Big Ten media day notebook: Defense, Johns Hopkins visit, Bielfeldt’s role

  • 10/15/2015 6:02 pm in

ROSEMONT, Ill. – It’s no secret Indiana must improve on defense in order to become an elite team this season.

So far in practice, Tom Crean has been asking his players to pick up the ball full court and apply more on-ball pressure — both tactics largely missing from Indiana’s defense a season ago.

“We don’t want guys to drive into the lane,” said senior point guard Yogi Ferrell. “Coach always emphasizes not letting them go middle. Coach wants us to pick the ball up full. I feel like we can do it because we have a lot more length and size with Juwan (Morgan), Thomas (Bryant), O.G. (Anunoby) and Max (Bielfeldt). So we’re going to put a little more pressure on the ball.”

Beyond more pressure, Crean said the Hoosiers must improve reading screens in 2015-2016.

“Last year we had just some unfathomable delays in reading screen situations,” Crean said. “The Michgan State game’s a great example. You practice three days for this myriad of screens you’re going to see and yet we don’t get around in the right way.”

Crean also noted getting better defending at the rim and beyond the 3-point line as areas the Hoosiers could stand to improve. Individually, Crean said Troy Williams has bought into what he needs to do to get better as a defender, but the staff and his teammates are keeping after him to stay locked into it.

“They know how good he can be,” Crean said. “There’s a difference. Buy in is ‘I got to do this, I understand this is important’. Locked in is ‘I do it every time without thinking’.”


Beyond visiting with the Baltimore Ravens this past weekend, Crean and the Hoosiers also spent time with Dave Pietramala and his Johns Hopkins University lacrosse team. The program has won two Division I national titles (2005, 2007) under Pietramala since he took over the Blue Jays in 2000.

Crean had never met him before, but came away impressed.

“My brother-in-law knows him, Bill Belichick got John to get to know him because I know they’re close,” said Crean. ” … It was just two people reaching out to one another and it could not have gone better. It was an incredibly valuable part of the trip. It was an incredibly valuable two hours. It was an opportunity to see why that program’s so successful as any is in that sport and why he’s as successful as he is … If Bill Belichick and John Harbaugh have an interest in your program, you got to have something going for you that’s pretty strong, right? To me, it spoke volumes. I can see why he wins. It took two minutes to see that.”


While it continues to sound like Max Bielfeldt is making an impact in the Indiana program, his double duty of leading Indiana’s younger players and learning Crean’s system is proving a challenge at times.

“I’m in there trying to tell them what to do,” said the transfer from Michigan. “But at the same time I have to keep my ears open because I’m still learning what to do. We’re going over the post to post screen yesterday. Indiana guards it a completely different way. So I’m trying to explain to them how to bump the guy on your screen, get out to your man, switching patterns. At the same time, I’m like ‘hang on a second, I got to take 10 seconds to look at this because they do it a completely different way.’ It’s just little things like that you encounter every day.”

From the Michigan side of things, head coach John Beilein spoke highly of his former player.

“Last year, we would not have been 16-16 without Max Bielfeldt,” Beilein said. “We would have been 10-20 or something. He did a great job for us. He’d been around some great teams. He knew how they acted on and off the court. He’s going to be a great addition for being a solid guy, mature, no issues. Coach Crean can just coach him every day and not worry about anything you worry about with younger players.”

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  • Jeremy

    I am ready for some B Ball.

  • cooper

    When they can’t play defense covering half the court not sure trying to do it full court is so wise. Don’t like wearing out the guards either and it can cause big man foul trouble

  • Young Hoosier

    UofL does it every year. No matter their guard depth. So why can’t we? Yogi not as good as Peyton Siva? I fail to believe that.

  • IU Hoosiers # 34, 1979-83

    Do you “gentlemen” on this board believe that Max is going to have to be the type of player to bang it up underneath. If so isn’t that different than the way he was used at UM?

  • cooper

    Potion has run that system for 100 years and Silva was much better defender. Plus they have bigs who can play D and protect the lane

  • Senor

    IU big men HAVE to be a little schizophrenic anyway. Bang it down low on D, and run like a deer on O. Really NV seems to be the only real effective banger in the CTC era, and on the offensive end he didn’t really find his rhythm until he moved 15 feet out. Even CZ seemed “just physical enough to suffice” on the defensive end. I don’t know what the answer is. Any big man that is highly suited to one end of the floor in somewhat deficient at the other in the CTC system. Its probably the fatal flaw, but one that can be remedied with personell, I guess. Maybe Bryant is that guy.

  • TomJameson

    Cooper, you seem to be still dwelling on last years defense. There are three points to consider…

    First — Most unbiased observers expect the defense to be better this year for several reasons, focus, NBA feedback, 5-star skilled center, returning players (stronger, faster, etc…).
    Second — CTC and a couple of players have said plain that that there would be more pressure on the ball. Crean actually said (paraphrasing) that they would shadow the ball all the way up the court. Sounds like no free dribbling by the opponent this year. I like that.
    Third — IU doesn’t really lack depth at the guard position, not as far as pressing is concerned. Don’t forget Harrison who is a good defender, quick, and loves to play defense. He may need a little extra weight, but he can pressure the ball nicely, and he’s not expected to be banging in the middle like a center. LOL

  • TomJameson

    TB could be … Yogi said something to the effect that Bryant runs the floor “Zeller like”, and we know that already he is a banger. Can’t wait for the games to start so we can see these guys in action.

