially if he can improve his shooting. But they force a lot of turnovers, which is great.

Elmer (Richmond, VA)

So I'm pumped up for the battle of Capel vs. Maynor in the OU/VCU matchup! What are the chances of VCU keeping this this game close with the size disadvantage they give up? And what do VCU do about that monster of a kid Blake Griffin?

Kyle Whelliston
  (4:36 PM)

I was at OU's 1st/2nd round pod in March, I saw the Davidson game, there's no way you can stop Griffin. Best chance to win is to give him what he wants and take advantage of the young guards. Maynor's going to score a lot of points, Elmer, just you watch.

Bobby (Fairfax, VA)

Dude I gotta ask it..... at 8-1 is Hofstra for real? They fell off the map after their snub in '06 (thankfully my Patriots more than proved their worth that year). Is Tom Pecora gonna make some CAA noise this year??

Kyle Whelliston
  (4:40 PM)

I've been asking myself that same question. They've been beating some awful teams, but the distance between them and their opposition has been impressive. My guess at this point is that Hofstra is this year's W&M 2008... a team that does all the little things right, cleans up against the CAA dregs, throws scares into the VCU's and ODU's and makes it farther in the tourney than we now think they ought to.

Jon (Rutherford, NJ)

Hi Kyle - do you see any of the current top mid majors being able to make the jump to high major status like Gonzaga has done over the past decade?

Kyle Whelliston
  (4:42 PM)

A couple of years ago, I saw a rack of Gonzaga t-shirts at a Sports Authority in New York. I mean, wow. To "be Gonzaga" means to capture the nation's attention, and you do that with TV. The Zags have been a TV show for the past decade. Xavier is the only team remotely close, but the X doesn't have the television side wrapped up. Yet.

Jake (Vancouver, WA)

Just wondering if you have ever forced yourself to watch an NBA game just to see a former midmajor star in action? (I will watch any Dallas Mavericks game just for a fleeting glimpse of Jose Juan Barea)

Kyle Whelliston
  (4:44 PM)

Funny you should mention that. I sat through an Orlando-Golden State game the other night just to check up on Jameer Nelson and former WKU Hilltopper Courtney Lee. I'm not saying I deserve a medal, but it was hard.

Bill (Niagara Falls, NY)

At 8-2 with some solid road wins, do you think that Niagara is legit this year?

Kyle Whelliston
  (4:46 PM)

I think you have to look at Niagara as the MAAC favorite right now. They play defense now. Imagine that! And anybody who thinks that trickle-down Big East transfers are too cool for this level, look at Benn and Garrison. They're having great seasons.

Dan (Logan, UT)

What do you think of this year's Utah State team? Only loss was to BYU on a nuetral court by 4. Are they the best team in the WAC?

Kyle Whelliston
  (4:48 PM)

No doubt about it. They lose Jaycee Carroll and the shooting is still top-3 in the country. Great senior big guy in Gary Wilkinson who can hang with anybody in the nation. I forgot to put the Aggies in my list of mids who could make NCAA runs, my bad.

Steiny (NYC)

What are your thoughts on Towson thus far in the season?

Kyle Whelliston
  (4:51 PM)

Love all the CAA questions today, we're really turning the corner there. A lot better than last year, probably the best Towson team in Pat Kennedy's time there, which isn't saying much, I know. They've shown flashes of being the ball-control team that undertalented teams need to be at this level. Ceiling is probably the CAA semis if they continue to improve the offense.

Mike (Albany, New York)

Why are people so quick to jump off the Siena bandwagon? They're still 5-4 with an RPI of 80 and SOS of 45 with losses to powers such as Pittsburgh, Tennessee and Oklahoma St.

Kyle Whelliston
  (4:54 PM)

They weren't going to win those games, unless Franklin, Rossiter and Duell had monster games. They didn't, and it's putting the pressure on the shooters. Even last year, Siena was a balancing act -- the Saints need to play ball control and shoot the lights out to overcome their weaknesses down low.

Josh (Indianapolis)

I'm going to make the rookie mistake and look past Florida Gulf Coast this weekend but Butler plays Xavier next Wednesday. If we shoot better (35%) and take better care of the ball (19 TO's) than we did against Ohio State, I like our chances. What do you think?

Kyle Whelliston
  (4:57 PM)

Hey, FGCU gave Butler more than half a game a couple years back. But you're correct in assuming. 19 turnovers for Butler, especially in light of recent seasons, is unthinkable. Double what they're used to. They need to hope X is playing as sloppy as they did a few weeks ago and get a huge game out of Matt Howard. But in all honesty, they'll be lucky to hang close. Xavier is scary good.

Blaise ( New Jersey)

With Tyree Evans now joining the backcourt of Al Fisher(MAC POY) and Chris Singletary do you see them repeating for the MAC championship? yes they have some losses but they have come to some good teams.

Kyle Whelliston
  (5:00 PM)

If Tyree Evans can contribute the way he did last night (and behave), Kent will be tough. But I think Miami is just too strong this year.

Thomas Stamford, CT

Kyle, I would like to hear your thoughts on Fairfield. What are they missing that you would pick Niagara over the Stags and Siena as a MAAC favorite?

Kyle Whelliston
  (5:03 PM)

Honestly, I'd have to say they're a little soft down low defensively and their free throw shooting is awful. They have guys of every size who can hit shots, so they're going to stay good. I'd put them right there with Siena just behind Niagara.

Kyle Whelliston
  (5:04 PM)

OK, one more. Ah, we haven't taken a Patriot League question yet.

Steven (Long Island)

What's up with American? This is pretty much the same team that scared Tennessee last year in the NCAAs and now they've lost 4 straight to fall under .500. Also, what do you think of Navy going into January red-hot as the Patriot League favorite?

Kyle Whelliston
  (5:06 PM)

Here's my guess: American's a little bored. They're beating teams they should beat, losing to teams they have no business playing. None of this means anything until Jan. 10, of course, but Navy has been phenomenal. Tough on both ends of the floor.

Kyle Whelliston
  (5:07 PM)

Hey, thanks for all your questions, sorry I couldn't get to them all again. No chat next week because of the holiday, but I'll see you in 2009! Go hoops!