Jan. 6, 2009
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — Some things a basketball coach can control, some things he can’t. University of Iowa head men’s basketball coach Todd Lickliter will take care of who plays when and for how long. He can’t manipulate weather or the conference schedule.
“I’m assuming there’s an ice storm for Thursday, correct?” Lickliter joked before his media conference Tuesday in the Press Room inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. “I have to figure there’s got to be one. Schedule a game and an ice storm, they seem to go hand-in-hand.”
Game-day weather conditions haven’t been kind to the Hawkeyes when they have had home dates on the calendar. That fact is what brought the opening sarcasm from Lickliter on Tuesday.
The Hawkeyes (11-4 overall, 1-1 Big Ten Conference) host No. 19 Minnesota (13-1, 1-1) on Thursday with a 6:03 p.m. tipoff inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Minnesota leads the league in steals (9.14 per game), blocked shots (7.14) and is tied with Illinois for most victories (13).
“Minnesota is a very well-balanced team that competes at a high level and is extremely well-coached,” Lickliter said. “It will take a great effort. We know it will be a great challenge for us.”
Iowa is coming off a 65-60 victory against Indiana on Jan. 3. The Hawkeyes and Minnesota are tied with four other teams for third in the Big Ten standings at 1-1. Iowa is tops in the league in three-point field goal percentage (.409), made three-point field goals (8.93 per game) and fewest rebounds allowed (28.3).
“As we look at the Big Ten, our focus is always on the next opponent, but you’re obviously watching the league,” Lickliter said. “It’s been really exciting to watch the play and the respect earned by all the teams. I think we’re second in the RPI right now and we have three or four teams in the top 25. For guys who like challenges — I think our players enjoy challenges — they’re going to get them without question. That’s the beauty of being in the Big Ten.”
Three Big Ten teams — Minnesota, Michigan State (No. 8 by AP, No. 12 by USA Today) and Purdue (No. 14/14) — are all currently ranked nationally.
The Hawkeyes will spend the next four weekends away from Iowa City — Jan. 11 at Michigan, Jan. 18 at Purdue, Jan. 24 at Penn State and Feb.1 at Illinois.
“There are things you can control and things you can’t control,” Lickliter said. “We are presented the schedule and it’s our job to prepare to play good basketball. I haven’t paid too much attention to road and home just because there’s no control of it.”
“As we look at the Big Ten, our focus is always on the next opponent, but you’re obviously watching the league. It’s been really exciting to watch the play and the respect earned by all the teams. I think we’re second in the RPI right now and we have three or four teams in the top 25. For guys who like challenges — I think our players enjoy challenges — they’re going to get them without question. That’s the beauty of being in the Big Ten.”
UI men’s basketball coach
For the second straight season, Minnesota and Iowa will meet just once during the regular season.
Several minutes of the media conference were spent inquiring about the court time of Anthony Tucker, who did not play against Northern Iowa or Iowa State, saw 19 minutes at Drake, did not play against Western Illinois, played one minute at Ohio State and did not play against Indiana.
“If anybody plays, then someone else sits,” Lickliter said. “You only play five at a time, so somebody who’s effective would be sitting also. It’s kind of a coach’s decision to look and say, `This group is effective…this is the team we want to put out there and compete with. There are a number of minutes, there are a number of positions and as a coach I have to make a decision who gets those minutes.'”
Sophomore point guard Jeff Peterson is one Hawkeye who has been making the most of his second collegiate season. He has started all 15 games this season, has played more than 30 minutes nine times and is averaging 10.1 points and 4.0 assists per game.
“As you progress through your career, you will improve,” Lickliter said. “Especially when you’re like Jeff Peterson. He grew through the experiences. I think he’s made the progress he needed to make and I think he’ll continue to improve. He is very effective right now. He has prepared well and committed to his development so you’re seeing the benefit of that. You don’t appoint leaders…they develop, they grow.”
The statistics line of guard Devan Bawinkel was also brought up. So far this season, all 57 of Bawinkel’s shot attempts have been from beyond the three-point arc and he has yet to shoot a free throw.
“I think he’s going to get fouled some day,” joked Lickliter. “There might be a collision somewhere. Isn’t that great that a guy knows his strength, he plays to it, he contributes what is best for the team and stays away from things that he may not be as successful at. If you watched the other night, they never left him and that opened up Jeff’s driving to the basket. He really helps us create offense.”
Three Hawkeye players — Tucker, Andrew Brommer and Jermain Davis — are from the state of Minnesota. Lickliter was asked about going head-to-head in recruiting battles with Gopher head coach Tubby Smith.
“Seems to me there’s enough Division I players in Minnesota, maybe we could share the state a little bit,” he said. “Then they can stay out of Iowa and we’ll all be happy.”
Iowa plays at Michigan on Sunday at 10:30 a.m. (Iowa time).