March 9, 2009
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IOWA CITY, Iowa – Todd Lickliter isn’t predicting his University of Iowa men’s basketball will make its way to the championship game of the 2009 Big Ten Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament Sunday afternoon inside Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. He does believe it’s not impossible.
“You focus on the task at hand. You play to win on Thursday so you can play again on Friday and so on,” Lickliter told the media assembled Monday inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. “It’s doable. I’m not saying winning is easy. I’m saying playing four days is doable. It’s not easy, but it’s been done before. It’s been done here before.”
It has. Iowa won the league’s 2001 post-season tournament the long way: Winning four games in four days. It is also one of just sfour teams with two tournament titles, having also won the 2006 event.
The Hawkeyes will begin the 2009 post-season Thursday at 1:30 p.m. Iowa time with another date with the Michigan Wolverines. The home team won both of the games played during the regular season, Michigan by a 64-49 count in Ann Arbor and the Hawkeyes by a 70-60 in overtime in Iowa City.
Both games probably speak to what Lickliter talked about at the top of his visit with the media: The depth and quality of the coaching in the Big Ten and how that depth and quality is reflected on the court.
“I know coaches are very competitive by nature in every league and every sport, but the coaches in this league are so, so highly competitive and that competitiveness transfers to their players in such a way that makes for very, very competitive and challenging games,” Lickliter said.
“I’m praising the coaches in our league. We’re not where we want to be – partly because of their efforts. But if we can get to where we want to be it sure will be satisfying because of the quality of the opponents and the quality of the coaching.”
In addition to praising his peers, Lickliter took a minute to praise his team in his opening remarks. The 2009 Hawkeyes have had their share of setbacks, but Iowa’s second-year head coach said they’ve never done anything but brought their best effort to the playing floor.
“There’s a new season in front of us and a new opportunity. We’ll have to prepare well and need to compete at an incredibly high level and that’s what you should want to do at this time of the season.”
“I’ve been a part of some special teams and games over the years and I’m thankful for that. I think Saturday was one of those,” Lickliter said of the Hawkeyes’ double-overtime victory over Penn State Saturday afternoon at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
“The character of our guys has shown over and over because they’ve just responded to every game with a competitive spirit. You’d be hard-pressed to find games this season where these guys have not given great effort. We’ve got to continue to grow and improve, but we’re clearly moving in the right direction.”
Michigan will be another game that will require another remarkable effort. The Wolverines have an inside-outside attack that will present special challenges.
“There’s a new season in front of us and a new opportunity. We’ll have to prepare well and need to compete at an incredibly high level and that’s what you should want to do at this time of the season,” he said.
Iowa will be looking to avenge a first-round loss to the Wolverines a year ago in Indianapolis. Michigan was that contest 55-47. Cyrus Tate led Iowa with 16 points and 11 rebounds.