Crean learning more about his team heading into Michigan State matchup

  • 01/04/2014 8:28 am in

On the eve of Indiana’s biggest home game to date this season, coach Tom Crean reflected on his team’s progress heading into today’s game against No. 5 Michigan State.

Crean already has his team in double-digit wins, however, with one of the least-experienced teams in the NCAA and an 0-4 record against top-100 opponents, there is still plenty of room for improvement. And as the Hoosiers prepare for a matchup against one of the Big Ten favorites, Crean realizes the process toward returning to the top of the conference will not be a quick one.

“We just have to continue to get an understanding and that doesn’t happen in a period of one or two games, it happens over a period of time,” he said. “What you want is to make sure that you are responding every time, and I think we have done that.”

Only a year ago, Crean was dealing with a team that had already been ranked No. 1 in the nation and was expected to contend in the Big Ten.

Fast forward 12 months and the Hoosiers lost seven impact players over the offseason β€” three to graduation, two to the NBA and another two transferred. IU came into the season with one senior, two sophomores and two freshmen in their starting lineup. But one thing Crean wanted his team to do from the start of this season was play fast. That hasn’t been easy.

Coming into today’s game, Indiana ranks No. 325 in the nation in turnover percentage (22.1) while playing the 13th fastest tempo. From sloppy play to careless mistakes, this Hoosier team has yet to learn the balance of taking care of the ball and playing fast.

And then he looks at where Michigan State is at right now: Crean thinks there’s plenty of similarities between last year’s Hoosiers team and this year’s Spartans team. They’re experienced (epitomized by seniors guard Keith Appling and forward Adreian Payne, the Spartans returned four starters this season), they have NBA-level talent (sophomore guard Gary Harris is another perfect example) and they have already been in the national spotlight (they were ranked No. 1 until losing to North Carolina in early December).

“Every year, guys get better,” senior forward Will Sheehey said. “They’re probably just a better team.”

Indiana hasn’t yet had that opportunity of year-to-year, significant team improvement with its current group. Indiana’s sophomores have proven they are better this season, from Yogi Ferrell’s 3-point shooting to Hanner Mosquera-Perea’s footwork, but the overall team has had its fair struggles this season, including a 17-point loss at Syracuse and 63 turnovers in its past three games.

“I try to tell these guys, `If you are waiting for experience, you are going to be waiting for a long time,’ ” Crean said. “You have to get an understanding as quick as you possibly can. You have to understand the importance of each possession and what mistakes can do.

“Some of our decisions are very indecisive. Some are just trying to make plays that aren’t there. Some are going too fast.”

As the season has gone on, though, Crean has learned more and more about this team. He learned his players have fight β€” they battled a more-experienced team in Champaign this past Tuesday and drove them to the brink β€” and that his team has the potential to be very good, especially with its top-25 defense and its ability to get to the free throw line.

But he also has learned his team has a long way to go. After all, the Hoosiers have the second-least experienced team in the Big Ten. He and his players will both only learn from games like today’s.

“The other day, I kept trying to get to some matchups inside of the game (at Illinois),” Crean said. “That is very hard for guys that have never looked at it that way to look at it as. `Okay, we have to slow it down and go here.’ We work on those things in practice but it is completely different inside the flow of the game.

“Where last year’s team we would try to go to certain matchups and we just did it like it was breathing. Those things hit you that make you realize that we still have a long way to go.”

Filed to:

  • Steve Fischer

    He should already know enough about his team.. umm our team. I resented the recent thread about “perspective” as implying fans who are not happy with our coach somehow lack perspective. Fans have a right to be disappointed after a loss especially if from their perspective they see weaknesses that need correction. Distance can creat perspective. Many of us have been alum for many years- I graduated from IU Law in 77. This does not mean I am of those calling for Crean’s head. I simply read and think about everyone’s posts and encourage debate. I think we all agree a victory this afternoon could change the direction of this season and make us all happy. I hope the players know this too. GO IU!

  • pcantidote

    Completely irrational. This is what you get when you lose all of your veteran leadership. Show me a coach who consistently exceeds expectations with one of the younger teams in the country. It doesn’t happen. If we don’t see any progress by the end of the year then we can start to get a little disappointed, but the results so far should have been fully expected. Besides, they haven’t lost at home (yet), haven’t been blown out, and actually had a better outcome than last year at Illinois.

  • thrawnjan

    β€œThat is very hard for guys that have never looked at it that way to look at it as.” <- Still trying to untie the knot in my brain.

    I think that we will eat a lot of three pointers this game. All season, opponents have been getting open looks that they missed, I feel like. Is there a stat that tracks "open 3 pointers allowed"?

  • JethroTroll

    “Some of our decisions are very indecisive” LOL That’s great.

  • Michael Whelan

    Crean is learning more about His team? Than why can’t he see Jeremy Hollowell is not a starter or even a clutch player. Hanner and Stanford need more playing time, also Devin Davis really tries, unlike some of the players he puts out there in critical times. Why can’t he see this?

