Coach Tom Crean met with the media this evening to discuss Indiana’s draw in the NCAA Tournament — Thursday against No. 13 seed New Mexico State in Portland, Ore. — and more. Watch the video in the embedded media player below:
Quotes after the jump.
“First off, it is a great feeling to be with your team to see them get a dream come true. You don’t start following college basketball without knowing what this day means, and what that selection show means. And every one of them, no matter what age they started watching, they remember it. And now they will have this to remember. No matter how long they play, they will always remember the first one. It is really a special time.
“I just wish we had our students on campus and more people around to share it with them. But it was great for our guys to be together and them be able to share it with their families and loved ones. It is a major accomplishment for this team to be in this situation. Because, certainly a year ago this time and throughout the spring, summer and fall, the preseason, the predictions, I don’t think anyone envisioned seeing us at this point; having a day like this. They have earned it. They’ve earned it through all the trials and adversities they’ve dealt with since they’ve been at Indiana.
“Most importantly they did something about it in the spring, summer and fall: they got better. Everybody got better. And with our new freshmen coming in, with Cody (Zeller), Austin (Etherington), Remy (Abell), the veterans we had in the program, the synergy and togetherness that has been developed out of this, it has put us in this position.
“And what I like about this team is they continue to get better as the season has gone along. I think all you have to do is look at the way we finished up the season, especially the last month. They answered the bell. And a couple of times we didn’t, we weren’t as good as we needed to be, but a lot of times we were. And as I told them this afternoon, the 33 games of experience they have come to life now as they go into a one-game situation, because it becomes about the details of the game for them. It becomes about making sure they know why they win and understanding what hurts us when we lose. How we want to take advantage of all the things that make us better. It’s being able to get ready in a short period of time, and being able to get ready for teams they may not know a lot about.
“The thing about these guys, we have a lot of college basketball fans, a lot of smart guys, but most importantly we have a lot of guys that want to win. I’m really excited to go into this with our players and coaches.
“We really haven’t had a true opportunity to talk about Verdell (Jones III). I would just say this, most importantly about Verdell: There is no way, even with the way so many guys have played, that we are sitting here today without the contributions he has made. Certainly over his career, but also when you look at the season he has had. We will miss him on the court, but his spirit and his attitude trying to help his teammates and being a part of this, I think he fully understands that he is a huge part of this program. And when you feel like that, you can bring confidence, advice and all those kinds of things to your teammates. Just like it is a shared process with all of our fans, administration and everyone who has stuck through everything, going through this time period the last few years to get to a day like today, it is the same things with the team.”
About New Mexico State:
“As we get ready, what I know about New Mexico State, I know that Marvin Menzies is a very good coach. He has a great background. He had a lot of success with Rick Pitino. We think we’ll see a team that plays an up-tempo system. They’re averaging over 76, 77, 78 points a game right now. They won 26 games, I believe. Anybody that does this for a living knows the better players and Wendell McKines is one of the better players, not only on the west coast but certainly in the country. He is 6-6, I believe he has had 20 double-doubles; he is averaging a double-double.
“They have a couple of things that stand out about them that make them really unique. Certainly it is something we are partial to because we work really hard to get to the foul line; I can’t remember a team that averages 30 free-throw attempts just like they do. That is an incredible number. And they average almost 15 offensive rebounds. So they are relentless, aggressive. I’ve seen them in bits and pieces; certainly we haven’t studied them like we are going to tonight. I’ve seen them over a period of time and they are a relentless team. An absolutely relentless team. They get guys that come from different parts of the country and they mesh into a very good team. I have a lot of respect for the WAC.
“Again, it is not only an honor, but also a well-earned achievement for this team to be in this situation. I can’t stress enough how hard they’ve worked to get here. The work they’ve done has put us in this spot and hopefully it’s just beginning for us again.”
On getting selected to play on Thursday in Portland:
“At Marquette, we were sent to the west coast for Thursday games. I have never not been involved where it wasn’t a Thursday in all the NCAA Tournaments that we played in. As a staff, we’re almost used to that, that’s okay. Portland’s a great place. I have not seen the Rose Garden, but a couple of our guys have been there. Calbert Cheaney has played in it. Watching games of it, it looks like just a spectacular place. It looks like the crowd support when the Trail Blazers play is phenomenal and I don’t think it will be any different. I don’t think it would have got the spot if they weren’t looking forward to having great support. It’s a great basketball area, it’s a great sports area. It is a long ways away, hopefully our fans can travel. I know our west coast fans will be excited about that and hopefully a lot of our midwest fans, hopefully some of our Indiana Hoosier nation fans can get out there. We are going to need all the support we can get.”
On getting the team ready to play in spotlight of the NCAA Tournament:
“We’ll just go to work. We had a short work out today, and we’ll be back at it tomorrow. It will be a little bit quicker because of how quick we’ll leave. They’ll have to adjust to the surroundings that much quicker. I don’t think you make a lot of changes. I think the more you spend time talking about what’s out there, allows them to be distracted from what they need to do and this is a smart group. They wouldn’t have 25 wins if they weren’t, they wouldn’t win the games that they have won if they weren’t. They don’t frighten easily, they have great preparation ability, they are very serious about that. They practice at a very high level. I think the best teams this time of year, they practice hard every day and they understand it. Now this becomes so much about taking care of the details of the game and the things that have put us in this situation. That’s what is most important to us. We won’t get away from fundamentals, we won’t get away from preparation, we won’t get away from knowing personnel, we won’t get away from a game plan. But to downplay the fact that we’re in the NCAA Tournament, that wouldn’t make much sense either. We’ll just take it as it goes.”
On the importance of having depth against New Mexico State:
“I don’t know enough about New Mexico State in the sense of all the details of their team to know where our edges are and their edges are. I know when I look at team that gets 30 free throw attempts a game and 15 offensive rebounds and scores those kind of points, we’re going to need our bench. We’re going to need to be really good. We’re going to need to stay out of foul trouble. We’re going to need to be able to play in a transition game and at the same time, we are going to want to run. I don’t know where all that shapes up yet, but there is no question that our depth has been a key all year and I certainly expect it will be on Thursday.”