Selection Sunday lays the blueprint for the coming battles. Contending teams wait anxiously to see who they will be tested against first, and who they may face in future weekends if they advance. Bubble teams pray quietly, hoping for an invitation to the dance. On the eve of this fantastic event and at the conclusion of the selection process, I had the opportunity to speak to a former NCAA champion. Peyton Siva has gone through it all: The two-time Big East Champion and NCAA Tournament MVP completed his college career winning a National Championship with Louisville last year. I had a chance to get his initial thoughts on this year’s tournament and their selection process, along with some of his previous college exploits.
The madness of March and the NCAA dance to crown college basketball’s champion may feature the most exciting tournament on the planet. The stakes are high and the medium is monstrous. For a lot of these kids this is a chance to prove themselves on a national stage. It’s also their opportunity to showcase their talents for scouts at the next level. For many others this will be their last hurrah: most won’t go on to be pros and this could be the last competitive basketball they ever play. The tournament stockpiles an abundant amount of hungry young talent and puts them in a win, or go home, scenario.
After winning the NCAA Title last year, Peyton Siva has gone on to the next level and is now a proud member of the Detroit Pistons. I was lucky enough to chat with him about the transition between college and the NBA, his individual game and the Seahawks’ Super Bowl. I also confirmed for all the Like Mike fans if room service is the best part of being in the NBA.
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Dime: What did you think of selection Sunday? Surprised at all with Louisville’s seeding?
Peyton Siva: Oh yeah, I definitely feel we should’ve got a two seed, if not a one. That was crazy, the only teams playing as well as us right now are Florida and Wichita St.
Dime: Any other initial thoughts on selection Sunday?
PS: I feel like Wichita St. has got a tough road ahead of them. Doing what they have done all year and to get that type of break that they did, kind of surprised me. But hey, it’s March Madness you’re going to play against good teams.
Dime: It’s early but want to take a stab at the final four?
PS: The Final Four…eh, it’s tough. I’m biased with Louisville so I’m going with them. I like Florida also, other than that it’s going to be tough for anybody. I mean you saw Florida beat Kentucky today by one, so it’s going to be crazy. I don’t think anyone will get the whole thing right.
Dime: What about a Cinderella team? Anyone out there who could surprise everyone?
PS: Hmmm, my Cinderella team. There are a bunch out there, I like Manhattan but I don’t know they are going against our team first hand so…
Dime: You’ve had a lot of success in college, you are a two-time Big East Champion and MVP. How does it compare to winning an NCAA Title?
PS: Oh it’s crazy, because winning the Big East Championship, you know you’ll play more games, it’s fun but it doesn’t compare to the big one. Getting on that national stage, that national level, to be number one of the number ones. That’s a feeling I’ll never forget.
Dime: Does the legacy of winning in college follow you to the NBA?
PS: I think it definitely follows you, so that you’re a winner, but also you definitely have to prove yourself. In the NBA there are a lot of winners, they’ve won college championships, they’ve won NBA titles, so you definitely have to prove yourself all over again. But you definitely carry that reputation with you.
Dime: What’s the difference in atmosphere between say a March Madness game and an NBA game?
PS: It’s a lot different, especially right now. There are so many NBA games, so many games that a lot of people don’t go to. Whereas college, a home game in college is the biggest thing of the week to go to that game. In the NBA you might have three or four games in a week. In college it’s just one. It’s a much crazier atmosphere in college from what I’ve experienced in the NBA so far, and I haven’t experienced a playoff atmosphere. I heard those are really crazy.
Dime: Montrezl Harrell and Russ Smith are both projected to go in the first round of the NBA Draft this year. What do you expect in the future from your two former teammates?
PS: I definitely think they’ll both make it. As per account of whoever I think they both have a legitimate shot to make it the NBA and have a great career. They are both great players and they’re proven winners. They are back-to-back champions in their conference and they both won a National Championship. I think they will have great careers wherever they end up, whatever round they end up going.
Dime: If you were an NBA general manager, who would you pick in this year’s draft? Who is most NBA-ready?
PS: The one guy most NBA ready: I got to go with my guy Russ Smith. I’m Louisville biased man, he’s my guy [laughs]. But also I like Jabari Parker. He’s a really solid player; he’s a really good player. Just watching a couple of their games, he’s kind of a do-it-all kind of player. Scorer, rebounder, I think he’s a real good talent.
Dime: What was the biggest transition from college to the NBA?
PS: The biggest transition was the traveling. The speed of the game as well. It’s a lot faster than college. It’s been a big transition for me, you don’t practice quite as much as you do in college. You always have to stay prepared, and be ready for your opportunity.
Dime: You spent a couple weeks with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, how’d that go for you? What was the D-League experience like?
PS: It was great, gave me the chance to go down and play. You know I haven’t played a lot in the NBA, so I got a chance to go down there, to do some reps and get some running against a lot of good players, good professional players. It helped me out a lot in regards to confidence and playing basketball.
Dime: What’s the biggest thing the Pistons need to work on to turn things around a bit?
PS: We show glimpses of how good our team can be. I think we just need to continue what we’re doing. When we do that, play together, share the ball, we look unstoppable.
Dime: Individually, what part of your game do you need to work on?
PS: For me it’s continuing to play with confidence. Going down to the Mad Ants I really wanted to work on my shooting and my decision making. I think I did a good job of shooting, I was around 50 percent from the three-point line. I really worked on my shot, so just maintaining that and playing how I’ve been playing; just keep improving.
Dime: Are you looking to get back into the rotation here soon?
PS: My ankle is feeling better, I’m trying to get back into the rotation and do whatever I can to help the team out.
Dime: Did you ever watch the movie “Like Mike” growing up as a kid?
PS: Yeah [laughs].
Dime: There’s a part in the movie, where Morris Chestnut asks Bow Wow what his favorite part of playing in the NBA is, and he says, “the room service.” So what’s your favorite part of the NBA? Is it the room service?
PS: Definitely not the room service! The room service is very expensive, so that’s not for me [laughs]. The best part so far would be the traveling. We travel on a private airplane, where they feed us and take care of us. It’s been a great experience for me.
Dime: How much free time do you guys usually get to sightsee or go out?
PS: We get there the day before a game and get a lot of time to just go out and see the city. In college you never got to do that. I remember my first experience was: first city we flew to, I asked if I could go grab some food because in college you’re not allowed to leave the hotel without asking coach and the guy looked at me and said, “You can do whatever you want.”
Dime: What’s your favorite city that you’ve traveled to so far?
PS: I really liked San Francisco. Golden State had nice weather, it was a nice town. The west coast is nice. I got to see my family.