Alford: 'Admiration and Respect' for Tom Davis

The Drake Bulldogs will host #23 ranked Iowa on Tuesday in Des Moines. Steve Alford talks about the challenges that Drake poses for his club, as well as his thoughts on coaching against former Hawkeye mentor Tom Davis.

Drake got manhandled by Iowa State in their game and Iowa has beaten Drake 25 times in a row. Is there a danger of overlooking the Bulldogs, or does the fact that there are so many Iowa kids playing key roles for your team help you take them seriously?

I don't think this is an ‘overlook' at all. If Drake beats us, it would be because on that given night they were better than we were. I don't think that we will overlook them. We looked at the start of this season as a five game package, and we have played four of them. We knew that the front and the back end of Maui would be real important. We told them since the first of November, that regardless of what happens in Maui, the most important thing would be the Western Illinois and the Drake game.

Drake is our only non-conference road game, the guys know that, and I think they will be ready to go. I know that Drake will be ready to go, so I think it's going to be a great basketball game.

Are you concerned about the Hawaiian hangover, or have you had enough time back to not worry about that?

We were done on Wednesday, so the guys were able to enjoy the island, enjoy Thanksgiving and have some good time off and rest on Thursday and Friday. Saturday was a long travel day, but as soon as we landed, we got them in the gym and got their legs underneath them. We had a very good practice yesterday and another one scheduled for today, so there is no excuse going into this game. They knew we would have a very difficult five game stretch, and this happens to be the fifth game, so this will be a good test to our toughness come tomorrow night.

What obstacles does Drake present for you?

They are very good in transition off both made and missed baskets. They hurt us last year on occasion in transition. Randolph is a very talented point guard that makes them tick, so trying to control their transition game is very important. A lot of that has to do with how you handle the press and what kind of shot you get offensively. Those are two good ways of trying to handle their transition game, and then the backboard; what you do with rebounds can have an impact on how you guard.

Are these games against Drake awkward, considering what Tom Davis accomplished at Iowa and what you are trying to accomplish at Iowa?

I always keep it in perspective. I am such a fan of Coach Davis and what he has meant to college basketball. Being the person that followed him here, I have an admiration and a respect for what he did with this program. I am blessed that I have an opportunity to coach against him. I think it's great for college basketball that he is back in the game, and he is resurrecting a program that has been down for quite a while. He is doing a phenomenal job of putting his system in and getting them to play at a high level. I think it's only a matter of time to where the Missouri Valley Conference will see the impact that he has on the Drake program.

Is Drake different from a year ago?

That is hard to say. They might be more athletic. I think they shoot it well, they get it up and down well. I was impressed with their game against Akron; they score points in a hurry, their press seems to be more active than what it might have been a year ago. They have only played two games, and if you look at their tapes, they are different. They have played well at home through the exhibition season and in their game against Akron. We know it will be sold out, and it's a difficult environment. I know that our guys have great respect for them, and they will have to be ready right from the tip.

Has you theory on playing instate teams changed? Coach (Wayne) Morgan raised some eyebrows when he hinted that they might not keep playing everyone.

I think for us, there may be more pressure, because of being a Big Ten school. But we are fortunate that we have four very good division one schools in our state. You look at Minnesota, there is only school in the state. From a fan standpoint, the players in particular, playing in state people is a lot of fun. We start Tuesday night with three of our next five games coming against instate opponents, and that creates enthusiasm. They end up being great games, because regardless of whether they are at home or on the road, they will be highly competitive and great environments, and all that does is to better prepare you for conference play. I think it's great for all of the schools to be able to play each other.

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