MINNEAPOLIS — Big Ten Basketball media days tipped off on Tuesday morning from Minneapolis' Target Center. The two-day event continued through Wednesday as coaches and players provided updates and outlooks on their upcoming seasons.
On Tuesday, basketball coaches from the University of Iowa and the University of Illinois met with the media to discuss the upcoming season.
The Iowa women's team finished last season ranked No. 8 with a record of 24-8. The Hawkeyes won the regular season title and the 2022 Big Ten Tournament title. They return all five starters from last season.
The Iowa men's team finished last season ranked No. 16 with a record of 26-10. The Hawkeyes won the 2022 Big Ten Tournament title. Though they lost All-American Keegan Murray to the NBA draft, his twin brother, Kris, will look to fill the void left behind.
Illinois women's head coach Shauna Green took over her position in March after leading the Dayton Flyers to four March madness appearances in six seasons and will look to rejuvenate a Fighting Illini program that won just seven games last season.
The Illinois men's team finished last season ranked No. 19 with an overall record of 23-10. Their conference record of 15-5 won the Fighting Illini the Big Ten regular season championship title. They'll introduce seven highly-rated four-star prospects this upcoming season.
Here is a selection of key moments from the press conference. A full-length transcript can be found here.
Iowa women's HC Lisa Bluder: 'It's going to be a fun year for the Iowa Hawkeyes'
BLUDER: We have every reason to have high expectations for this upcoming season. We return, in my opinion, the best point guard in the country. Caitlin Clark not only led the United States in points per game, but also led the United States in assists. First time that's ever been done in the history of women's basketball.
Obviously, a Naismith finalist, the MVP pre-season and last year pick from the Big Ten.
We also have one of the best centers in the country. When you think of Monika Czinano has led the United States in field goal percentage shooting at 68% for the last two years, that's an amazing accomplishment.
I always felt if you have a really good point guard and a really good center that you have the opportunity to have a really good year.
Not only with those two women, but we have all the people around her. We have Gabbie Marshall, who is lethal from three-point range. We have Kate Martin, who I honestly believe can just contribute in so many areas. She's a great captain, the glue to our team. We have McKenna Warnock at the power four position. Return all five starters from last year.
We have some newcomers. I think Molly Davis is somebody that you're really going to hear a lot about. Molly Davis transferred from Central Michigan. She has two years of eligibility left. She is going to give us depth at the point guard, which we did not have last year. We're extremely excited to have Molly join our team.
We have experience, offense, a great schedule, and we have a great fan base. It's going to be a fun year for the Iowa Hawkeyes."
Q. Caitlin Clark is one of five athletes signing an NIL deal with Nike yesterday. How is she handling not only being a star of your team but in a lot of ways the face of college basketball this season?
BLUDER: I haven't noticed a lot of difference with Caitlin. If you know Caitlin off the court, she's probably one of the goofiest individuals I've ever been around. She's humble, she's fun. You enjoy being around her.
I think in her situation, it's going to be hard to handle that. I mean, you are getting all these NIL deals, but at the same time Caitlin is the perfect person to handle it.
There's no jealousy there because her teammates know she has worked hard for it. They consider her one of the best players in the country. She deserves to reap the benefits of that.
Q. Your opponents are going to be focused on Caitlin. What is your message to the supporting cast?
BLUDER: Yeah, I think that everybody on our team feels valued. Yes, we all know that Caitlin and Monika are Pre-Season All-Big Ten selections, but at the same time, I think everybody on our team understands their role and understands they're valuable, that everybody matters.
You're right, Caitlin could have an off night. Who is going to step up? I feel like we have got a lot of other weapons.
Q. I think your top four or top five, top six, some of the early rankings nationally, a little bit of new territory I would say over the last few years. How does this team handle it? How do you handle it?
BLUDER: Not think about it too much. Honestly, I think if you think about it all the time, you're going to strangle it. We don't want to do that. We want to enjoy it.
I told the team the other day when we were picked as the No. 1 team in the pre-season in the Big Ten that that can be a lot of pressure, but it can also be something that's really enjoyable. You've earned this.
I had the opportunity to meet Billie Jean King one time. She told me, Lisa, pressure is a privilege, a quote she's used often. She wrote it on a piece of paper, signed it, it's in our locker room. I want our team to remember that pressure is a privilege, enjoy it.
Caitlin Clark, University of Iowa. I play point guard for you (laughter). What makes this team unique? What makes you excited about this team? Obviously, you're one of the best coaches of all time, you're the G.O.A.T. You've coached a lot of great teams. What about this team gets you so excited?
BLUDER: I love going to work every day because of this, right? I love this team. These are incredible women that I would want my children to be around. Every day is something new with these guys. I always feel like being around them keeps you young.
So thanks, Miss Clark (smiling).
Iowa men's HC Fran McCaffery: 'I'm excited for the challenge.'
