Iowa is 3-0 to start Big Ten play with wins over Michigan State, Purdue, and Nebraska. Thursday is the rematch with the Spartans and a healthy Denzel Valentine will be in the starting lineup for Tom Izzo's crew in East Lansing.
Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery previewed the matchup and the challenge of defending Valentine.
ON DEFENDING DENZEL VALENTINE...
"He's incredibly unique because he can take a game over; he plays multiple positions; he can bring it down; he can post up; he can play on the wing. If the game is fast, he can play if it's in the halfcourt. When it's all said and done, he's one of the leading scorers in our league but he may impact the game more with his passing than anything else. He loads everybody up and makes everybody else better. The impact that he has on the game and their ability to score is dramatically different."
ON THE HEALTH OF ANTHONY CLEMMONS...
"He's fine. (He's been practicing) for a couple days. I mean, yesterady was his first full day, but he's participated in part of the practices before. He's worked out on his own. Sunday was an off-day and he was in the gym on his own. That's when he knew he was ready. I don't think anybody likes breaks this long, but if you have a guy who is injured, you know, it certainly benefits him. And we're thrilled about that because obviously he's a very important part of what we do."
"Obviously he's going home (when playing at Michigan State). Any time anybody goes home, it's a different feel. He's played a million games; under pressure. But you go home, it's a different situation. He will have a ton of family there. But I'm not worried about him that way at all."
ON THE LONG BREAK...
"You work on different things. It gives you time. You can work on your offense, your defense, your pressing, your zones, your zone attack, your man attack, whatever you might see, not necessarily locking into the next opponent until you get to yesterday. So for the first part of this break, it was, how do we get better, and then yesterday we began focusing on Michigan State."
"I don't get concerned either way. If we were playing well; if we were playing poorly, everybody gets a break. This one seems a little longer than usual. Usually you play Saturday, you miss your Tuesday or Wednesday game, and then you play the following Saturday. It's usually seven days. It was nine because it was a Tuesday, Thursday. But everybody gets a bye."
ON MICHIGAN STATE...
"Well you look at their roster, again, I can't speak to what happened before I got in this league. But you have Draymond Green, Kalin Lucas, Denzel Valentine, and you just keep going, the players that they have had. They are going to be in the hunt. They have got one of the best coaches in college basketball in the last 50 years. So they are going to be in the hunt. I think Tom (Izzo) has done a particularly good job, if they stumble at all, like last year, they lost to Texas Southern at home. And if you look at from that game forward, they were pretty resilient, very effective, executed with incredible precision, and were playing as well as anybody in the country late, obviously they went to the Final Four."
"But a lot of times, you get into the tournament, one thing that also helps them is that they have had tournament experience. So when you have players that come before you that sort of expect to make the tournament, expect to win when they get there, it's an attitude that I think permeates that program. They have an uncanny ability to win close games."
"I think sometimes, especially in light of the fact that it wasn't a major injury, I would hate to see that for Denzel (Valentine). He was out for a couple weeks. And I think it made them a better team. (Matt) Costello is a different player. (Eron) Harris is a different player. (Gavin) Schilling was actually just coming off an injury and I think everybody knew he would be a quality front-line player, and then your'e seeing that now. But Davis is phenomenal. They have got a lot of different weapons, but sometimes you take a key guy out, it forces others to step up a little bit, which they have done and now Valentine comes back and I think they are a much better team as a result."
"I think Penn State's pretty good, and it was at Penn State where they're usually very good. And (Michigan State) really got into them. They pushed it. They rebounded. It was like they had everybody back and really didn't give Penn State a chance that day. That's kind of their mindset, and I think Penn State will learn from that game, like anybody else, when you're in a game like that. But hopefully we can learn fro that game, as well, and that's the challenge."
"(The Breslin Center) is tough to play in. It's intense. It's sold out every time you play there. It's not unlike some of the other venues in our league. But it's going to be loud. You've got to execute."