  • JethroTroll

    Eh, I dont get the feeling that there’s kids aren’t trying. There is a difference between not executing and simply not trying.
    This team needs a confidence booster. They need to know that they’re capable of more. I have a feeling they’re gonna get that big win against MSU. Hopefully, this is where they turn the corner.

  • Victorbear

    Obviously we are not privy to practice, but come on Jethro surely you cannot defend Jeremy’s play. Maybe all it will take is one breakout game at home and it definitely would change the complexion of the team, but as of today it’s been a real struggle for Hollowell.

  • James

    We’re still playing the youth card? It’s 2014: early draft departures and rampant transfers have left college basketball at the point where most teams are very young and inexperienced. Michigan was nearly the youngest team in the country last year and nearly won the title. Kentucky is the youngest team this year, and while not playing great, just took down Louisville and will likely get back to the top of the rankings by the end of the season.

    Nobody expected that there wouldn’t be some kind of drop off. However, we also didn’t expect the team to blow 3 legit opportunities to win against a quality opponent (not including Syracuse because that was never going to happen) primarily due to a lack of simple fundamentals such as ball security. The positive is that they were in position to win those despite all the TO’s and poor shooting, but results do matter. I agree that we need to see how the conference season progresses before assessing the state of the program, but to say we can’t express disappointment right now is ridiculous.

    All that being said, I’m predicting an IU upset today to get the team back on track.

  • pcantidote

    Pure comedy. According to you the team is in a total state of disarray and an abject failure, yet you predict a win against a Top 5 team? The irrational element of this fan base drives me nuts. You want to compare UK, then last year is the comparable, they lost most of their experience and scoring, and they tanked. Michigan returned their top 2 scorers last year also, so that is a completely invalid comparison. If we had Cody and Vic back we might be able to incorporate this youth into the system a little better, don’t you think? Fail.

  • MillaRed

    I’m going to reserve my critique on Coach for 5 games before I go where I usually go. Want to see what we have moving forward.

    I think one thing that is affecting me is the fact we had such a great shot last year and didn’t reach the final four. Now that we are reloading I think I’ve lost patience. We get to the FF last season and I got nothing to complain about.

    Oh well, thinking next year or the year after we may have another shot.

  • Ole Man

    Please, no more about how much we lost from last year’s team.
    This is the ’13 – ’14 season and a different team.
    No more youth and experience.
    Let them go play ball. If they lose, okay. The other team probably played better.
    But enough with the excuses.

  • Gregory Spera

    Any article whose title begins with, ” Crean learning more…” has got to be encouraging. There is hope.

  • Ole Man

    Yep; and even that next year talk is beginning to sound like Cub fans.

  • Gregory Spera

    That’s just mean.

  • Ole Man

    Okay, Mets fans πŸ™‚

  • JethroTroll

    Never said it wasnt. That doesnt mean he’s not trying though.

  • James

    Ha, when did I say disarray and abject failure? All I did was point out that they were in position to win 3 out of their 4 non-cupcake games and blew all 3 chances, and that in all 3 cases it had as much to do with them beating themselves as the other team beating them. I also highlighted that they nearly won despite all of the fundamental errors, thus the implication that they have the ability to beat very good teams (e.g., Michigan State at home). My point was simply that results do matter, and to this point, the results have not met the ability/expectations of this team. And those aren’t just fan base expectations, they’re also the expectations of the AP (just missed top 25 preseason) and the coaches poll (23 or 24 preseason). If you can’t accept that, then I don’t know what else to tell you.

    I’m not arguing that IU didn’t lose more production than most teams; I agree completely. But we also have 2 seniors and a sophomore with significant experience from last year in our top 7 or so players, so don’t give me the youth sob story. Not sure why UK isn’t a good comparison for this year, but how’s KU for you? Take a peek at who they lost and what they’re doing this year. My original point wasn’t to make direct comparisons to other programs, but to highlight that youth/inexperience does exist elsewhere.

  • I completely agree that last years team was last years team and that’s the past. It’s seems at most press conferences Crean leaves a window of escape or relives the accomplishments of the past. Players come and go weather it is a transfer or to the NBA. We have 2 McDonald’s All-Americans in a league that is youth driven. The rebuilding is over and the results are what counts now. I hope Crean can get the job done.

  • IUJeff

    Just another example of why it is hard for me to listen to Crean babble. Explain a lot less and let the on-court results speak.

  • pcantidote

    Guess we just have different expectations. You tell me a team is going to lose its top 4 scorers, I will tell you it is going to be a very choppy season for anyone. Just like it has been for UK and KU. They both have struggled to beat top tier competition. Each has a win against the top 10. I suspect we will too. Each also had better recruiting classes than we did. So its not a sob story, just reality.

    By the way, UK was preseason top 5 last year, so no, I don’t put any weight into those rankings, especially when they are relying on the productivity of freshmen.

