Tom Crean Archive
Whatever you call it, Indiana won’t think of it as a rematch.
Less than nine months after Syracuse knocked Indiana out of the NCAA tournament in the Sweet 16 in Washington, D.C., the two teams will face each other tonight at the Carrier Dome at 7:15 p.m., as part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
For Indiana senior Will Sheehey, he experienced the loss firsthand. He played 26 minutes that game, as the Hoosiers’ national title hopes were dashed in their lowest scoring output of the season, a 61-50 defeat. But even he, on the eve of their matchup against the No. 4 team in the country, hesitated to call it a rematch.
“We’re going to look at it just purely as a basketball game, not really at the emotions surrounding it,” he said. “Obviously, reliving the end of your season last year is not what you want to do but we’re going to dive into the film, and we have been, in looking at specific things within the game. Not necessarily the emotional part, but more like the X’s and O’s.”
Yes, eight months removed from the decisive game, both teams are much different — each losing significant contributors to graduation or the NBA. Indiana lost four of its five starters. Syracuse lost three of its four leading scorers (Brandon Triche, James Southerland, Michael Carter-Williams).
“We can’t focus on ‘rematch,’ ” Indiana coach Tom Crean said. “We can focus on the things we learned from the game, but it’s two different teams.”
Still, much remains the same.
Tom Crean met with the media on Monday afternoon to preview Tuesday’s Big Ten-ACC Challenge game at Syracuse.
Watch and listen to his comments in the media player below:
Quotes are available after the jump.
Indiana coach Tom Crean saw his team’s potential in perhaps its worst half of the season.
On Friday, Nov. 22, in the 2K Sports Classic final against then-No. 18 Connecticut, his Hoosiers went 9-for-24 from the field, had 12 turnovers and somehow only trailed, 30-24. Though Indiana would subsequently lose the game, 59-58, Crean was convinced.
“You’ve got limited time and you’re trying to not wear them down and they are young guys, and you’ve got a million things you’re thinking about,” he said on Nov. 26, following Indiana’s 77-46 win against Evansville. “But the bottom line is we just have to get better at certain things every day and not get ahead of ourselves. We never get ahead of ourselves game wise, but we are asking them to learn a lot.”
Seven games into the season, Crean has a lot to be optimistic about.
As of Saturday morning, Indiana (6-1) was the No. 4 offensive rebounding team (45.6 offensive rebounding percentage) in the nation and was No. 11 in getting to the foul line with a free throw rate (FTA/FGA) of 60.6 percent. His team is playing to the pace he wants with an adjusted tempo of 74.3 possessions per game, which ranks 20th nationally.
Indiana is also averaging 86.4 points per game — No. 24 in the country — and is limiting opponents to an effective field goal percentage of 39.5, which is fifth nationally.
But his team is still one of the youngest in the country, one that has six freshmen and five sophomores on scholarship. According to KenPom.com, the Hoosiers rank 325th in the country in terms of experience.
“I’m the first one that’s getting too far ahead, and I realized that today,” Crean said after the Evansville win.
“I think the hard thing for me, I see how good they can be. I see their talent level. I’ve known them for so long through the recruiting process and things like that. I want greatness for them.”
As the news circulated, Indiana fans were perplexed.
When Indiana’s starting lineup was announced for its seventh game of the season on Tuesday night against Evansville, sophomore Jeremy Hollowell, who had started the Hoosiers’ six prior games, was excluded. In his place, senior walk-on Jeff Howard — who had played only 85 minutes of college basketball in his career — would start.
The buzz generated on social media led to “Jeff Howard” trending nationally on Twitter during much of Indiana’s 77-46 win against Evansville, as the Hoosiers advanced to 6-1 in the 2013-2014 season.
“Coach did what he did for his reasons,” Howard said following the game, in which he scored two points, grabbed three rebounds and had one assist in 15 minutes of action. “I just came and brought to the team what I bring to the team.”
Before Tuesday’s game, Indiana coach Tom Crean told both Howard and Hollowell the news. His reasoning, Crean insisted, was that Howard “epitomized what we wanted out there in the form of energy, communication and intensity.”
But Howard has played only eight minutes this entire season. There was no intention, Crean said, of trying to “light a fire” for Hollowell to perform better.
Tom Crean met with the media following Indiana’s 77-46 win over Evansville on Tuesday night at Assembly Hall.
Watch his postgame comments in the media player below:
Quotes are available after the jump.
Nearly two weeks ago, Indiana’s coaching staff addressed the 2014 recruiting class but had to leave one name out — 6-foot-7 Max Hoetzel — due to the fact that the Hoosiers had not yet received his National Letter of Intent.
Well, on Monday afternoon during his press conference previewing the Hoosiers’ game with Evansville, Indiana coach Tom Crean was able to address the third signee of the class.
Crean confirmed that Indiana has received Hoetzel’s LOI and he officially joins guards James Blackmon Jr. and Robert Johnson as future Hoosiers.
“Anytime you can get a guy that you can see a little of Steve Novak and Will Sheehey in and a guy that absolutely wants to be here, is a gym rat and you know is only going to get better, it’s a very good get,” Crean said. “There was no doubt that we wanted to improve our ability to shoot the ball from the outside. And when that became an opportunity to get someone at that position with that skill set and future skill set, it was a no-brainer for us.”
As Indiana (5-1) steps onto the court tonight at Assembly Hall, one of the questions it must answer is simple. How will the Hoosiers react to their first loss of the season?
Last Friday, the Hoosiers fell to Connecticut, 59-58, and watched as the Huskies celebrated the 2K Sports Classic title on the court at Madison Square Garden. With such a young group, Indiana coach Tom Crean asked to team to shake off the loss and focus on an undefeated Evansville (5-0) over the past four days.
He has been satisfied with the reaction.
“There’s nobody walking in on Sunday that I didn’t think understood that we played a really good team and we came up short,” he said. “Our job is to define the reality of what could have been better and show them how we’re going to get to that point. This was a great learning experience for them to understand it never, ever comes down to the last play.”
On Friday night, the Hoosiers had their season-high in turnovers (19), they had foul trouble, they played an experienced and veteran team and did it in a unique environment. But what Crean took from the game was that his team did not fold under pressure. In fact, they had a chance to win the game twice in the final 15 seconds. And though the result did not go IU’s way, Crean realizes his team continues to have a lot to build on.