Fran Quotes, Part 2: The Tempo

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 10: Eric May #25 of the Iowa Hawkeyes dunks int he second half against the Michigan State Spartans during the first round of the 2011 Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament at Conseco Fieldhouse on March 10, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana. DO THE RUNNING AND THE DUNKING YESSSSS. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Last time we heard from Coach Fran, he was talking about the incoming freshmen for this year and which players he expects to break out this season

Now, it's time for him to talk about the biggest departure from the Lickliter era: the tempo. As with before, the quotes are via an interview with Friend of the Pants Eric Angevine, and our thoughts are after the break.

The Big Ten has a reputation as a slow league, and you have a reputation as a coach who likes fast basketball. How has that gone for you so far?

You know what, I think it's gone pretty well. My hope is that it will go better as we move forward. We played faster last year, there's no question. Points per game went up, we had much more transition opportunities, attacking the rim, throwing alley-oops and kind of letting the kids play a little bit. But we didn't play as fast or press as much as I would like, because we're not a deep team. We're not experienced, we weren't deep and we didn't have a lot of size. So it's OK to talk about playing faster, as we did, but not nearly as fast as I ultimately want to play. And at times it can be difficult, because you're playing against teams that are not playing that style. They'll hold the ball on offense and you've got to guard them.

There's a number of things you can do, especially with full court pressure, to speed teams up and sort of make them attack the basket. We haven't committed to that fully, but we're headed in that direction.

How much of the league's "slow" rep comes from tough defense making it more difficult to speed things up?

If you're playing against a stacked defense in this league, it's hard to score a basket. You have strong, athletic players with a great scouting report, and the coaching is phenomenal. You've got to try to get the tempo increased on misses and off pressure. You can run on makes, get it in and get it up the floor quickly, and we’ve done that, but as you know, it’s much harder to do it on makes than it is on misses, or off steals, or pressuring a team into a quicker shot than maybe they wanted to shoot.

You talked about depth being so crucial to that. It takes a lot of energy to play that pressing defense. Is that going to be a lot easier for you in light of your recent recruiting successes?

Well, there's no question. You have to recruit personnel to play this style. What you need is versatility and you need speed and quickness. That's what we tried to address. At the same time, we've tried to take the players we had and improve their athletic power through our strength program. I feel like you look at this year's team, and it's much deeper, and much more size to help you when you're pressing. The length of your athletes can cover up a lot of ground. Each year, it should be a little bit easier.

I like the team that we have in place right now. We're going to play a little bit faster.

Let's rewind that last part a bit and play it again.

I like the team that we have in place right now. We're going to play a little bit faster.


Iowa was already the fastest-paced team in the Big Ten last year, outpacing Purdue by almost one full possession last season. If McCaffrey wants to go faster, then what that says is Iowa's got a comparatively high level of conditioning -- not only to the Big Ten this year, but to the Iowa team last year as well. And we've really seen plenty of instances of Iowa having tired legs at the end of games, and what a deleterious effect that has on jump shots and defensive effort. You sorta need both of those in the last minute or two. 

It's really a bummer (though not entirely surprising) that Cully Payne decided to transfer elsewhere, since he saw his starting role get handed to Bryce Cartwright, but his experience and (yes) athleticism would have been extremely valuable to a team that's going to be expecting even more out of its point guard position this year than it did last year. I mean yeah, Roy Devyn Marble is still going to see minutes at the 1, and there are some walk-ons, but... that's not what Iowa needs to really turn up the heat for 40 minutes. And let's not even entertain the idea of Eric May or Matt Gatens running point on a fast break.

What's nice, though, is that Iowa's got a lot of bigs who are either well-suited to doing some running, or at least have put in the work on conditioning to get there. If you want to play up tempo with Andrew Brommer in the game, yeah, you can do that.  There's no Brennan Cougill lumbering around (bless his heart), there's no horribly unathletic Antonio Ramos, nothing like that. The bigs arehere to run just like everybody else. 

So at the very least, we can say this: McCaffrey seems to have a firm grasp on what he needs to make his vision for the basketball team to happen, and he's been doing a solid job of recruiting along those lines -- even if we could really use next year's recruits today.

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