"We play with great intensity. We play hard on the backboards. We play well as a team. We're not concerned who scores -- the ball will be given to the open man. I think we're a fun team to watch. The kids play hard, and they look like they're having fun."
It could have been Georgetown Coach John Thompson. But Iowa's Lute Olsen was the speaker today. And his description characterizes both teams in the nationally televised NCAA East Regional final Sunday at 1:08 p.m. (WRC-TV-4).
Iowa, the fourth-place finisher in the Big Ten Conference but 14-1 with point guard Ronnie Lester in the lineup, opened today as a 1-1/2-point favorite over the Hoyas. The East champion will advance to the national semifinals March 2 in Indianapolis to play either Louisville or Louisiana State, who will meet Sunday in Houston for the Midwest title.
Sunday's East final goes a long way toward emphasizing a point being made by every team still alive in this wide-open chase for the NCAA title: team play is the best method of gaining the final four. Of the final eight teams, not one had a player among the top 28 scorers in Division I.
"It's not a question of what our problem is or what their problem is as much as the fact you have to do the things well that got you here," Thompson said today. "We have to be more concerned about how Georgetown plays and do the things we attempt to do more than being concerned about what they're going to do.
"I'm certain they're going to do the same thing. The things that they're effective at, they've got to work and get those things done."
There also are two key questions involving this matchup of teams that play excellent man-to-man pressure defense: How well can Lester play on his injured right knee? Will Georgetown be flat following its 74-68 victory over Maryland Friday night?
Iowa was undefeated when Lester first injured his knee early in the season. He underwent an arthroscopic examination that allowed some cartilage to be removed without the normal incision. He came out of the recovery room at 4 a.m. and was lifting weights with the knee six hours later.
He reinjured the knee in practice and returned just four games ago. Olsen said Lester had one of his worst games of the season in Friday's 88-87 elimination of Syracuse after playing well in the other three.
Lester also showed that his straight-ahead quickness has hardly diminished. He is to Iowa, 22-8, with five players averaging in double figures, everything that John Duren is to Georgetown. Both guards are starters who are creative catalysts also able to provide stability.
At a press conference today Thompson said he was not certain of his matchups. But most likely he will start sophomore Eric (Sleepy) Floyd against Lester, of whom Olsen said "He's 75 percent, but he's a very good ballplayer at 75 percent."
Duren and Lester were teammates on the victorious U.S. Pan American basketball team last summer.
How do you guard Lester?
"There isn't any way," Duren said. "He has the ability to go around you and he has the ability to make the jumper. You can't play the defense you learn in camps. You've got to get up and play strong. You've got to play Lester from your heart."
Opinions are divided as to how much heart Georgetown left on the court Friday night against Maryland. There was little emotion displayed after the 26-5 Hoyas' second victory this season over the Terps.
Thompson wanted to downplay the Washington-area rivalry and, apparently, he succeeded."The kids have been sensible," he said. "If we lose to Iowa, it won't have anything to do with Maryland."
Syracuse Coach Jim Boeheim said, "If you can't get up to go to the final four, you're not an athlete."
Olsen has no doubts that Georgetown will be on top of its game. Rather than start his inside twin towers -- 6-10 Steve Krafcisin at center and 6-10 Steve Waite at power forward -- Olsen plans to go with 6-5 forward Vince Brookins, the Hawkeye sixth man all season until Friday night.
"Against Georgetown," Olsen said "we need (ball) handlers and quickness to match up."
Brookins scored 21 points against Syracuse and played well against Louis Orr, even though the 6-9 Syracuse forward scored 25 point.
Krafcisin says Iowa's inside players are quick enough to get up and down the court with Georgetown in the transition game that each team likes to play. t
Quickness, Olsen said, is overrated in defense.
"Defense to me," he said, "is 90 percent hustle and desire. The other 10 percent may be involved with the quickness."
Two matchups are vital: Iowa's Kenny Arnold, a quick 6-2 sophomore, draws the job of trying to keep Duren from doing what he wants; Iowa's Kevin Boyle, a 6-6 sophomore and the Hawkeyes' best defensive forward, draws Craig Shelton.
Olsen is clearly worried about the physical matchup of the 195-pound Boyle against Shelton. "We're going to go on a body-building program for Kevin Boyle," he said, "and when you see him tomorrow, he'll weight about 225. At least, he'll have to think he's 225."
"I'll be in a lot of trouble if I let him get the ball inside," said Boyle. "I'll try to deny him the ball the keep him outside on the perimeter."
Shelton's play inside was a key for Georgetown in its wins over Syracuse, for the Big East championship and Iona, in the opening NCAA game.
For Iowa, this has been a season for overcoming adversity, aside from Lester, three players were injured, and Assistant Coach Tony McAndrews is now recovering from a near-fatal airplane crash last month.
"To us," Olsen said, "it's been a second chance in a second season. "we've endured a lot of problems during the season. We're a pretty good ball club and we've got a chance to prove it."
Georgetown is still trying to make believers of the few remaining skeptics.
Olsen is a believer. Asked to compare Georgetown to specific Big Ten teams, he cited champion Indiana and runner-up Ohio State for physical size and ability.
"But," he said, "neither of them can go out and pick you up and play the game at any tempo."