  • TomJameson

    My impression is that Max is more defensive minded. I don’t expect a lot of offense other than rebound baskets, tip-ins, and some close in shots. But he really knows how to block out, set screens, and he definitely will not be moved easily by anybody. LOL

    Max is a big boy for sure.

  • Senor

    I’d just like to see him without a boot! Unless it’s a figurative one, and he has it firmly planted on AJ Hammons’ caboose.

  • straight no chaser

    The comparison to U of L is interesting. Crean and Pitino I think are two of a small handful of coaches who use the same paradigm of defense centered around the deflection (as a gauge for individual defensive performance). I feel going to a full-court press brings us closer to the Pitino paradigm, just not sure how well Crean can pull it off, especially with him having very little room for experimentation (although coming from a year with really bad defense might be the ideal time for new experiments, cuz “it can’t get any worse”).

  • straight no chaser

    This is really wetting my appetite for the real games!

  • Young Hoosier

    Sometimes you have to. Because what we have been doing hasn’t worked.

  • Bill Graham

    I dont mean to play the “I told you so” card. But… I was strongly opposed when in the spring I criticized TB’s awkward mobility and worried about injury concerns with him. Now he is in a boot. Now I’m certainly not a pessimist (I actually think of myself as a slightly optimistic realist) but Max has to be ready to go. And he has to be more serviceable than Perea and Pritchard were.

  • cooper

    1. Who expects D to be better? I’m asking I haven’t seen anything. Ferrell, Blackmon and Williams were all considering pro last year so I’m not sure they are going to try that much harder. I don’t trust a frosh center to stay out of foul trouble.

    2. Again, they can’t keep guys out of the lane playing half court, why would full court be better? Then you worry Bryant is defending the lane and a frosh isn’t getting calls.

    3. There are only four guards on the roster who will play: Ferrell, Blackmon, Johnson, Ziesloft. That isn’t much depth when 3 of them start.

    I like press D, I just don’t with this team

  • TomJameson

    With all due respect man, you haven’t even seen this group of guys play. Answers to your points.

    1. Almost everybody. The question isn’t will they get better, the question is how much will they get better. As far as JBJ and TW not trying much harder … well that is just plain silly! The feedback both of them received included playing defense better. With millions of dollars and a pro career on the line, OF COURSE they will try harder! LOL

    2.Again, last years news. There has been a focus all off-season on the defense, from the coaches to the individual players. All the players are older, more experienced, bigger, faster. I really and truly don’t get how anybody can think they won’t be better. Well, maybe an ostrich with it’s head buried in the sand. I’ll buy that one. LOL

    3. Doesn’t have to be just a guard to harass the other team in a full court, or half court, press. Based on agility, speed, length, and/or experience, the players I see available for that chore are JBJ, Nick, RJ, Troy, Newkirk, Harrison (limited), OG (limited), and of course Yogi. Didn’t name Collin because I see him getting back with TB to protect our court.

    Obviously everybody has an opinion, so we will all see how it works out when they start playing. Until then, GO IU!

  • marcusgresham

    The fact that those three have designs on going to the NBA is THE reason they should all be better defensively–because that’s what they (at least the younger two) were specifically told needed to improve.

  • marcusgresham

    In agreement with you, but you listed Newkirk. He has to sit out this season.

  • marcusgresham

    Why not just go straight up balls-out 1989 Loyola Marymount? We already know IU can score, so just play it the way they did. Totally deny the ball–if you get beat run like hell the other direction and score before the other team gets back downcourt. lol


    Number 1, the answer to that one is the answer to the, how close to 30 wins can we get, question. Insert worn out off season line here…..we only go as far as our defense will take us this coming season.


    The fact that they were told that if they wanted to play at the next level they were going to have to prove that they could play defense a lot better than they did last year “should” be enough motivation for them to improve a whole lot all by itself, let alone all the other reasons.

  • TomJameson

    That’s right … missed that, thanks!

    Point still valid though. 🙂

  • cooper

    I’ve seen 4 of the 5 starters play and they were horrible on D. The past is a lot better predicter of the future than hope they magically change. Rebounding and D were all Crean talked about before last year too. We shall see

  • cooper

    You really think this summer was the first time they were told to improve their D?

  • TomJameson

    You’ve proven my point, you are living in the past. You saw those 4 play last year, and you have ignored all indicators of an improved defense.

    Defense wasn’t a problem “before” last year, and I don’t remember any specific talk about that prior to the season. Rebounding was a problem and they resolved that problem, just like they fix every shortcoming the following year.

    I don’t like the way you sell everybody short, and I guess I’m just a little more optimistic than you. You are right, we will see. You have been so very critical of this team, I hope you are able to get past your bias and enjoy the games.


    I’m sure it isn’t, but this is the first off season that they have had to work on their matador defense, and being told they need to get better on D during the onslaught of their very first season of B1G bball and having a whole off season to work on it are two different things. Plus having people that will control if they are drafted, where they might be drafted and that control the million dollar purse strings will probably make a bigger impact on them deciding that, yea I”m going to put the amount of effort into it that will make me noticeably better than the impact that others telling them that have had in that respect. Now, it shouldn’t be that way, but with people their age it’s kinda like when a parent tells their kid something is a certain way or that they need to be doing something a certain way. While the kid loves and hears what the parent is saying it may resonate and be taken more seriously when someone else they consider knowledgeable about the subject tells them the exact same thing.