Q&A: Pipe Dream Sports Editor Cyril Cheriyan

In preparation for Thursday night's first-round contest between No. 2 Duke and No. 15 Binghamton, I sat down—that's a figure of speech, it was more an e-mail exchange—with Cyril Cheriyan, the sports editor of the Pipe Dream, the student newspaper at Binghamton.

First off, it's Binghamton's first-ever trip to the NCAA Tournament. Is it fair to say the campus is pretty excited about that?

The campus is ecstatic. This is the biggest thing that has ever happened to our University so naturally everyone, even people who have no interest in basketball, are celebrating. I don't think anyone ever anticipated putting Duke and Binghamton in a single sentence. It is a team that you hear about on SportsCenter or read in The New York Times. The success of the team really brought everyone together.

What kind of style do the Bearcats play primarily? In other words, what's their calling card? Is it a free-flowing offense, 3-point shooting, stingy defense, etc.?

I would say it's a little bit of everything. I mean you have the top scorer in the conference, D.J. Rivera; Reggie Fuller, the fifth-best rebounder; and Tiki Mayben, who is third in the conference in assists. I think it stands clear that the Bearcats play the best when they are in a chaotic atmosphere. If you look at their record, many of the wins are by a one- to five-point difference. The Bearcats pride themselves in making the right plays at the right time whether it be making that clutch 3-pointer or forcing a turnover in the final seconds. Broadus' main goal this season was to make a team that would be able to play for the full 40 minutes, and I think it's safe to say that he has. For Duke, he has said that the Bearcats can't make any mistakes. They have to play hard defense and make every shot count.

From everything I've read, it looks like D.J. Rivera is the guy to watch. What makes him a special player?

Rivera is just that all-around guy, plain and simple. Pipe Dream notes him as the LeBron James of the Bearcats. You can't go wrong with a .468 field goal percentage. He is a player who averages about 20 points a game, he is a decent rebounder, and he is top on our team in steals. Rivera is fast and can easily maneuver around the court, and most important, he makes those plays when it really counts.

There doesn't seem to be a lot of height on the Binghamton roster—something we've gotten used to here at Duke. Have other teams exploited that this year, and how have the Bearcats responded?

Yeah, I hope Broadus will be able to change that next season with the new recruits, but that has never been a damper on their season. I mean Maine has some pretty big guys and so does Vermont. The Bearcats' speed and agility make up for their height disadvantage. At the end of the day, it's all about who can get the ball most to the net and I think the 'Cats have showed that this season. With Jaan Montgomery gone next season, however, we need some guys with height. I can't wait to see who we will have on our roster.

How fair do you think the draw was to Binghamton? Did you expect a better seed, and how well do you think the Bearcats match up with the Blue Devils?

I was a little dissapointed that Binghamton did not get a higher seed. I mean, how do you put a team at No. 15 when they haven't lost a game at all in February or March? Still, I'm just happy the Bearcats won their first conference championship and got to the NCAA Tourney. I didn't think it would happen this year at all, and the team really surprised me. As for the matchup, well... the Bearcats are playing Duke—a team that is just on another level. Duke is a veteran to [the Tournament] for years now, whereas this is the Bearcats' first appearance. Binghamton has only been Division I for about eight years.

There has been a buzz going around that the Bearcats could upset them, and crazier things have happened in the Tournament. The players are ready to face Duke, though. Some of the Bearcats guys even know some of the Blue Devil players from back in the day. If I am not mistaken, Belmont almost upset Duke in the last NCAA Tournament and [Duke] was defeated by VCU the season before, so getting that "W" is not impossible. Again, the Bearcats have never faced an opponent of this caliber so it will definitely be a challenge.

What does Binghamton have to do to play with and beat Duke? And what do the Bearcats need the Blue Devils to do to keep them in the game?

If Binghamton can keep within a few points to Duke in the first half, then I would say they have a chance. They will have to play real good defense, stopping the shots from beyond the arc and make every single shot they take count. We've got light, speedy guys that need to play around Duke's big men. If all goes well, the Bearcats will be able make pivotal plays toward the end of the second half and with every non-Duke fan rooting for the underdog, they will have a chance to steal the show. After all, the Bearcats are the best when they play under pressure. Pipe Dream wrote an article I think you would be interested in which talks about how to beat Duke. Check it out when you get the chance.

I'd probably be remiss if we didn't bring up The New York Times' story on the Binghamton program by Pete Thamel last month. First, what was your initial reaction to the piece, and what was the campus' response. I've seen some mixed ideas on the Pipe Dream's comments; is that representative? And how has the University as a whole reacted?

