Alford: Brunner Fine

March 6, 2006

Editor’s Note: will provide live and free coverage of each post-game press conference featuring Steve Alford during the 2006 Big Ten Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament in Indianapolis. The link to the video will be inside Hawkeye All-Access, the multi-media area inside, the official world wide web site of the Iowa Hawkeyes. To get there, click HERE

Steve Alford isn’t going to handicap this year’s Big Ten Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament. Nor does he think his team will be handicapped when it takes to the floor Friday in second round action of the annual event.

“I’m not a handicap guy. I don’t understand it. In golf, you throw out the high and the low… I just want to tee it up and play,” Alford said smile and a shrug.

“This is going to be a very, very interesting tournament,” he added. “If I’m a fan, I’m buying a ticket and getting to every game because there’s going to be a lot of great basketball played with an awful lot of excitement.”

Alford’s squad will travel to Indy Thursday afternoon where it will have a light practice. They will likely board their charter plane knowing if their first opponent in the Big Ten’s 2006 post-season party is Minnesota – a team that they beat in Carver, but lost to in Minneapolis – or Michigan, a squad they defeated quite handily in Iowa City.

Until then, however, the coaching staff will focus on the two “Ms” and will also take a peek at Illinois, Michigan State and Purdue.

“(Getting the bye) give us a chance to get healthy after a long grind. We’ll keep it light on the court this week because you have to prepare your team for the physical challenge of three games in three days,” said Alford.

Greg Brunner’s ankle?

“(Getting the bye) give us a chance to get healthy after a long grind. We’ll keep it light on the court this week because you have to prepare your team for the physical challenge of three games in three days.”
Steve Alford

“He’s fine,” Alford said flatly. The senior forward fell to the floor late in Saturday’s victory over Wisconsin. “He’ll be full go by Friday.”

As the No. 2 seed – a highwater mark for the Hawkeyes in Big Ten Tournament play – Iowa will be the home team Friday when it opens tournament play. As such, Alford is hoping the squad plays like they played all season inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The Hawkeyes established a school record by winning all 17 of their home events in 2005-06. It was the first season that an Iowa team playing in Carver went unbeaten; 2005-06 was the seventh season that Iowa was undefeated at home.

The Hawkeyes also own the nation’s fourth-longest home game winning streak. Only Gonzaga (39), Connecticut (19) and Hofstra (19) have been better when playing in the most familiar of surroundings.

“Of course our goal is to win a championship and get the No. 1 seed, but we’re excited about being the No. 2 seed,” Alford said before he gave a tip of the fedora to Ohio State.

“They lost a game at home and needed road wins to get the title. You have to give them lots of credit for getting that done.”

Iowa owns a 10-7 record in Big Ten Tournament action with three of those victories coming in Conseco Fieldhouse. It’s the second highest total of wins by a league team in the league’s post-season party and includes a 4-0 mark by Alford’s 2001 team that won the event staged in the United Center in Chicago. The Hawkeyes won three games when they advanced to the championship game of the tournament played a year later in Indianapolis.

Alford isn’t concerned about the media circus that will likely follow him and his team to Indianapolis. “We truly are focused on what we’re doing,” said Alford. “I can handle all that other stuff.”

The Hawkeyes won two games in last year’s tournament as a No. 7 seed, defeating Purdue (71-52) and Michigan State (71-69) before losing a heartbreaker to Wisconsin (59-56) in a semi-final. Iowa’s last trip to Conseco was a brief one: The Hawkeyes, a No. 4 seed in 2004, were beaten by Michigan (79-70).