The last time we talked it was before the regular season. What are your thoughts after seven games?
It's been an outstanding start to the season. We were all impressed with Maui, and who they knocked off over there and how they competed against North Carolina.
They got the win before leaving Maui, which can sometimes be tough. They won in a hostile environment at Drake. And then they took care of business in their own tournament. The play might have been a little bit sloppy, but that was partly fatigue.
We've been getting a contribution from everybody, which is key. Everybody can feel like they're a part of it. That's how you develop your team spirit.
They've made a lot of improvements each game defensively. They're starting help each other out. It's just an outstanding start; a lot of excitement; and starting to get some national notice, which is good for the program and good for the kids and the coaches that work so hard. Peopel don't realize the hours that they put in on top of all their daily duties of being students and family men in the case of the coaching staff.
It's early. I think they can look down the road and say that they've laid the foundation for a good season with this great start. It should be an outstanding season.
Technically, what have they done well? You mentioned defensive improvement.
They've shot the ball well. Horner has been lights out. His confidence just keeps rising. Whenever he shoots a 3-pointer, you have a feeling that it's going to go in.
Pierre Pierce is getting a lot better. He's making better decision when he drives to the basket; knowing when to pull it back out; when there's an advantage rather than when there's a 3 on 4 and you just take it in there. Every since that North Carolina game when they were trying to control tempo, you can see him start to see the floor better.
Greg Brunner continues to dominate his guy inside when he can stay out of foul trouble. The development of Erek Hansen has been big. When he's on the floor, we're a completely different team. His ability to block shots covers up some defensive mistakes. When guys drive past other players, big Erek is there to knock the shot away.
Offensively they're doing a real nice job of spacing the floor and then realizing where the points are coming from, where your scorers are at. I've commented to Coach Alford about the team's basketball IQ is very good right now. They realize that Greg Brunner just scored on his man, so let's go back to him.
We haven't talked about Mike Henderson and Carlton Reed and Alex have really developed a cohesive (second) unit. Steve is keeping one of his starters in with four reserves. Those are all things that allow your players to rest. It's great for building team morale. Guys all feel a part of it. They know their roles. They know thir jobs. It's so important to the life of a basketball team that everybody knows their role. It stays the same night in and night out. It may change a little bit. But basically, those roles stay the same.
Have you noticed more of a mental toughness and improved focus on this team as maybe compared to the last several years?
Yeah. It's more than a killer instinct. It's maturity as a basketball team with these guys being together for three years now. The leadership out of the junior class, the leadership out of the guard court of Horner and Pierce back there has been great.
Adam is coming along. He's been a big plus.
These guys have played a lot of games and logged a lot of minutes in a college uniform. It's a maturing process.
During that game against Drake, Steve used a good timeout. He slowed the tempo down and allowed his team to catch its breath and go back out there, and they tightened it down defensively. Drake knew it needed 3-point shooting out there, and their guards couldn't get a good look at the basket.
The perimeter defense was a lot better, and I don't think Keita scored a lot of points in the second half. They tightened that down by helping back a little bit more there.
That's definitely one of the hallmarks of this team in the early going is to be able to weather those runs that are going to come during the course of a basketball game. They stop it on the defensive end. And then on offense, they have good possessions and get the ball to the scorers. And then they take good shots.
You're around these players a lot. How important are these games against UNI and Iowa State to them?
It's extremenly important to them. They're going into finals week, which is never a fun time in a student-athlete's life. There's stress that goes along with that. Now, they can really concentrate on basketball and then you concentrate on the books side of it.
We've got eight players from the state of Iowa on the roster. So, there's not going to be any trouble getting up for these games. Pierre Pierce has been here long enough. He understands the importance of an instate game.
These kids have been stung by UNI up at the Dome a couple of years ago and last year. Iowa State certainly was a bitter pill last year over there in Ames. So, there's not going to be any problem getting excited for these games.
They've just got to take them one at a time. That's got to be a mantra for the season. You can't look too far ahead. Look to the next game, take care of business, and I don't think they're going to have any problem with that.
As we talked about earlier, the victories have come almost workmen-like. There's a very business-like attitude that these kids know that they're good, and they know they've got help off of the bench and they know they're going to get some rest. You just take them one at a time.
Some of the Iowa teams over the last few years have got caught looking ahead or worrying about things down the road. This team seems to be able to play one game at a time, which is often easier said than done.
Absolutely. At any level, you always look at the schedule. But that comes right from the coaches, man. These guys are good. Their preparation is outstanding. They've kept them single-minded just on that next game.
I was watching from a distance over in Maui, just sitting and watching these assistants and the time that they put in preparing for that next game; breaking down the video tape during hours they could have been by the pool. You've got to give a lot of credit to the leadership of this team.
How legit is this UNI team? They put a thumping on Iowa State.
(Laughs) That would given them a pretty good stamp of legitimacy. Greg McDermott does a great job. They have some outstanding players in Crawford and Jacobsen and Coleman.
I haven't seen much of them, but just in the highlights that I've seen in how they got started against Iowa State. My buddies back in Des Moines gave me a quick scouting report that these guys come at you. They'll shoot the long shot, so you better get out and guard them.
It's a very important game. It ought to be a fun game for the fans in the state of Iowa.
The one thing this season that's been disappointing is that I wish we'd get our fans coming out more. Carver-Hawkeye Arena should be sold out, especially for an instate game.
The students that maybe are on the fence, of they come out they're going to fall in love with how hard these guys play. There are going to be loses along the way and there are going to be great victories. But there's never going to be a lack of effort.
At 6-1, there have been a lot of positive things this year. The one mark on the record was North Carolina. Is there something that this team can do to maybe reach that next level?
You've got a lot of McDonald's all-Americans on that North Carolina team. And just as in the NBA, you're only as good as the talent that you have, then it's the coaches' jobs to mesh that talent. To compare them to a North Carolina is unfair.
All (the Iowa players) need to do is listen to the coaches and continue to go to practice to get better. They can't listen to all of the outside stuff. They shouldn't be reading any of the stuff out there telling them how good they are.
They need to just continue to put the blinders on and concentrate and trust in each other; know your role; know what your job is; and pay attention and respect your opponent. It's so important that they continue to keep that same attitude.