Inside Iowa Basketball With Bobby Hansen

The Former Hawkeye Great and NBA Champion lends his expert insight to HN.com as its hoops expert. This week, Bobby breaks down the Illinois and Iowa State contests, delves into Iowa's turnover problem, analyzes the game of Greg Brunner, looks ahead to the keys against Ohio State and explains the academic life of a Big Ten athlete. Read all about it in this premium feature.

What did you take out of the losses at Illinois and Iowa State?

They're tough places to play. Obviously we all get a little tired talking about effort, but they played their hearts out. There were some key possessions at some key times that we didn't execute. And turnovers is a glaring statistic that jumps off the page. Points off of turnovers (for the opponent) and the lack of shots attempts (for Iowa) hurt. In those two games, we were 12-14 shots behind. We got a few more free throws at Illinois.

Jeff Horner bounced back huge against Iowa State. He proved, once again, the heart that this kid has. Brody Boyd is getting his game back, and that will be critical to the success of the Hawkeyes down the stretch.

As far as the beginning of the Iowa State game, it was a fun game to watch. At the end, it was as sometimes these games are when a little known player play a big role in the outcome in the game. This time it was John Neal. It's two 3-point shots he took with confidence and knocked them down.

What is causing the high number of turnovers, and what can be done to reduce them?

Basketball is a game of mistakes. There are going to be a certain amount of turnovers. The thing that you can't do it have an extraordinary amount of them. It really limits your opportunities to score.

There are things you can do to limit your amount of turnovers. Number one is practicing. With the Bulls, Tex Winter was the master and the killjoy of about an hour and a half of two-line passing drills. Going down the court passing the ball back and forth with Michael Jordan, it was bounce pass, chest pass, over-the-head pass; just work on your passing; work on your ballhandling; both as a team and individually. The players need to improve their skill level.

No. 2 is trying to increase your spacing on offense. Once in a while, we get so tight. A guy is driving and another guy's man is swiping at the ball. If you see a guy dribbling at you, don't come come to him. Flare out to give him some room to drive.

Thirdly, have longer possessions on the offensive end. Make the opponent play defense for a longer period of time. That limits your turnovers and limits the number of shots they get. You shorten the game down. There also needs to be crisper more concise passing. And we still have to work on our post feeding. We're forcing it in in some areas. We're lobbing when a bounce pass will do. You try to bounce it in when a guy is playing down low.

Maybe this doesn't take a lot of work on the court because of the lower numbers and the bumps and bruises. But maybe it takes more time in the video room looking at your mistakes.

It seems like teams are switching up defenses, and we have to do a better job of recognizing that.

Yes, recognition is a key. I saw a Box-and-One. I saw a Triangle-and-Two. I saw a 2-3 zone. I saw man. It was a good job by Wayne Morgan of mixing it up and keeping Iowa off balance. At the end of the game, he went to trapping. It was a little bit of fatigue, but you can't stand and hold the ball and wait for the trap. You need to pass and move and reverse the basketball.

Can you see the pitfalls that can cause a player to become academically ineligible?

College is different than 20 years ago when I was there. You have a lot of advantages as a student-athlete. You have a lot available to you, but it's up to you to take advantage of it. There are tutors that certainly help you a lot. You have to find the right tutors that you connect with. You have to put in your time. There are people that don't understand that may not have a strong academic background in high school. You're then thrown into classes with student who that's why they're there to be English majors. Most student-athletes, especially those who play basketball football, are there because they all have a dream of playing the NBA and NFL. We know that it's not a minor league system, but in the kids' minds it is. They can get distracted very easily. You really need to stay on top of them, and Iowa does a good job of that. But often times, it just isn't for everybody.

In the case of Nick DeWitz, I think it just became difficult for him. He was a long way from home. He just didn't have that support set up. Mike Henderson, I think, was new on campusand just failed to go to class. All that anybody ever told me was that he was doing just fine. He's a smart kid, but got a little bit lazy and didn't go to class. That's one thing that you can do as an athlete is show up for class when you're in town. When you're traveling to Champaign on a Friday that just be an excused absence. Then you can make up the work. But from what I'm told, that's a regular absence.

I know they're studying when they're on the road. They have their books. They have their times for studying. They have their tutors with them. So, it happens a lot more than I think it did in the past. I don't know what you do. I don't have that answer. I was a 4.0 student at Dowling. And I know that 4.0 was not there at Iowa. It's not easy.

What has to happen now that the Hawkeyes have a shortened bench?

Well, don't foul and don't get hurt. That's about what you've got to do. And one man's misfortune is another man's opportunity. You explain to Ben and Erek what a great opportunity what a great opportunity they've been given. It's time to produce. It's time to grow up and step in there. They can do it. I think both of those players will get better and better with more minutes.

Can this team still compete for the Big Ten title?

Yeah. I'm still looking at 10 or 11 wins. You win all of your home games. There are six of those left. And there are some games that you can win out on the road, too. Basketball is not like football. If you shoot the ball like you did to start that game at Iowa State, you give yourself a chance to win some very winnable games out on the road. You can win at Michigan. You can win at Ohio State. You can win at Northwestern. Those are the ones that are out there, but you can;t get too far ahead of yourself. The most important game is the one against Ohio State on Saturday.

What do they have to do to get that one?

One, you've got to watch their scorers. You can't let them get easy run-outs. They'll get some easy baskets. And when they get ahead of you, they're tough to catch. They excute their offense so well. Iowa has good success against Ohio State, at least over in Columbus. I respect Jim O'Brien as much as anybody in the Big Ten Conference. But for some reason, they're struggling this year. I don't think they have the inside game that they've had in the past. We've got to get Glen Worley on the low block. Sondy has done a really nice job in Jared's absence. We can get more minutes for Erek. Greg's got to come back to life.

What's going on with him right now?

I don't know. He's a sophomore. He's trying, but he seems to be out there a little bit. He's a conscientious young man. Hopefull with some extra work in practice, he can fix things. The biggest thing with Greg is his shooting. He doesn't have a 15-18 foot shot. Everything is inside. Then when he goes inside, he's undersized. He's strong, but he's going to be up against a guy that's 6-9 or 6-10 in there with long arms. He gets frustrated. But he'll break out. I really like the way he started the year. We need to get him back on the same page with everybody else. Guys like Jeff and Brody and Pierre need to sit down and spend some time with him and bring him back into the fold. He seems to be drifting away a little bit.

Is Pierre getting out of his game a little bit offensively? He seems to force things some times as teams are doing things to take away his drive.

He needs to get it in the open court. That's where they need to get the run-outs and somehow get the ball into his hands around that halfcourt area and let him create. He has to be aware of when he's creating he's drawing a lot of attention. Now, that's when you can draw and kick it to the shooters. And they've got to go to the open spot. Sometimes I see them run to a spot, but it's right behind a defender. You need to go to the open spot where your passer can see you, not behind him, but out in front of him. Pierre is trying. You've got to remember that he's picking up the best offensive player on the other team. That takes a lot of energy out of you. We're at that halfway point of the season where everybody is tired. Yet, teams that are conditioned and teams that play hard will now play through it. That's the point that Iowa is at right now with some winnable games.


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