Tom Crean talks about Saturday’s game at Kentucky
“Well first and foremost, I’m extremely excited along with our coaching staff, to take my team into a game like this. This will be one of the most hostile and enlightening environments our players will see in their time in college basketball. I know our team is excited. It has felt a lot different this week not preparing for numerous games or going from game to game, but it has given us the chance at getting better on both sides of the ball, not only for this game, but also for the season. That is what this week and next week is really all about. There are certain elements about game preparation, but the most important thing for us is to focus on fundamentals. We are not going to have many situations like this the rest of the year where we only have one game a week.
“I think our guys are excited to play. It has been a productive week with one more day of preparation and practice before we go play a team that I think is outstanding. Kentucky’s speed and quickness has not changed. Their players have changed, but they way they attack and get into the lane has not changed. I think they move the ball well and have some very good individual talents who are starting to play much better as a team. So you can see that in a big way as you watch them on tape.”
On offensive patience playing in the road in a tough environment:
“It’s not so much offensive patience as it is taking care of the basketball and decision making. I don’t think we want to be a team that gets very deep into the shot clock against anybody. Defenses sometimes make you do that. We are not looking to go up there and be tentative. We are looking to go up there and be smart, attack, and execute. At the same time, you have to have a sense you are going to be playing against extreme length, size, quickness and speed, like I said. You really have to understand the decisions that have to be made in taking care of the basketball because this is not a game where you want to lose the points off turnover battle.”
On the difference it makes to have players on the team who have played against Kentucky in a hostile environment before:
“I think it is too early to tell. I think down the road it will help, but right now it is too early to tell with this group. That game was so long ago for the guys who are here who played in that environment. It’s a great environment. Rupp Arena is one of the toughest in college basketball. I would hope most people say that when they come to Indiana over the last forty or fifty years. It’s one of those situations. It’s Indiana and it’s Kentucky, in the sense of why it has been such a great rivalry. It is not because the game is in a half-full building. Rupp is a great venue to play in and they are an excellent team to go against.
“I don’t know if we are at a point yet where experience helps yet. We just have to go and play the game. We have to do the same things like taking care of the ball and guarding the dribble. We cannot lose the points off of turnover game and the rebounding game.”
On the possible advantage of having a week off to prepare while Kentucky played a game last night against Notre Dame:
“I don’t know if it’s an advantage or not. They are playing a lot of games. You try to make each situation you are in advantageous to your team. When we are playing several games in a row, we talk about being in a rhythm. In preparing, we are talking about not only getting ready for a game, but about getting better. I am sure John Calipari is doing the same thing. There is a good rhythm to their team right now. They are coming off a tough game against North Carolina and played really well last night. They held Notre Dame to eighteen points in the second half and I would say that is an advantage.
“I am trying to build an advantage just like they are trying to build an advantage. It is all how your players prepare and get ready. None of it really matters once you get into a game. For us, we have to go make shots on the road. There are certain things that have to happen statistically and the mindset must be great, but you can’t win on the road if you can’t make shots. You have to defend at a high level and build confidence on both ends of the court. I am more concerned about that aspect than anything else.”
On the differences and similarities between this year’s Kentucky team versus last year’s Kentucky team:
“I think they still operate the same system with a few more set plays than what he has run in the past. You can see John (Calipari) is getting closer to the offense he wants. They have high-level players and that is what Kentucky is going to be about with John there. They are going to have great players from year-to-year whether the players are there one, two, three, or four years. It’s the same system and he’s not putting anyone out on the court that cannot play. There is nowhere to cheat off a guy. There is nowhere to hide anyone. They are a high-level team. I think the similarities are they really push the ball extremely well. They also reverse the ball extremely well. They attack you off the dribble maybe even more this year because he has more guys who can really put the ball on the ground. Last year, so much of their game was John Wall and Eric Bledsoe. They had Cousins in the post, but he wasn’t driving the ball like Terrance Jones. So, it’s a different team in the sense of the matchups problems they offer on the perimeter. We have to be smart with that.”
On whether playing a Kentucky team that constantly changes year to year makes preparation more difficult than playing a more consistent Big Ten team:
“You don’t have that advantage when you are playing in a postseason tournament. It’s is the same thing whether you are playing a Thanksgiving tournament or a Christmas tournament like we are this year. You are not going to be as familiar with those teams. I think that is the beauty of the game and is why those tournaments are good. John’s system hasn’t changed. His players may have changed, but he is the same coach. He is one of the best coaches in the game. There is absolutely no doubt about that and his teams reflect that in the way they guard. He has always been a very underrated defensive coach. John really knows what he is doing with the guys who have such length. They create a lot of havoc. I do not know their deflection numbers, but I know they have to be high.”
