Basketball Insider with Bobby Hansen is proud to welcome back our men's basketball expert Bobby Hansen for another season of Iowa roundball. The former Hawkeye Great, NBA Champion and current radio color man regularly will share his insights with our members throughout the 2004-05 campaign. In our first installment, Bobby breaks down the exhibition season, previews the opener with W. Illinois and the trip to Maui, explains the scoring mindset of Pierre Pierce, compares a Hawkeye to Karl Malone and more in this premium Q&A.

What are your general impressions of the two exhibition games, maybe what you liked and what needs improvement heading into the regular season?

The main thing that I liked is depth and the building of a cohesive second unit. It's nice to see the starters producing, but having guys like Doug Thomas, Carlton Reed and Alex Thompson contributing, is great to see. Even J.R. Angle came in and knocked down a big shot against Upper Iowa. He showed that he could be a situational shooter.

Adam, when he gets healthy, we all know what he can do. Mike Henderson, I almost consider him a second year player. He's going to bring some moxie on the defensive end. And his ability to drive to the basket is his strength.

Doug Thomas has added a dimension to the Hawkeye attack both offensively and defensively. He gets the rebounds that come his way. He kind of reminds me of Karl Malone in the way that he gets the rebounds and has the ability to fill one of the lanes and finish at the basket, which he will do more of when he gets more comfortable with the guys he's playing with.

Brunner, Horner and Pierre are your stalwarts. They're your go-to guys. They all look like they're ready to go.

The negative, I think, would be the start of the two games. They were trying too hard. It wasn't lackluster. Against Laval, they were just selfish defensively. They were just kind of hugging their man other than working it like a shell drill where you're almost five guys on a string. You're all moving together.

I liked what they did against Upper Iowa where they were picking up at halfcourt and trapping. They were getting a lot of steals, which led to easy baskets.

Some of the things you talked about - slow starts, the defensive and offensive cohesion - won't that likely come after they get more comfortable playing together? There are a lot of new faces.

Yeah. That's what I kept thinking and was saying on the broadcast (Sunday). These are all new combinations. What do you have, six or seven new guys?

Erek Hansen is somewhat new because we really didn't find him until later in the season when we had to. I love having him back.

But yeah, it's going to take some time for these guys. Where you get it done is in practice. You have the ability for everybody to practice together. Adam being out of the practice lineup doesn't help. So, getting him back, getting him practicing with all of these groups and combinations will help. He's pretty much knows the guys that he's going to go with now depending on the situation.

But there are a lot of positives. It's going to be great to see where this goes. They're not being picked anywhere in this national publications or even locally here in Chicago. They're right in the middle of the Big Ten pack.

But I think outside of the Big Three of Michigan State, Illinois and Wisconsin there's going to be one of the next three, talking about Iowa, Michigan and Northwestern, that's going to surprise people. The surprise is going to come by protecting your home court, which everybody has to do, but then going on the road. Iowa has shown the ability to win on the road in the last few years.

The Big Ten struggled last year, especially in the non-conference season, but there could be some payback this year. Is this a year where maybe six league schools make the Big Dance?

I see that. Last year, we took a lot of losses in the nonconference schedule. That played a big part in the selection of only three teams going, and Iowa being the fourth. The Big Ten RPI was down.

But those six teams that I mentioned, those will be the six with a legitimate goal of getting into the NCAA Tournament, Northwestern being the sixth team.

I've been a little critical of Pierre's shot selection in the preseason, and I've talked to others that share a similar opinion. Can you talk about the mindset of a scorer and why there's a delicate balance with that type of player?

My feeling is that with any scorer, they play on instinct. When you start reining scorers in, then they start really thinking about when they should be shooting and when not to be shooting. You've got to give him a certain amount of freedom to create shots. It might not look to the average fan that it's the best shot, but he'll make the majority of those shots. You've got to give him that freedom to create and become the scorer that he is.

He's probably one of the most difficult people in the country to guard off of the dribble. He's a breakdown guy. When things are breaking down, he can break the defense down.

I'd like to see him when he does get in there and break the defense down maybe to find the shooters out on the wing or dropping it to the big guys that are following him to the basket. Pierre maybe has a tendency to become pretty single-minded when he makes up his mind to go to the basket. He forces it up there at times.

But I still like to have a guy that can get the shot off when you need it. He's going to make the majority of them. But maybe something he needs to work on is sitting with the coaches and watching video tape and see Doug coming in behind you and throw it up in the air or look at Jeff out on the wing or here comes Bru on that offside; just show him. And that comes with getting used to playing with all of these guys.

Working off of that a little bit, it seems like the guards are missing entry passes to the post working out of halfcourt sets. Do you feel they might need some work on feeding the post a little better?

I saw that early. It's the No. 1 thing in basketball. I learned this from Jerry Sloan from my days in the NBA and Lute Olsen there at Iowa. You've got to get the ball to the big guys. You've got to break that defense down. You've got to collapse the defense by getting the ball inside on every possession, unless you're running, obviously.

You've got to use those big guys because it's just a natural reaction for the defense to collapse. They can shoot or kick it back out. If the defense pops, you have a little easier drive or dump back.

That is something that I've been saying for years. It's a lost art.

You can do it two ways. You can drop a bounce pass in, which I thought I saw some pretty good entry feeds (Sunday). But you can also use those big guys. Throw it up high where they can catch it up there. Then use sharp cuts, speed cuts to the basket and clear out that area for them to work or spot up for your open shot.

What will we learn about this Iowa team during the next couple of weeks?

It's a tough question because we don't know who we're going to see after Louisville. A victory against Louisville really gives you a tremendous amount of confidence going into a possible game against Texas. This is a national deal. Everybody is watching that Maui tournament.

So, that really helps your RPI. Victories early there can really help you down the stretch if they can get a couple against some big named teams.

Then, you've got an on the road game at Drake coming back. You have to be careful of polynesian paralysis. That's a long flight back. You've got to be ready to go for a much improved Drake team.

But I don't think these next two weeks are the end all. But you get thrown into it right away. And the most important game that they have is that first one Friday night against Western Illinois.

Is it important to have a plan going into a place like Hawaii so you make sure to concentrate on basketball?

Yeah. All of those coaches that go over there have a plan for that. It's us broadcasters that get to enjoy the beaches and sites.

But you're playing Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. There's not a lot of down time, ebe for us. My focus is going to be to see a lot of teams.

Can you talk a little bit about what you've seen from Carlton Reed? He seems pretty poised for someone that's new to the college game.

That's a good word. He's shown tremendous poise. He comes in there and he's not overly excited. He just reports to the desk, picks up his man defensively and he's got a lot of skills.

In time, he's going to put on that strength that you need to compete in the Big Ten. He's a weapon that they're going to use a lot. He's going to get a lot of minutes because he's a versatile player. He can play three, maybe four positions. He's the type of kid that you want to have on your team that can do whatever you ask him.

He's going to prove to be one of our better shooters. He's shown it in our two exhibition games. He's not afraid to take the big shot. He shoots it in balance. He has a real nice arc.

He's got a bright future ahead of him, but we need to understand that those were two practice games. He's going to have ups and downs.

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