McCAFFERY: As far as our team, I'm excited about this team. I think everybody that stands there at this time says the same thing. I said this last year. I didn't know what we had. Everybody last year was in a new role. I had never coached a team before where everybody on that team was in a new role. We ended up doing really well.
This is a different team. We're not as big as we've been, but I think we're every bit as deep and versatile. I'm really excited about the blend of youth and experience we have.
We have three starters returning. We put together, without question, the most difficult schedule that I've ever put in front of our team. So obviously I feel like they can handle it. I'm excited for the challenge.
I'll open it up to questions.
You've obviously coached one of the greatest players we've seen in Luka Garza. Going forward, how hard will it be to hold onto top talent with the transfer portal?
McCAFFERY: Yeah, I think if you treat your players the way they're supposed to be treated, you look out for them, you're cognizant of the NIL world, and help in that capacity. But if you coach 'em up right, you treat 'em right, you look out for 'em, I think for the most part guys will stay.
Q. How do you think the amount of turnover from some of the top players in the league from last year to this year is going to impact league-wide?
McCAFFERY: I think any time that happens, it's obviously going to be a change. You have expectations for veteran teams at this time of year. So this year, while we have some players departing, a lot of teams are still veteran teams. Even though they have new players, they're veteran players.
I do think it makes it interesting to see where we're going to end up. People predict who's first, who's last, who's everywhere in between. That's why we play the games.
Q. What kind of progress, what kind of leaps have you seen over the summer from Kris?
McCAFFERY: I think what you would have expected to see. He was terrific last year. I think he's had a really interesting spring. He worked out with his brother, put his name in the NBA stuff. I think that was good for him. Did really well.
I'm really proud of him because I think it's safe to say that he probably could have taken a two-way deal, perhaps been in the league. But he's betting on himself to come back and be a first-round pick. I have a lot of respect for people that do that. It was his choice.
It will be the first time in his career he hasn't played with his brother. Obviously every team, I saw him play a lot growing up, same age as my son Patrick, since fourth grade on I've watched the two of them grow up. They've always been on the same team. Now they're not.
We're thrilled for Keegan, but we're thrilled for Kris. Kris is going to have a spectacular season. He's playing with great confidence. His body looks different, much stronger. Shooting the ball with great confidence, posting up more, driving the ball. He was always a good defender with his length, always a good rebounder, and we need him to do that.
Q. Can you speak to the dynamic of support that you've seen with the men's and women's team? Something interesting and unique.
McCAFFERY: I think it starts with there's a tremendous amount of respect amongst our coaches, Lisa and I, and all of our assistant coaches. I think most importantly with our players. They really support each other. They respect each other. But I think they're really good friends. If you go to our games, they're going to be there. We go to their games, our guys are going to be there. It's real, it's genuine. That's the way it should be.
Q. With Kris, is there a special kind of pressure on him because of being a twin brother of the guy who was a superstar last year? There might be an expectation he'll deliver a carbon copy of the season from last year?
McCAFFERY: I think that's a fair assessment, but I don't think it's true. Like if you're around these two guys, they're different. Their games are different. Their personalities are different. Kris is really a confident guy. Kris is probably more verbal than Keegan was.
I kind of wish he could just be himself and not continually be asked that same question. He's a completely different human being. They just look alike. If Aaron White was replacing Keegan Murray, we wouldn't be asking these questions.
I said it's a fair question. They look alike. Keegan was so spectacular, I think obviously it's something we all hope that Kris puts up those kind of numbers, and he may, but he may not.
I can tell you this, he's going to be really good. I do feel like he's going to end up being a first-round pick.
Illinois women's HC Shauna Green: 'We'll be good when we're good.'
GREEN: It's great to be here today. Super excited. Obviously my first Big Ten Media Day. Cannot wait to get going, the opportunity that we have here in the best basketball conference in the country.
Really in my short time at Illinois so far, actually it's longer than what I think, in my six or so months, just really trying to just get our program in a positive direction, trying to get us back, really compete with the best that there is in this unbelievable conference.
I'm excited to be here, excited about the season. I'll open it up for questions.
Q. You mentioned some of the struggles of the program in the past. Your thoughts on the recruiting landscape in the state of Illinois. What is going to be your message to get athletes to come to your university?
GREEN: It's been something we've tackled since we've been here in the first six months. Two of our top 23s are Illinois kids. Just really trying to sell them on our vision, what we've done, how we're going to do things.
Like I tell them, I'm not really concerned at all about the past because the past is the past. All I'm concerned about is what we have right now in front of us. With the support from the top down, Josh Whitman, to what he's done with our facilities, the style of play that we're going to bring in. We need to go after the best that there is in the state of Illinois. There's a lot of really great players.