  • IUJeff

    Agree w JT. Hollowell tries but has not been in a position very often to succeed. When you can’t get your own, can’t play point, and no one can pass it to you in scoring positions with any consistency, you are gonna struggle.

  • JethroTroll

    The other thing is that collegiate bball has become younger in general. The really talented kids usually, not always, leave early, which in turn leaves the elite talent as freshman and sophomores. Now, that doesnt mean when you have a young team there isnt expected to be a period of adjustment, but at some point the “young” excuse just doesnt hold water anymore. And I think we’ve reached that point.
    IU’s rebuilding phase is over. Now is the time for IU to compete for NCs. That is a realistic goal at IU. And it’s Crean’s job to find a way to make all this talent function properly and compete at a high level.
    The honeymoon is over. And he’s gonna find his seat get real warm, real quick if he cant take this program to the next level. Cause that’s what is expected from any coach at IU.

  • JethroTroll

    Yeah, he tends to babble and can be quite wordy at times, but we all have different personalities and mannerisms. Im not looking for perfection from my coach, I just want results.

  • Will take charge

    The very title of this article is disturbing

  • Gregory Spera

    As I said in my post, I find it encouraging, if even in a “better late than never” kinda way. If it’s true, maybe they can all start learning together.

  • MillaRed

    Good grief. Did you just compare our 2013 Hoosier team to the 100 year plight of the Chicago Cubs???

  • Kyl470

    Agreed. The team is 14 games into the season. At some point the youth and experience excuse is starting to get old. Yogi, Will, Gordon, Hollowell, HMP all have a year or more of experience. That’s over half of our now 9 man rotation that has experience. (Counting Noach, Troy, Stan, Davis as the other 4)

  • Mk

    You suck. Bandwagon IU fan. Probably became a fan after the Wat-shot. Get a life

  • And_One

    Aw, no, the whole “how much we lost” thing is an essential part of the IU Basketball TV Broadcast Drinking Game. Every time the commentators mention losing 90% of the offense–drink. Two players in the NBA draft top 4–drink. One of the youngest teams in the country–drink. Huge dropoff in 3-point shooting… You get the idea.
    I agree with you. It has become tiresome. An explanation, sure, but no longer an excuse.

  • dtfreed

    One thing to look at is Fischer leaving, it has to cause a little upset with a young team who are all trying for the same playing time. maybe they know and its not a mystery, but if not then it brings more questions than answers. The short and to the point Crean statement hopefully had more explanation to the rest of the team. I do agree the inexperience card is growing old, but the AAU/travel teams based player rankings aren’t worth much past the top 5-10 in any given year. So who do we have the last couple? hard to say and finding out is the process CTC is in now. KY has plenty of that 5-10 types year after year and then they go pro. So a fair comparison between it and other programs really is hard to make. I think the ILL game taught this team through poor play, turn overs, and some poor coaching at the end,, they were still in their first road B1G game.

  • Jordan

    James you’re not winning this, you’re entilted to your opinion and you’ve gotten it acrossed. Now shutup and watch the game.

  • iuoiu

    Well crap my CBS station is showing an ACC game instead. On to the internet!

  • iuoiu

    You call them excuses, I call them reality. As our team gains experience, so do the other teams that are leaps and bounds ahead of our kids.

  • James

    Wow, that’s very mature of you. It’s not about winning or losing an argument, its about having a healthy discussion, which I believe was occurring. My original point was that this team has not met expectations based on results, and that it shouldn’t be ridiculous to express some disappointment. That’s it. Go Hoosiers!

  • GaHoosier

    During the first half of the Michigan State game…I learned something about this team: I’m just going to enjoy when they win a game, but im not going to get upset when they lose a game. Because frankly if they continue to play like they did in the first half, then I would spend the next 3 months in ANGER and I really don’t want to have a heart attack!

    Actually I learned another thing: Yogi needs to play EVERY minute of the game. Sorry Yogi if that burns you out, but we need you more than you can imagine!!!!

    Good luck IU in every game this year…luckily miracles still happen!!!!

  • Raynger

    Well, another loss and I still think that this team is not well coached. I’m also a Cubs fan and that is enough. I fear things will not improve much without a better offensive plan.

  • Catfish

    Is anyone recognizing Cody and VO had a lot to overcome. They were really good players, and I am afraid we will have to have 20 percent more talent to compete.

  • Michael Whelan

    Now you see after the Spartan GAME, Jeremy Hollowell must be benched He turns the ball over just about every time he touches it. And please Coach lets practice free throws.

  • Jamal shall inherit

    I know it was just a side comment, but free throws have become a convenient and incorrect boogeyman.These Hoosiers aren’t bad FT shooters. The team shoots more than 72 percent, which is 81st in the nation. And IU gets to the line more than 30 times per game, which is 6th in the nation. If you take the top 40 teams at getting to the line, IU is 10th in FT percentage. All that means is that getting to the line and making them is actually one of the strengths of this team.

  • Michael Whelan

    Did you watch the MSU game, IU missed the first half of three crutial one and ones in the first half.