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The basis for this success becomes apparent in practice, when the Hawks really go at it. Bodies bang through picks and on rebounds; guys even box each other out during the water breaks. It's not that the Hawkeye players don't like each other (indeed, most of the squad stayed together on campus last summer so they could begin practicing informally for this season); it's just the system. And the system is predicated on hard work. Iowa drills hard on everything—traps, presses, shooting—and does it at full speed.
Another reason for this intensity is the severe competition for playing time, seeing as Iowa has 11 players back from last season. The only 1979-80 starter not on hand is Guard Ronnie Lester. He was troubled by knee problems in his senior year; Iowa was 15-1 with him in the lineup and only 8-9 without him. But Lester's absence should be overcome because, as Olson says, "We're better everywhere else."
The Hawkeyes have a pair of freshman guards, Steve Carfino and the appropriately named defensive wizard, Dennis Johnson, who, Olson feels, could someday constitute the best backcourt in the nation. Nonetheless, the starting guards figure to be Kenny Arnold, who scored 13.5 points per game in 1979-80, and Bobby Hansen, if each fully recovers from the sprained knee he sustained this fall.
The Hawks are set everywhere else. The twin Steve towers, 6'10", 230-pound Krafcisin and 6'10", 225-pound Waite, will share the pivot, and will be joined in the frontcourt by a triumvirate of talented forwards: tough Mark Gannon sharing time with starters Boyle (11.8 points) and Brookins (11.0).
Iowa's depth gives Olson the luxury of being able to adjust his lineup according to the characteristics of the opposing team or the circumstances of the game. But no matter who's on the court, you can be sure Iowa will press all game long. In the process, the Hawkeyes hope to wear down the opposition and equal or improve on the defensive statistics of last season when they allowed 65.6 points per game and held teams to 47% shooting. But while Iowa may be impressing everyone else, Hawkeye fans can watch with the satisfaction that they saw it all before—in practice.
12 Ohio State
It was always Kelvin Ransey. Ransey on a jump shot. Ransey on a drive. Ransey beating a defender to set up a 3-on-2 fast break and passing to the open man. While conducting the Ohio State offense last season, Ransey scored 16.2 points a game and led the Buckeyes with 177 assists. Now that he's playing for the Portland Trail Blazers, some critics wonder if the team he left behind will have any offense at all.
Fear not, Buckeye fans. Though there's no virtuoso guard of Ransey's skills, the Ohio State offense may be more balanced without him. It previously consisted of Four Guys Waiting for Kelvin, too often a costly approach in close games. The Buckeyes lost six of 13 contests decided by five or fewer points, including four games to teams trailing them in the Big Ten race and an overtime heart-breaker to Indiana that cost Ohio State the conference title. "This year we'll have more of a team offense," says Coach Eldon Miller. "We'll move the ball more."
Mitch Haas, a member of the bruising bunch competing for playing time in the forecourt, says "Eldon has us moving without the ball, passing instead of dribbling, seeing the whole floor and keeping the defense honest with a versatile attack." Normally the Buckeyes will work the ball inside to either Center Herb Williams or Forward Clark Kellogg. If the defense collapses on them, the other three players on the floor will fire away. Both left-handed Carter Scott and Ransey's successor, Larry Huggins, have good range. Defensive specialist Jim Smith is back at the other forward spot, but if Miller needs more scoring he'll turn to one of the three very capable sophomores, Haas, Nate Sims or Granville Waiters. Oh, that Ohio State frontcourt. There are seven players who are taller than 6'6", and a lot of them are built like tight ends. That's good: the Buckeyes must play with gridiron-like precision and toughness because they won't be getting the easy baskets Ransey used to give them.
Not that there aren't stars of his magnitude still on hand. Williams scored 17.6 points a game and tied Purdue's Joe Barry Carroll for the Big Ten rebounding crown with a 9.4 average. But the most gifted Buckeye of all is that superhero off a cereal box, Kellogg. As one of the few freshmen starting in the Big Ten last season, he played 32 minutes a game and led the conference in offensive rebounding. When it comes to ball sense and timing, Kellogg boosters claim he outranks every Ohio State player since Jerry Lucas, who played in 1959-62. Miller expects Kellogg to lead the fast break and be more effective close to the basket. The Buckeyes are also confident that he has overcome the deficiencies that bothered him last year when he led the team in turnovers with 104 and shot only 40.9% in conference games. How confident? "By January," says Haas, "Clark Kellogg is going to be the best player in the country."