Hahaha. Man, I could write you a billion pages on this issue. I was disgusted by the article. It had sources from players that left the team, an adjunct lecturer and retired professors. Thamel I felt made big deal of a situation that frankly happens to teams from all over the U.S. (and this article is hypocritical on his part because his alma mater is Syracuse). It's not the first time he has written an article attacking Broadus. It was a fairly one-sided piece that did not get reactions from any students or anybody from the administration who liked what was happening with the program. Plus, if you are going to make a big deal out of a player texting in class, then we might as well get all of our names in the Times. The campus as a whole is behind Broadus 100 percent. You should have seen the signs fans held up condemning Thamel and the Times during the championship games. You will generally see more negative comments coming from the alumni, who feel that the academics of the institution are being neglected in place of a D1 team. Then again many of these alumni attended Binghamton while the program was DIII so it is understandable. It's unfortunate, however, how the reactions to the controversies fell on Broadus' shoulders, because many of these things had no connection to him. Two of the players that had issues in the past year were recruited before he even stepped into Binghamton. I admit, when Malik Alvin got into trouble in October, I was dissapointed. The season was not even underway and already the team was in the negative light. Still, there has not been single problem since then. I was not a believer in the beginning of the season, but Broadus really proved me wrong.

Here is what I learned this year: Binghamton is a public school with a young basketball program and for young programs to make progress into the big-name conferences, you will have to push the limits. Binghamton does not have the money or the resources other big name schools have. Great players don't come to Binghamton to play basketball. They go to Duke, UCLA, Syracuse, etc. So we go to the next best option. If you want to progress, the best way to do that is to pick those players that need a second chance. Broadus took those players who had a fallout with the game and gave them a chance at redemption. So not only did he help our school get a championship, but he gave these players their life back.

What were the reactions, then, on campus when Rivera not only didn't win America East Player of the Year, but didn't even make first-team all-conference—as a protest from the other coaches in the conference?

You cannot deny a man the MVP award after he had such a phenomenal record in the America East and give it to someone who recieved it last year (Marqus Blakely of Vermont). Even more disparaging is the fact that he did not even get selected to first-team all conference. It's unfortunate how the system works, but he is Binghamton's MVP. I think at that point, though, the entire campus was more focused on the Bearcats winning the championship. Rivera ended up getting the MVP [of the America East] championship award, though. It's important for people to know that you are punishing the player rather than punishing the team for taking away a rightfully deserved award.

How have Kevin Broadus and the team dealt with those issues in the last month?

Broadus and his squad have been phenomenal. Even when things looked at its worse, the coach kept his composure and kept on pushing forward. He and his team never lost sight of the main goal. It's easy for coaches and the administration to get caught up in all the fiasco, but Broadus did not let things outside the court interfere with the team. He had a saying every time I did an interview with him, "Don't be bitter, be better," and that is exactly what the team did. It is such an amazing feat that he needs to be applauded for.

Do events like that, in the middle of an ostensibly magical season, tarnish the team's accomplishments at all?

I don't think it did. I think that the way he handled the situation should be a model for schools who are going through similar situations. He and his squad debunked the negative image not through words, but on the court, and that is what makes it all the more spectacular. Of course, you are still going to have some people that will point out the program's flaws, but this season will have people talking for years to come. All of Binghamton's future championship games I think will be compared to this first-ever conference win.

Can't get through this without alluding to alum Tony Kornheiser. Has he been up to campus at all this season, and is it too unreasonable to expect him to stay up for a 9:40 tip?

Pipe Dream actually had an interview with him before the championship final. The reason he didn't come up to see the game was because it was too early (the game started at 11 a.m.). Kornheiser's quote: "If you're the America East and ESPN tells you you got to be on at 11 a.m., you have to do it, you can't bitch about it. For me, it'd be about five hours by car. It means getting out of here at five in the morning. I'm just getting up for the second time to pee at five in the morning." I think you will see him at Greensboro. He likes to come up to Binghamton at least once a year and even considered on hosting PTI here.

Lastly, how do you see the game playing out Thursday? What's the final score?

I think the Bearcats can muster the win. They are on a hot streak right now—third-longest in the nation. They have been through the worst of situations, so they are capable of keeping up with a major team. I have Binghamton defeating Duke on my bracket. I see the Bearcats making a similar play to the AE conference semis against New Hampshire. My dream win right here: Binghamton trails by one with 15 seconds in regulation and the Blue Devils in possession. Rivera makes the steal and dunks to win the game 71-70. Hopefully this will become a reality.

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