On what impresses him about the play of the Kentucky freshman:
“I think again they are fearless. I would characterize them. The freshmen are a huge part of the team. At Kentucky, the players don’t wait their turn, learn their roles, and worry about it later. They get put to the task right away and they are handling their tasks very well. I thought Terrance Jones was phenomenal last night. There are not very many players in the country, let alone freshman who are averaging a double-double like he is. Certainly Brandon Knight is making plays. Lamb gets talked about, but does not get the recognition of being one of the best shooters in the country. Kentucky is a different team this year. Deandre Liggins is out there this year. We did not face him last year. Darius Miller is that much more experienced. The scariest player is Josh Harrelson, who has thirty offensive rebounds this season. He is not getting a lot of shots, but anytime you have a player who rebounds like that at his size, you create problems for opponents. He is also a very capable shooter. Like I said earlier, they are not putting anybody on the floor that is not a high-level player. You have to match up with those players no matter who you have on the floor.”
On what he wants to hear from recruits that could leave early:
“I don’t treat it like that, I really don’t. I’ve never asked in the terms of what makes you want to go to college. I think the biggest key is that someone doesn’t come with their bags packed or that they come and they unpack them because when you’ve got one foot in and one foot out. I always used to say this before, you got the car, it’s running, it’s in neutral out in the parking lot and it’s just waiting to take off. I think that’s when you run into problems. So I don’t have any real theory on that.
“I think each situation is different because each recruit is different. I think our job is to be able to have a vision for them and a realistic vision for them. I have no doubt we have that with our recruits and with our current players and then it’s your job to as a coach and coaching staff and an entire program to hold them to that vision if they chose to come for that in the first place. That means putting Indiana first. That means putting your education at the top. You don’t project that `hey he’ll be out in a year so he only has to go to 75 percent of his classes.’ We don’t ever do it like that. Everybody is under the same guidelines and that’s the way it’s going to be as we go down the road because we’re going to be faced with that more and more at Indiana, but that’s part of it. As long as you’ve got people that are totally putting the program and the university first and they know that you share in their dream because of the vision that you have for them and they buy in to that and the people around them buy into that, I think it’s a pretty healthy marriage. It’s when those get conflicted is where the problems come.”
On if the team has more intensity knowing that the Kentucky game is coming up:
“Well we’ve practiced pretty well, we really have. That’s a good question. I don’t know if I would say that because I think they’ve done a really, really good job of being tuned into everything that we’re doing. It’s a long week and we’ve been practicing since Sunday. We took one day off and there have been a lot of different things inside of practice. The last 30 minutes of today was all five-on-0 situation work with the clock and keeping them locked in to the point that practice is not over, but that’s the way it’s been for them all year.
“I’m sure they know, I mean obviously, that this is a big deal. They’re going to get there and they’re going to see Dick Vitale and Dan Shulman sitting over there. It’s going to hit them. They’re going to walk in and they’re going to hear that group of crowds and then they’re going to lineup for that jump ball and see all that athleticism and talent on the court. They’ll be locked in to how hard they’ve got to play, I know that.”
On if it helps Maurice Creek that he had success against Kentucky last season:
“Probably, you’d have to ask him that, but probably. I would assume it would. He had an excellent game against them, but we’re not spending a lot of time, we’re a different team than that team now. He’s shooting the ball very well right now. I hope that carries over into the games and again, it’s not like I can walk in here and say well you know he’s that much more explosive today than he was a week ago. That takes longer to measure with him, but I think knowing that he’s had success in games like that and had success as a freshman, those things help. It’s really just a matter of him getting locked into to what we need to do now. Like I said last week, defensively, getting into the flow of things even better and continuing to gain confidence in his ability to shoot the ball as that athleticism and explosiveness come back.”
On why Kentucky is so successful at defending the perimeter:
“Length, it’s very simple. They move well, they’ve got good feet, and they got the athleticism, but they have tremendous length. I don’t know what their wingspans are, but I would doubt very much one through five or one through eight that there are a lot longer people in the game. When you’ve got a plus-four or plus-five, now that’s really high-level wingspans. I’ve coached guys that are plus-eight, plus-seven, it just changes the game. I don’t know their numbers, but I’m sure they’re in that category.”
On if the week has allowed Bobby Capobianco to heal:
“Yes, yes it has. We expect him to play, but it has. This was a good week to be off with some of the things that we’ve had to deal with with guys being banged up a little bit. We’re anticipating a full unit on Saturday.”
On how Brandon Knight compares to recent John Calipari coached guards:
“I don’t think you can compare those guys. I think they all brought something different. As a college basketball fan, when you look at (Tyreke) Evans, when you look at (Derrick) Rose, the one thing that stands out with his guards have been their ability to get all the way to the rim. Where I’m looking more a lot of times with our recruiting is to help guys develop ways to get to the basket. He pretty much takes ready-made guys for getting to the rim and have that kind of strength and explosiveness.
“I think Brandon Knight is similar in those situations, but I think he’s probably different. He was an all or nothing scorer in high school, where he had to do a ton of scoring for this team. I saw him play while seeing some other people play last year and he had to do a ton of things for his team. I think what John has done and I think John did this with the other guys, is he really gets them really blended into a team concept. He’s different than those guys, but when it’s all said and done they’re always ready to go.”