Before we talk about the current Hawks, how did the reunion with the 1980 Final Four team go last weekend?
It was outstanding. It was just so much fun to see everybody get back there.
It's not like we're apart for 25 years. We've seen each other a lot and are guys that are really close. That's why the team was so good. From 1-12, 1-15, everybody felt a part of that basketball team. They trusted each other and didn't want to let each other down. That's how a team like that can come together through adversity and still remain business friends and best friends and best men at weddings and things like that along the way.
Is that what we talk about when we talk about chemistry?
I think so. And it also comes from the leadership of the team. And our leader was Ronnie Lester.
As you look back on your career, there are certain players you play with that just have what ever "that" is. And you don't want to let them down. They're like your brothers, your family. You just don't want to do anything wrong. You want to try extra, extra hard so you don't disappoint them.
Ronnie had that. He was injured and wasn't able to play up to his capabilities as an all-American. You felt like you really had to step up your game. And everybody just came together and stayed within their role and got hot at the right time.
Getting to the Final Four was a big accomplishment, but our ultimate goal was to win the national championship. When we lost that game on Saturday, we were crushed. Looking around that locker room, everybody was just crushed. You didn't believe you'd lose once you got that far.
Do you feel like this year's Hawkeyes have good chemistry?
They certainly seemed to have it in Maui. We have to look at how that team looked so focused and together and just playing and having a good time. Winning will do that.
Now, they've just had a tough start to the start of the Big Ten. It's nothing to be ashamed of. That' sports. And you've got to get it back.
Winning the game against Minnesota, I think they came together as a team. They played much better defense on the perimeter.
Now, you go down to Illinois and this is a game that no one is giving them a chance. But it's one of those games where if you could somehow scratch out a win. However you do it, just be one point better than Illinois, it could really bring a team together.
Then, you can really start talking about chemistry; that these guys pulled together during a rough stretch there and gutted out a huge victory against Illinois and righted their Big Ten season.
But even if they don't win in Champaign, there's a lot of season left. I see this team winning anywhere from 10 to 12 games (in conference).
From a technical standpoint, what's it take to beat the Illini?
You've got to try to control the tempo. How you do that is you've got to be very efficient offensively. You can't turn the ball over a high number. You've got to be right around 10 or less.
You've got to shoot a high percentage. Defensively, you can't give up any easy baskets. They're going to score baskets. They're going to knock down a few three pointers. But make them work for everything. And let them know from the opening tip that they're going to be in a battle all evening long; nothing is going to come easy. Drives to the hoop, knock them to the floor. Send them to the free throw line. Box out on every rebound.
Then, you've got to play unselfish. They're the No. 1 team in the country. They're going to come at you and try to take you out early. You've got to weather that storm. But you've got to let them know that you're going to be in this right to the end.
Anything can happen if you can keep it close. You've got to make your free throws. And you've got to rebound better than we have in the past. I think we can do that. I think we can match up with them.
Our guards have got to help out on the boards. and you've got to knock down some outside shots.
Is there a key matchup in this game that could turn the game?
You've got to look at the backcourt. And let's call the backcourt up to the three. They're three - Luther Head, Deron Williams and Dee Brown versus Adam, Jeff and Pierre. And you can't get dominated in the backcourt battle. If that happens, you probably don't have much of a chance.
If you can keep that even and then in the frontcourt with Brunner and Powell matching up, you've got to neutralize Roger Powell. He's a big key. Greg has the ability to neutralize him or possibly even get the better of him..
Inside, Hansen, Thomas, Augustine and Smith, you can wash that out. But you can't get dominated in the backcourt, and you can't get dominated early.
Jeff has had some trouble with Dee's speed in the past. Is there a way to neutralize that?
You've got to make him work. I would pick him up as far out as you could, but you've got to be careful to not let him break you down and get into the lane. You've got to give him enough room when you're really pressuring the basketball over half court that he's not going to get around you.
When I guarded quick players, and I wasn't the quickest guy, but you play the angles. You've got to funnel him to the corner; funnel him to the sideline. You've got to cut off his penetration because he'll really break you down and break the defense down getting into the paint.
But with a guy like Dee Brown, you make him work and then you back off and then you play the angles; cover his outside shot; don't let him get going. He's a streak player. If he gets going, he's going to get on a roll. If he hits a couple on you, maybe a good foul to send him to the free throw line to break his rhythm.
Iowa likes to get out in the passing lanes and get the fastbreak going, but that's also a strength of Illinois. Do the Hawks want to run with the Illini?
No, I don't think you run crazy like you would normally. We seem to play our best when we get out and get some steals. But you've got to run on opportunity. You can't just hold this thing every possession.
You've got to play smart against that team. You've got to keep them on the outside, yet you've got to contest the 3-point line. But somehow, don't let them have the easy layups; the easy transition baskets. Hopefully you can pressure the rebounder. Maybe you can slow up their outlet that way.
But you don't want to get in and up and down game with them. But if you've got the opportunity to break, take it at them.
You talked about keeping Illinois from starting fast. Is that a even tougher task in Assembly Hall, probably the toughest road environment in the Big Ten?
Yeah. They've done a great job with their fans and everybody wearing orange and the energy in that building that they'll have. You just try to have long possessions early to try to take the crowd out of it. It's even more of a dagger if you can knock down a shot or two or get free throws.
Seth Gorney gave them some really positive minutes on Saturday. What do you think of him and can he play a bigger role coming for the remainder of the season?
I like him. He played under control. You didn't see him real nervous out there when he got in there. He knew what he had to do. He stayed behind Hagan in there. When the shots were missed, he was right there next to them to block him out.
He had five rebounds in the game in 11 minutes. That's a positive contribution from your bench from a freshman. He's a good passer. He seems to have a good understanding of the game.
He's going to find himself in there a lot, especially when we're not getting rebounds. They're going to look to the big guy. He's got to be ready to play.