How is your back?
It's doing better this whole week. The trainers and everybody else on the staff have done a great job of trying to get it fixed. I'll be ready to go on Saturday.
Who got your right eye (Adam had a pretty good shiner)?
Doug got me yesterday a little bit. I had to get five stiches.
How much pain are you in?
I'm not in any real pain right now. Saturday (against Ohio State) was pretty bad. I was going into spasms, and I couldn't really move at all. From then until now it's been a drastic improvement.
Is it lower back?
I just strained it in my upper back. I kind of messed it up a little bit at the end of the Michigan game. Before we left to go to Ohio State, I had landed on it wrong in practice. I just jarred it pretty good.
Is this something that might be here all year?
I don't think so. Right now, I'm running out there just fine. I don't really feel it.
You had something earlier (in the season). Was it a back?
No. I had my groin and my stomach.
How big is this game Saturday?
It's huge. Minnesota is coming in with a 10-game winning streak. They're playing really well. We're 0-2 in the conference, but it's a new beginning for us. We're ready to get it going. Like coach said, it's like a new opening season for us. Hopefully we can start it off right.
What have you guys seen in the films that show the differences between how you were playing in Hawaii and how you've played the last few weeks?
The energy has been down. We watched a lot of film from when we were out in Maui and we were just a totally different team out there. Everybody was excited, running around and playing with high energy. We really executed out there.
We're going to get back to that. Hopefully Saturday it all shows up. This week in practice, everything has been going really well. We've made some improvements. A lot of guys are ready to play now.
You guys have had adversity/rough spots in seasons passed and have not always come through it. Why do you have confidence that this will be different?
Like coach said, we haven't experienced winning before. Now, we're experiencing it.
We already know what this part feels like. So, we've got to change it around and hopefully think of something. We've been practicing real hard and gotten a lot of things done this week. We've improved.
Has it been overconfidence?
I don't really know if it's been overconfidence. We just haven't been the same team that we were in Maui. Coach showed us a couple of tapes of when we were in Maui versus when we were at Ohio State and there was just a tremendous difference. It's pretty much unbelievable the difference if the two teams. We've got to get back to playing how we did.
Can you put your finger on what the differences were?
Our emotions were just 10 times higher. We were playing very solid defense. Everybody was working hard. Everybody was clapping for each other and slapping each other's hands and stuff like that. We need to get back to doing that.
Your team's assist to turnover ratio is probably close to opposite of what it was in Maui. What's up there?
Teams are probably scouting us a little bit better. We're going to have to go to other people instead of going to the same options every time. They're going to start denying those wing passes because we like to get out and run. If people take those away, that will help them out.
We just need to figure some stuff out and make the good passes.
Have you seen much of Minnesota?
We all were in here watching them (Wednesday) night. They're playing really well right now. People have been saying that the competition that they've played is not the highest, but they're a Big Ten team with a 10-game winning streak. And we'd love to have that right now.
Is there a little extra motivation with the 1980 Final Four team being honored here on Saturday?
Oh Yeah. The presence of those guys is a great experience for us. Hopefully we play extra hard for them and it gets us on a roll.
What have you guys worked on defensively this week?
Just getting back to that emotion stuff that I was talking about and talking a lot more on defense. We've tried to prepare for other teams so much instead of just playing just one way, how we're supposed to play.
In Maui, we trapped ball screens the whole time. We didn't give them any breathing room. We've kind of got away from that. Coaches really want to get back to doing that and just playing the style that we're used to playing.
Coach Alford was saying that the new season starts Saturday. You're 0-0. Can you do that?
I definitely think so. We're going to have to because our next two games are going to be very pivotal for this team. If we look at it that way and start 2-0, that will be huge for us.
What's the big picture though? Is it to get nine or 10 wins in the Big Ten and get to the NCAA Tournament? Is it to try to sneak back into the race?
Definitely sneak back into the race. We're not going to let down by any means. And if we can reel off 14 straight wins, we'll try to do that. But that's going to be awfully tough. Everybody knows that.
This league is going to be pretty good. Nobody's going to go undefeated. Illinois might come away with two or three losses.