We have to change the perception because right now the perception is that it's not the cool thing to do, to stay in Illinois. What Brad has done, how he changed that perception, winning Big Ten championships, I keep saying it, we need one, and I think the rest will kind of flow from there and the dominoes can start falling.
Q. What is your definition of 'progress' in year one?
GREEN: A lot of people have asked that. Really I've always been concerned about just are we getting better possession by possession, day by day, drill to drill. Are we getting 1% better.
That was the same way last year when I had a veteran team knowing we were going to compete for a championship, or this year when we're trying to rebuild a program.
You can't get too far ahead of yourself. You got to really stay present and try to just get better in those moments. Right now we're just really trying to learn how to win, teach them how to win, have winning ways, what the standard of excellence looks like day by day, again, possession by possession.
Progress, I've said it at my press conference, I'll say it again. We'll be good when we're good. As long as we're continuing to get better day by day, drill by drill, then the outcome takes care of itself.
So very process-driven in our mindset.
Q. You said in one of your press conferences that every day you have a choice, you can be good, great or elite. What do you think it takes to be elite on and off the court?
GREEN: Yeah, to be elite in our program is just the best version of yourself. How are you going to attack each day, really just instead of it's human nature to go through the motions, try to get by. We're trying to change that mindset.
Just how you attack every opportunity. You have so many opportunities, so many choices every single day. Trying to get them to make those right choices.
Again, I truly believe that that process in each of your responses to what happens in your day is going to determine your outcome.
Just trying to instill that mentality. That's hard. That's easier said than done. But the more I think that our players hear it, the more that they try to just get a little bit better in that, then we'll get the results that we want.
Illinois men's HC Brad Underwood: 'We have our hands full this year with a new team, coming off a Big Ten championship.'
UNDERWOOD: We're excited about another great year of Big Ten basketball. It's something that I take a great deal of pride in being a part of this conference that has been the best basketball league in the country the last few years in particular.
Esteemed coaches, great, great players. Last year was a record year with guys moving on, going to the draft. I think it speaks volumes to the quality of teams with nine teams in the tournament. It's something I'm extremely proud of.
Being at the University of Illinois, finding ways to continue to beat these guys, is fun. We have our hands full this year with a new team, coming off a Big Ten championship. We're excited about that. We look forward to the challenges that are presented. Great non-conference schedule.
Obviously the best league in the country, great venues, very proud to be a part of this Big Ten Conference.
Q. Between name, image and likeness and the transfer portal, what do you think will have the greatest long-term impact on college basketball?
UNDERWOOD: I think the transfer portal. I think the portal, we'll see how all of that plays out in time.
I think name, image and likeness is here. It's impactful. I'm a big fan of it. I think it's something that has been long overdue.
We'll see how that plays out, if that's sustainable for any period of time. Do think the portal is here. You're going to see years that you may have to replace seven, eight, nine different guys. I think the portal will be a very, very impactful issue for us moving forward.
Q. You've had the luxury of having many veteran lead guards in your programs. Could you talk to us about your thoughts on turning the program over to a freshman guard?
UNDERWOOD: Yeah, it's different. Trent Frazier and Da'Monte Williams last year could run my practice as fifth-year guys. Had so much respect for those guys.
Now it's different. That leadership is going to come from different areas. I love our freshmen. I'm excited about what they bring. We've got four that I think can all help and contribute. We'll see how that manifests itself over time.
They'll need some help. There's going to be some adversity. There's going to be some speed bumps. We accept that. That's part of growth. Yet they're pretty tough-minded individuals. They're going to have to learn on the fly.
Q. How important do you think it is for teams to have a dominant big in this league, especially as we move towards this age of positionless basketball?
UNDERWOOD: I woke up every night last year knowing I had 20 and 10. That's a pretty good feeling. Obviously, Kofi is unique. I think there's a lot of ways to win. I think there's things that caused us problems playing Kofi. I think you got to play against it.
I thought Iowa last year, as an example, was as good a team as there was at the end of the season. They were playing very, very small. They gave us problems.
I think it's a two-way street. I think obviously we've seen the next level, we've seen the game change at the NBA level. But, yeah, I think it can be very beneficial. They have to be good players. You can't just throw a lot of size out there that can't play.
I also look at it, and we don't have that this year, they got to come guard us on the other end, as well.
Q. You just said you woke up every night knowing you had 20 and 10. What are you waking up every night now thinking? Do you feel you're waking up thinking, I've got different options that you can execute with?
UNDERWOOD: Yeah, I've got a lot of different options. I don't know what those are yet. I think until we play some of that out, until we get to scrimmages and exhibition games, figure that out.
I love our personnel. I think we're as talented as we have been. It just looks different. We've got positionless size. I think that's one of the things that I enjoy. It's about taking advantage of mismatches.
We've got guys who can break you down off the dribble. I think we can be a very good shooting team. We'll have to figure all that out.
Instead of just lining up and throwing the ball to Kofi, there will have to be some different options.
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