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FRAN SPEAKS: January 25, 2022

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Josh Dix update, Purdue round 2, and more!

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NCAA Basketball: Penn State at Iowa Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

Did you miss me? No? Well, that’s ok.

Fran McCaffery and the Iowa Hawkeyes are heading into a huge home rematch on Thursday against the visiting Purdue Boilermakers on the heals of their Saturday win against Penn State. As he does weekly, Fran McCaffery met with the media ahead of the matchup, and this one was particularly newsworthy, so let’s check out what he had to say, shall we? Check out the full transcript here.

Let’s start with the biggest news of the day: Fran’s update on incoming freshman Josh Dix who, if you missed it last week, broke his tibia and fibula last week near the end of a game:

Dix quickly had successful surgery on his leg:

Q. Have you had a chance to talk to Josh Dix after Friday?

FRAN McCAFFERY: I did.

Q. What was your message to him?

FRAN McCAFFERY: Well, I have been there as a coach certainly with guys that have had tough injuries, but I had one myself. I know what it feels like. I know what it feels like to be in a cast for a long period of time and wonder. I tore my Achilles tendon when I was playing. He hadn’t really had an injury up until this point, so it was tough on he and his family. You go to a game, you’re getting ready to go home, and all of a sudden you’re in the operating room. It isn’t really what you were planning on, but he is a really tough, tough kid, and his family is awesome. They’ve been great. Surgery went well, so I have complete confidence he will be back. It’s going to take a little bit of time, but he will be back for us in the fall.

First and foremost, glad to hear he’s going to be able to play. Hopefully the program takes their time with him and does not rush him back at all. But ‘complete confidence’ sounds good. I’d guess they will have him redshirt — maybe a medical redshirt?

Q. What do you know about him that makes you feel confident?

FRAN McCAFFERY: I know him pretty well. We watched him a lot. Talked to him a lot. Spent time with him. He spent a lot of time with our guys. He is incredibly mentally tough. Nothing seems to rattle him. He was very matter of fact, very matter of fact, with where he was and where he is going, which didn’t surprise me.

Nothing major to take from this, except that hopefully this means he will be working hard in rehab to come back stronger than before. All the best to Josh - we’ll certainly be watching for news of his recovery.

Let’s talk Purdue!

Q. What type of a match-up are they, especially inside?

FRAN McCAFFERY: They’re a tough match-up everywhere. It starts with that, of course, but then Ivey is next level, and they have multiple three-point shooters. They have veterans coming off the bench. They’re not a mistake team. They run really good stuff. They defend. It really takes your best to beat them.

I was pleasantly surprised with the way Iowa played against Purdue last time, especially without Keegan. Hopefully the defensive emphasis we’ve seen the last couple games continues here, especially with Keegan and with the continued strong play of Kris. Add in some made 3 pointers and you have yourself a ball game.

Speaking of Keegan...

Q. You’re coming back around and playing a team for the second time, and there’s been some time between that first match-up. Obviously, Keegan didn’t play the first match-up, but how valuable or not valuable is that first film?

FRAN McCAFFERY: I think it’s somewhat valuable in a lot of ways, but you’re right. It’s not like we played them eight days ago. It’s been a while. We both evolved to a certain point. There’s more tape available on each other, but it’s still the same guys playing. Same coaches; same systems. There will be similarities, and you just hope that your players learn from what we did well and what we didn’t do well and what we can do better.

I mean obviously the tape is there for Purdue to review of Keegan Murray but adding him in as a wrinkle to this game is about as good of a wrinkle you can offer. However, they’re going to go at him like crazy — they’ll probably be the best defense he faces all year — so we’ll need shots to fall from deep if there’s any hope of winning. This will not be the Rutgers game where both teams will shoot poorly.

Q. How are you feeling about your minute rotation? I think Payton didn’t get in on Saturday.

FRAN McCAFFERY: Yeah, it’s really hard because he deserves to play. Ahron Ulis deserved to get back in in the second half, and now we’re going to maybe add another guy like Ogundele or Riley Mulvey into the mix, so you just kind of play it by ear as the game goes on, what line-ups are clicking, what guys are playing well, and who you want to go with at certain times.

I’d like to see Payton Sandfort get more minutes in general and Ahron Ulis and Jordan Bohanon less, but I digress. I get that bringing in Josh Ogundele is a matchup specific thing for Purdue, but ideally, I would like to see the bench get shorter as we get closer to march. We know what lineups are working at this point in the season.

Q. Do you pre-determine minutes, do you have a plan going in?

FRAN McCAFFERY: I think anybody that says they have a plan going in, they’re lying to you. I know who my starters are. I’m going to try to play those guys, all of them, if I can, but sometimes the game takes a different direction. Saturday’s game was kind of slow, slow and physical. They run a million hand-off ball screens, other stuff. Other teams play differently. Sometimes the fast pace requires you to play more guys.

To Fran’s credit, I think he’s done a really good job of keeping guys who are hot in the games longer this year, and moving things around when a lineup isn’t working or the opponent is going on a run. So I believe this and think it’s a smart strategy. Again, I get that bringing in more guys is a matchup specific thing, but truly, I think this team would get better if we shortened the bench. But that’s never going to be Fran’s philosophy.

Q. The fact that you did play well down the stretch, I know it was two months ago, but is that something that you can carry into this game, even without —

FRAN McCAFFERY: I think, it’s something we can carry into every game. We recognize how good they are. They were ranked No. 2 at the time. It was a hostile environment. Our kids kept their composure. There was probably three times in that game where we could have folded and could have gone to 25 and it didn’t, but this team is really explosive offensively, and a handful in the glass. Anything less than your best effort makes it hard, so we got to be ready to compete.

Obviously I have no idea what will happen Thursday but I could see a lot of fans going into it thinking that it will be another close game — or even an Iowa win — and then just have Purdue shoot the lights out. We might have a false sense of security here. That being said, let’s hope they’re watching film of the IU game.

Let’s just hope it’s a good game. Go Hawks.