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Over the last year and change, Central New York was ready, willing, and able to brag about being home to Miss America, Nina Davuluri. Born in Syracuse, and spending time as a child in India, Michigan, and Oklahoma (thanks, Wikipedia!), Nina moved back to the Syracuse area in 2007, specifically to Fayetteville. But you no doubt know all of this, so you’re probably asking why the hell I’m telling you? Well, Tuesday night the Orange will be taking the floor against No. 17 Michigan in the toughest test of the season thus far, and while Nina is a Syracuse native, she went the way of Mike Hart and chose to attend Michigan. And fortunately for us, she was gracious enough to answer a couple of questions for Otto’s Grove leading up to Tuesday night’s huge showdown.

OG: Is there a sense of relief now that your year as Miss America is over, since from what we can gather, your reign is pretty highly structured, down to what you can and can’t do, to a degree?

ND:  I wouldn’t say it’s a relief as much as it’s an excitement. My year as Miss America opened so many doors and opportunities that I couldn’t even imagine would be possible 18 months ago. And although there is structure, I never felt restricted or confined–I truly felt that I represented myself and the organization whole-heartedly, and I’ve realized it doesn’t just end after one year! I’m continuing my busy touring schedule with speaking engagements and appearances; while I call Syracuse my home, I’m still on the road quite often.

Over the past two months, I’ve traveled almost 30,000 miles (in addition to the 200,000+ miles I’ve logged over this past year) across the country visiting various communities and states promoting my platform, “Celebrating Diversity through Cultural Competency.” I’m excited to announce that I will be traveling to India in a few weeks for a media tour and to explore some exciting new opportunities! I’m also applying to MBA programs for the Fall of 2015 and looking forward to seeing what the future has in store for me!

OG: We know you’ve been to some Syracuse games — what’s the most memorable SU sports related experience you’ve had?

ND: During Syracuse’s incredible 25-0 start last season, I was able to catch several games on TV (even with my busy schedule, I had my priorities)! As far as being at the Dome, I was able to go to the Villanova game when Syracuse came back from a huge early deficit, 16 or 17 points I think. I was also honored to be invited by Syracuse University to attend the NC State game and sit courtside–witnessing CJ Fair’s exciting last second game-winning basket…not to mention meeting Coach Boeheim and the team afterwards!
The Dome is an amazing atmosphere, especially when big names come to town like Villanova, Duke, UNC, or Louisville. Hopefully I’ll be able to catch a home game or two this winter. As we all know, #HomeIsWhereTheDomeIs!
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OG: You can be honest — when Syracuse and Michigan played in the Final Four in 2013, where was your allegiance?

ND: I plead the fifth.

OG: You’ve been running in some interesting circles since being crowned Miss America — who’s a celebrity you’ve met whose personality away from the spotlight might surprise people?

ND: Well, I have to say I’m biased towards Amar’e Stoudemire–he was one of my judges at Miss America (and clearly he has good judgement)! I also met Mindy Kaling (mostly known for her role as Kelly Kapoor on The Office). She is hilarious, down to earth, sweet, and so real. It’s refreshing to see someone embrace their identity and own it both on and off screen! (Editor’s note: What are the odds that, just as I’m putting this post together, Mindy comes out as the first guest on Conan tonight?) 

Also, being a huge House of Cards fan, I was super excited to meet Kevin Spacey–he’s a phenomenal actor and a really genuine person! 

OG: Okay, now the most important question — what’s your prediction for the Syracuse/Michigan game?

ND: As happy as I would be to see either team win, Michigan has been playing much better basketball lately. The obvious, glaring concern for Syracuse is their ability to stretch the defense by making some three-pointers–that’s been a major issue so far. While it appears that Michigan has the advantage in the backcourt with two playmakers in LeVert and Irvin, Syracuse has the advantage down low.

Syracuse would be wise to slow the tempo and use their size advantage with McCullough and Christmas taking high percentage shots. Also, Syracuse must absolutely own the glass and limit Michigan’s second chances. Michigan can put a lot of points on the board in a hurry, and unless Cooney, Gbinije, or Johnson heat up from beyond the arc, Syracuse might struggle to keep up with Michigan. I predict Michigan wins by 5, but am certainly rooting for a great game!

 

Make sure you give Nina a follow on Twitter @NinaDavuluri

So there you have it, folks. I was going to do a little bit of a game preview to wrap this thing up but frankly, who wants to read that after Miss America just broke down the matchup like a boss? Instead, I’ll just leave you with two more photos that Nina was kind enough to share, one because she’s with Jimmy B, and the other because, frankly, that look on Daryl Gross’s face is just too great not to share.

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