What would a first-round bye in the Big Ten Tournament mean? How important is it?
It's very meaningful. That's why I felt so badly for the guys on Wednesday night. Everything else happened the way that we hoped it would happen. We could have clinched a bye. That's why we had a lot of down heads yesterday in the locker room. We had to do a lot of work just to get them moving passed that. But we have another opportunity on Saturday. It gets harder, more difficult. We understand that. Obviously with only playing 6-7 guys, it's much better to play three games and trying to win a championship than four games. In saying that, going back and looking at our stats from three years ago when we made out run through it, we were only playing seven guys during those four days, too. Not that it can't be done, or we haven't proven or other teams haven't proven that it can't be done, but playing three is a lot better than playing four.
Even though you guys haven't had the regular season conference success that you'd like, you have the best record in the Big Ten Tournament. Is there anything that you can put your finger on as the reason you've done well in the postseason?
We've shot the ball very well. Whether it's the Big Ten Tournament or it's postseason play, you play in a lot of neutral settings. If you can shoot a high percentage, you've got a good chance because not everybody is going to shoot a high percentage being on a foreign floor. We've played there already playing Louisville. So we hope that helps.
Coach, I was wondering what you do differently against Purdue with so many people out?
We're a much different team. The first time that we played Purdue...since that time we've lost 30 points and 17 rebounds. They, I think, with the exception of we're uncertain on Keifer right now. But if Keifer plays they're the same as they were the first time that we played them as far as personel. I don't think that they've changed as much as we've changed. We'll continue to mix our defenses and continue to keep them a little bit off balance that way. We know that any time that you play Purdue that it's a very aggressive game, and you better be ready to mentally and physically play very strong.
Does Lowe appear to be back at full strength?
Yeah, from everything that we've seen. I'm sure that he's like a lot of guys that are coming off of injury; still sore; still bothers him. But there are very few in our league that are fiercer competitors than what Lowe is. He's the catalyst of their team and really makes them go. They had a very tough home loss to Northwestern where he got 20 of the 39. He's a very big part of what they do offensively and defensively and the spirit of their team. This is Senior Night, and he's been there five years. We know we'll get his best effort.
When Purdue has struggled, what's been their problem?
They're kind of like we are. It's a very balanced league. There's a lot of parity in the league. They lost Lowe for a few games. That affected them for awhile. They've had some injuries with Keifer. And like the rest of us, when you're making shots, it just helps everything. They've been in some very tight ball games like we have. They're probably sitting there thinking the same thing that we are. We're one possession from (beating) Northwestern and one possession from (beating) Wisconsin; from having 10 wins and really being in a solid position. They've had their games like that - Illinois, Northwestern.
What is the most important thing that your guys can get out of tomorrow heading into the Big Ten Tournament?
Well, just to keep doing what we're doing. They've really fought. That's the thing that I've been impressed with all year. They've had a lot of fun playing the game. That's what we want them to do Saturday. We know we're going into a hornets nest. We know that they need to get this win to have a .500, a winning season in the Big Ten, which we're already at. They're one game behind us going into this thing. We know it's Senior Day, and they've got a lot of seniors on the team. Our guys understand that. They know it's going to be an exciting atmosphere. I just want them to relax and have fun and continue to work the way that they've worked so that we can carry that same kind of attitude into next week.
The Northwestern loss really seemed emotional. Did you change at all the approach how you handled the team after the game and going into practice the next two days?
We just talked to them. I don't know if was change of approach because the guys have done this all year long. They've given incredible effort. We made huge free throws down the stretch. We gave ourselves a chance on the road to win. We did a great job on Vukusic, who hurt us in (Carver) four weeks prior. They had their most points that they scored all year at our place with 77 when we had pretty much a full roster. Now, with the depleted roster, we hold them in the low 50s. The guys just gave an incredible effort. I just really thanked them for that. I kind of felt for them more than anything else because they did enough things to get a win. It didn't bounce their way. Somebody that's 0 for 9 makes his last two. Both of them were difficult shots. We've got to move on. We've got to get on to the next game. We can't dwell on this or it will affect us in the next game. We've got to move passed it and on to the next game.
Your next two games, at least, will be back in your home state. What do you do to stay in contact with the fans back there?
I have a Special Olympic golf tournament that I do in my hometown of New Castle every August. I have a basketball camp that my father and I originated the year before I got out of school in '86 at Franklin College, where my dad played. My in-laws still live back there. My brother and his wife and family live in the north side of Indianapolis. With me getting my start, not just playing but coaching at Manchester College, I get back to that area as well. We get back there as often as we can to see family and friends.
Indiana has got such a rich basketball tradition. Could you explain what the excitement is like there in the month of March?
You've got 14 Division I schools You've got an NBA team. And, you've got a high school system that at least before they went to class basketball was second to none in the counrty. You've got nine of the 10 largest gymnasiums in the country as far as the high school setting. You've got an incredible, rich tradition there and just an enormous amount of players that have come out of that state that still reside there. They just keep breeding that success that was instilled 50, 60, 70 years ago.
Erek Hansen is second in the conference in blocked shots. What does is future look like as a defensive player?
You always look for positives out of a negative. With Jared's injury, it's really given him a lot time to grow and mature. We're seeing that. Each game, he gets more and more comfortable regardless of whether home or on the road. To do what he's doing in our league in a limited amount of time, is a pretty phenominal feat. He does a great job of changing shots. He runs the floor extremely well. He's got to continue to relax offensively. That will come as he gets more experience on the floor and playing with these guys. The way that he works at it, if he stays focused, he's got a chance to be a very special player.