Notes and quotes from Tom Crean’s postgame press conference following IU’s 90-72 exhibition win over the University of Indianapolis at Assembly Hall (Watch the full press conference here):
— “We’re trying to get this team to understand we’ve gotta get out and play a 94-foot game. It doesn’t mean we have to press the whole game, but it does mean we want to run and we want to create off our defense.”
— “We’re trying to get to a point where there’s not a big drop off from our first ten possessions to our last ten. That’s hard to get to.”
— Doesn’t see this being a seven or eight man team. Wants to play a lot of people, but those who play need to be efficient.
— Right now team defense is going to carry this group, but down the road individuals need to be able to lock opponents up. Not there yet.
— On Zeller: “I thought he was really, really good tonight at letting the game come to him.”
— On Watford: “I was really happy with the way Christian guarded. He didn’t have a great offensive night and we’re trying to get him integrated back because he’s been out for a while. And he’s really only had a couple of practices that I would say are ‘Christian Watford level play’ practices. But he came in tonight and he defended.”
A trio of IU players — Cody Zeller, Jordan Hulls and Victor Oladipo — along with head coach Tom Crean met with the media to discuss IU’s 90-72 exhibition win over the University of Indianapolis on Saturday night. Watch and listen to both press conferences in high-definition video in the embedded media players below:
Ryan had a comprehensive post with quotes from Tom Crean’s breakout session at last Thursday’s Big Ten Media Day. But after combing through even more audio, here are some more quotes to pass along from Indiana’s fourth-year coach:
On whether it’s been difficult it’s been to go through the past three seasons: “Yeah, absolutely. There’s no question. But I have an outlet. I get to work every day. I get to go to work. I get to go to work in a great place. I get to do what I want to do: watching film, coaching players, recruit. There’s very few aspects of the job that, if you really love coaching, that you don’t love those aspects. There’s things you could do without. You’ve gotta love every aspect of it. The families don’t have an outlet. The players families don’t have an outlet.
“That’s why Indiana’s so unique. When you look at what’s going on with our fan base, we’ve got more student tickets sold than six of the schools in this league combined right now. That says a lot about Indiana. We led the country last year in attendance for students at 6,100. It had dropped into the high 3’s or low 4’s when we first came. We’re up over 7,600 plus right now for students. That’s not normal. That’s just not normal and I think if we didn’t have such a great fan base, if we didn’t have such a passionate fan base, it’d be a lot harder. It would be a lot harder. And I couldn’t imagine the last few years without (the fans). And people want to win. But I want to win. I mean we left a team that on paper could have competed for a Final Four, national championship at Marquette. If Trevor Mbakwe would have stayed, ask him how good we would have been back there if we would have stayed and he’d have stayed there. But we didn’t. And so you come in, you want to win. You don’t come in to not win. And so you want to feel it. But you really want to feel it for your families, your players and their families and for your fans more than anything else.”
On if it’s fair to coaches rebuilding programs for the NCAA to implement the minimum APR score of 930 for postseason play: “No. And I’d be the first to say I don’t understand the exact formula they want to use right now if it goes to that. But if it’s based on the exact scenario you just said with Indiana there’s no way that’s fair. Because we’ve had (a score of) 1000 and we’re going to have 1000 again now that Guy-Marc Michel has signed a European contract. Here’s what’s wrong with the system: If Guy-Marc was never eligible to play for us, like he wasn’t, he still would have counted against our APR score. I think I’m right on this because we were going to fight for it. And I don’t know if we would have ever won. The fact that he signed a contract overseas allows us not to be penalized. But there’s a flaw in the system when you’re going to be penalized for a guy that the NCAA never was going to allow to play for you.
Cody Zeller’s arrival is garnering many of the national focus on this season’s Indiana team, but a substantially improved defense appears to be the key for the Hoosiers to climb out of the Big Ten cellar and into postseason play.
Indiana’s defensive numbers from a season ago leave plenty of room for improvement: In Big Ten play, the Hoosiers ranked 10th in defensive efficiency, 9th in effective field goal percentage defense and 11th in defending the three.
IU’s opponent free throw rate, which was the highest among any BCS conference team last winter, must also improve.
With just five days until the Hoosiers tip off exhibition play at Assembly Hall against the University of Indianapolis, here’s a rundown of what the coaches and players are saying about defense:
Head coach Tom Crean on specific players setting the bar defensively:
”Improvement-wise? Verdell Jones. Consistency-wise? Victor Oladipo. We got to get a bunch of guys that improve to the rate of Verdell. We’ve got to get a bunch of guys that have the rate of consistency defensively that Victor does. And Victor has to raise his standards consistently. Will [Sheehey] is getting closer to that. And what they need to understand is that team defense is such a difference-maker. And what we’re trying to get all of them to understand is that when you’re not guarding the ball, you’re always responsible for at least three things and you can not rest. You can not rest off the ball, you can not rest when the shot goes up, you can not rest on the weakside, you can not get hugged up on your man on the weakside … You can point out to any possession on the court, there’s one person guarding the ball, there’s four other people in a defensive position, there’s at least three things that they have to be responsible for. So the point being that that altertness, that awareness — all those things have got to play into it. And that’s what we’re looking for consistency-wise and improvement-wise.”
Assistant coach Tim Buckley on how the team responded to a challenge from Crean to step up the defense in the second half of Saturday’s Haunted Hall scrimmage:
“In order for our team to have the success we want to have, they’ve got to play together on both ends of the floor. I think sometimes any team can get caught ‘playing defense,’ but you have to get stops. That’s what your intent is, to get stops and when we do that and have that focus, we play much better as a team defensively.”
Below are some selected quotes from Tom Crean’s breakout session at Big Ten Media Day.
On the difficulty of building back up the program heading into this season: “There’s no gauge for it. When you start over — and I mean start over with a brand new team and the league is already pretty good … everybody thinks “Well, you’re starting at zero.” No you’re really not. You’re starting somewhere in the negative number because everybody else is already pretty good. It’s not like you can catch up because they’re moving forward. If everybody starts at zero, then it makes sense. But nobody did. So there’s no gauge on that. We haven’t been deep enough, we haven’t had enough depth, we certainly haven’t been talented enough at this point overall to withstand injuries. And so when you lose some key contributors on your team and you go to the bench, our guys have to do more than they’re capable of doing at that point in their game and in their career — you’re asking a lot of them. Hopefully that’s going to help us. Verdell Jones, I don’t think was being recruited by too many people early on to come in and do anything other than redshirt — maybe other people were telling him something different — but when you’re 162 pounds and 6-5, you’re probably going to redshirt. Well [he now] went over the 1,000-point marker for us as a junior in one of the first games. You just hope that those types of things continue to move forward.”
On whether the team is tougher/more mature: “They look tougher. They’re tougher against one another. Toughness really comes down to when you’re down five with three minutes to go and you got to figure out a way to win on the road — that’s real toughness and we have not been that group yet. That’s the sustainable toughness that you want to have after you’ve built it up day after day by going through different things. This team needs to have some success … We never were able to build on the momentum of the Michigan win or the Illinois win like we would have wanted.”