What have the last few days been like? On your radio show you talked about it being a track meet.
We've worked. We have to do a better job as coaches in coaching and getting them tougher. We've got to show improvement on the backboard. We have to show improvement on dribble-drive defense, and we have to show improvement in running our offense and getting a good shot. Those are just things we've got to start showing improvement on consistently. That's part of coaching. The players have got to work harder. The coaches have got to do a better job of getting that point across. We've had three really good days. That doesn't mean it's going to end up being a good game. That's where being a player comes into play. You've got to go make plays. They're ready. They're prepared. We've got a night workout to go through and a shoot around tomorrow. But I like what we did the last three days versus what we did in finals week and, obviously, the way we played at Drake.
You said on your show that maybe the guys weren't prepared enough to play the type of man-to-man defense you want to play. Are you going to play more zone?
I made the mistake. I wish we would have zoned a little bit more at Drake, not that it would have made a difference. This team through 11 games hasn't been able to handle the things that we want to put on them from a man-to-man defense standpoint like last year's. But you have to guard against changing who you are. We're not going to change who we are. They've got to learn it. They've got to be able to do the things that we want to be able to do with man-to-man defense. But changing it up a little bit, just seeing what the opponent might do against zone and things like that, you can see us doing a little bit more of that.
You talked the other night about toughness and the lack there of. How do you bring that out of players?
Well, that's hard. I wish that everybody had that answer. It really falls on, do you want it and guys figuring that out. We're having some guys figuring that out. I'll be shocked if Seth doesn't play well. I really will. He's had three really good days of putting himself at a whole other level that he didn't think he could get to. He can be a really key part of what we're trying to do this year. But getting tough is just not bending in practice. It's making sure they're going to be accountable for things. It's letting them see their mistakes. It's rewarding them when they do it the right way. We've been able to do that in the last three days and hopefully we've gotten a little bit better.
Seth and Kurt have about the same number of fouls as they do defensive rebounds. How do you get them to be aggressive without being in foul trouble?
That's what we talked about with Cyrus. Sometimes fouling can be a way of getting out of the mix. That's a toughness factor. Reggie Evans was never in foul trouble. I mean that cat was never in foul trouble. Yet, he got every single ball that was off of that rim. That's what made him special. There was a toughness factor there. He had the mindset that nobody was going to get that rebound but him. I'm not saying Kurt or Seth is going to be that kind of player, but they have to get that tenacity to them. You just don't stand and watch the ball. You have to pursue it and go get it. We also can't have our guards like Tyler and Adam getting one defensive rebound a game. Justin had about three rebounds taken from him on Saturday night. When we do get it, we're spending too much time holding it. We've got to get it and we've got to create offense out of that.
What's reasonable to expect for production from your inside players?
I don't know. That's hard. And I don't like putting limits on players as far as what they do or what we expect them to do. How they defend is going to be of the utmost importance. Right now, from that group, we want them to guard and we want them to rebound. Seth would be the first one to come to mind that we would want more out of offensively. What Kurt and Cyrus give us offensively have go to be screen and react things. We're not putting any pressure on them as far as points other than offensive board play. Seth is more of an option right now just because of his ability to catch and shoot.
Is there a chance that Mike gets back in the starting lineup now?
There's a great chance, but there is still 24 hours left before game time. A lot of things can happen.
How crucial is this stretch of three games before the Big Ten?
It's very crucial. Now we get into normalcy. We've got almost a month here to practice whenever we want for as long as we want. School gets back in session three weeks into January and we go at 3:30. We have nobody out of practice. And right now we're healthy. The next two weeks are critical not just in playing better but we need to get some wins. We need to get some momentum. We haven't gotten into a groove where we can get confidence going. We played a solid Drake team that was loaded with confidence. They were way more confident than we were. Confidence has a lot to do with how you play.
How do you get a third scorer?
It's there. Tony can do it. Justin can do it. Seth can do it. Mike can do it. Mike is easily someone that can be an 8, 9, 10 point scorer.
You guys have started to extend your defense out the full court. Do you plan on doing more of that?
It was a mistake to do it against Drake. That was a coaching mistake that I made. They really dribble drove us hard. You have to give them credit for it. Going into the game, I don't think we thought that they were any more capable of doing that than what Iowa State did. It's either our fault for thinking our guys could do that or it's a toughness factor that our guys can't just consistently do that. That's the balance we're trying to find. I would think with the guards that we have, the athleticism that we have, we would be able to do that. In the next two weeks, we have to find out just exactly what we're going to be able to do.
Your non-conference schedule is among the best in the Big Ten. Isn't it always going to be like that if you're going to play the three in-states and go to en exempt tournament and play in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge?
Yeah, it's pretty hard. Looking at next year's, we're in that tournament that goes to South Padre (Island) that a lot of Big Ten teams have been in. We get two home games there. We have two home games scheduled before that. So, we're going to start the season with four home games. We're supposed to get another ACC team in our building next year, so there's another home game. With two in the classic, that's two more before you have to go to Northern Iowa and Iowa State in that week. Things just kind of fell that way this year. It put Drake in the road right after finals. That's not smart to do. We won't do that again after finals. We'll put that in a different spot on the schedule.
Are you committed to the Drake and Northern Iowa games?
Oh yeah, I do not want to take away from an important thing in our state. I would still be in favor of doing something if there was a consensus in Des Moines to where there's a new arena there having all four teams playing on the same day. Iowa and Iowa State would play every year. I know it would have to be a consensus deal. I'm not going to be someone that's going to just go out there and just do something away from that. I do like the idea of Northern Iowa playing one of us and Drake playing the other and doing a big four in Des Moines. There's a lot of merit to having all four Division I teams coming to that facility for a two-game package. I don't know if Drake and Northern are going to want to do something like that. If not, I'm still in favor of playing them.
What do you tell Justin Johnson about getting to the foul line?
Well, I told him today that he's trying to set an NCAA record. He's nearing 250 minutes now without a free throw. That's a weapon that he has that he's not using because he's a very good foul shooter. If you can shoot 50 percent from 20 feet, surely you can should 80 percent from 15-feet with nobody guarding you. Again, that's somebody learning it. That's somebody learning about toughness and engaging and getting to the foul line, driving. With the way that he shoots the 3-point shot, people are going to start flying at him. He's got to utilize his shot fake. He's got to shot fake at go at somebody and not shot fake and go away from somebody. He's got to get involved in transition and take the ball to the basket.
You talked about being patient with this team at the beginning of the year. Have you been patient?
There have been times that I have. We've tried different approaches with this team. We found that the one thing that this team really needs right now is more pressure put on in practice so that they can handle the pressure away from there.
Do you think fans need to be patient? What kind of feedback have you gotten?
It's fine. I told the team that everybody said you were going to be 8th or 9th in the Big Ten. We don't believe that. That's why you have to work towards it. We're as upset as anybody about being 5-6. But I can tell you that losing to Northern Iowa or Drake doesn't upset me any more than losing at Arizona State. In my mind, Drake and Northern Iowa are every bit the teams that Arizona State is. That's a game that we let go. Program has done some very good things and is moving in the right direction.
What would you anticipate as a starting lineup for tomorrow night?
If we had to go today, I would say it's Mike, Adam, Tyler, Cyrus and Seth, but we don't play until tomorrow.
Is everything OK academically?
So far. I hope that news stays good.