Indiana coach Tom Crean met with the media on Sunday night at Assembly Hall to discuss the team’s NCAA tournament draw. Watch the press conference below, via the Hoosier Scoop:
Quotes are available after the jump.
COACH CREAN: What we know about Chattanooga is that they have been battle tested. There is no question about that, not only in their league but from the very beginning. Matt McCall has got a great background at Florida with Billy Donovan and took over the job at Chattanooga with a veteran team and has done an outstanding job.
They open up the season winning at Georgia. They’ve won at Illinois. They’ve won at Dayton. We saw them on film early in the season when we played Kennesaw State. That was our common opponent outside of Illinois. You can’t help but follow a team throughout the year. I haven’t seen them play a lot during the year. I will tonight. But a team that wins 29 games and wins in the league the way they did, you have to have great respect for that and we do. So there is no question when you get into this time of the year, you’re going to play an outstanding team in the first round, and only if you’re fortunate enough to keep moving forward, it keeps moving up that same way.
But we know that they can score at a high level. They’re averaging 76 points a game. The thing that jumps out at me right away is the fact that they have made more free throws than their opponents have attempted, and I think we did the same thing in our team in 2013, but that is — I think we did — but that is a huge staple of an aggressive, physical team. They’ve got good balance with McLean and Tuoyo. They really rebound the ball at a high rate. They can score.
You’ve got two all-league guys. You’ve got a Defensive Player of the Year there. They shoot the ball pretty well, and what I remember from the films, and again, I’ll have a much better view next time we get together of them but what I remember is they have very good balance of scoring. They have the Florida style where they can press and do numerous things there, and, again, they look extremely well coached to me.
They have a young man on their staff named Peter Gash what was on our staff our second year here, and then ended up being at Florida Atlantic and moved on to Florida and then Chattanooga.
So that’s a very good brand of basketball when you look at the teams that are in their league with the Tennessee State and Citadel people like that. Again, we’ll get familiar with them in a hurry and we’ll look forward to it.
Q. I guess you’ve studied them before, on some level is it the scouting coming back?
COACH CREAN: I studied their numbers. I studied a group of numbers actually last night late and theirs was one of them, but I didn’t study the film. So we’ll learn a lot more. That’s the best I can give you right now.
Q. Are you surprised with where you’re seeded?
COACH CREAN: The only thing I’m really excited about is I was smart enough to bring our Big Ten Championship trophy down to the room into the team room. I’m glad it was down there because we needed a quick visual reminder that we were a Big Ten champion. So I’ll leave that for other people to talk about.
But I’m proud of what this team has done. I don’t think there is any question about that. Villanova went 8-1 on the road in their league. Okay, ourselves, Michigan State, Kansas, people like that, they win 6-3 on the road in their league. We’ve gone through a tough league, and I’m proud of the way these guys earned their championship.
So I can’t — last couple of years I know we were a 1 seed after we won it. I know Michigan was a 2 seed after they won it. I know Wisconsin was a 1 seed after they won it. I don’t have much more to add other than that. I saw John Calipari’s game with ESPN, he said you’ve got to go play the games. He’s exactly right, so here we go.
Q. Talk about their style and ability to press. Is it sometimes harder to prepare for a team that has an effective press?
COACH CREAN: We’ve handled pressure all year. We practice it and we prepare for pressure. So we don’t play it as much. We have it, but we prepare for it. We see it. I don’t think it’s going to be a lot different than seeing Iowa’s press and things like that. But they have the ability to do different things.
But like I said, I’ll have a much better understanding. I haven’t had any time to get into the film yet, and our players haven’t seen any film yet, so I’ll be able to answer that much better later.
Q. Will will you be doing as far as self-scouting?
COACH CREAN: Building on what we’ve done since we’ve been home. We had a great practice last night. We had a very informative film session today and weightlifting session things of that nature and conditioning. I’ve got to plan all that out tonight. I have my ideas and probably won’t adjust them much. You have to wait till you see what you’re going to have on a Thursday or Friday. We know what we’re going to play Thursday night now, correct. So we’ll set the tone for that.
We’ll leave sometime Tuesday. That will all get laid out tonight. I mean, they’re in the process of doing that right now. So it’s a balance of making sure that we keep improving based on what we’ve got to get better at, which is exactly what we did last night. Start preparing for this team, and put all our focus on Chattanooga this is not a situation where we start getting ready for three teams. I mean, we get ready for Chattanooga, and if we’re fortunate enough to win that one, we’ll take care of the next game and get ready for that one after.
Q. Is there a burden with Kentucky potentially the next opponent?
COACH CREAN: Well, I think we’re all just going to focus on Chattanooga, and I think that’s the most important thing. So I think I’m not sure burden is the word. I don’t think anybody looks at anything like a burden. I think everybody looks at this season like just take the next day. They’ve been extremely resilient and they’re very good at being focused. So I think that’s what the key thing is, and I think we’re only guaranteed one game right now, and that’s against Chattanooga Thursday night. So that’s the most important thing and the only thing we’ll get ready for.
Q. What’s the difference this year from the past two years?
COACH CREAN: I’m not sure. I’m not sure that’s anything that really comes into fruition when you get into the next year almost 360-some-odd days. So the players have the experience of it. I think the biggest thing that you have to learn, and this is something we talked about as a staff, because it was even the other day. When you play in the league you’re either home, right in front of 17,000 fans with that energy, or you’re on the road with whatever fans they have and that energy. So there is that home and road feel.
When you get into these neutral environments, and the other day was like that as well. It’s a big arena. There were Indiana fans, Michigan fans, but you’ve got to learn how to play in those environments. I’ve never been to the Des Moines Arena. But certain times you get to the big arenas, and for you, it’s not all for the other team and a lot of times it’s not all the way full. So you’ve got to be able to deal with that and you’ve got to be able to create your own energy and emotion, and you’ve got to be able to really stay locked in.
I mean, the other day we didn’t play a great game, we made a defensive mistake that we don’t make, right? And the result comes down and really looks like it appears to come down to one or two plays, a missed free throw here or rotation there. But it’s really the plays inside the game. It’s getting them to truly understand you can’t have empty possessions. You might miss, but you better have an aggressive possession.
You can’t allow the teams to go on runs, the other team to go on runs. You can’t give up open shots. I heard Bill Self say this when we were watching that marathon of a show, that you’ve got to be able to make open shots, right? You’ve got to make those open shots when you go into an arena. You want them really comfortable doing that. You’ve got to take care of the ball. Right? But at the same time, you’ve got to create easy baskets off the team’s turnovers or misses.
But those are not things you learn from the year before. Those are things you learn throughout the year. So I think that’s the most important thing.
Q. First of all, what were your thoughts?
YOGI FERRELL: We’re really excited. This is another opportunity for us to go out and showcase what we’ve done all year, and felt pretty happy with where we were picked and just pretty excited.
MAX BIELFELDT: Yeah, a 5 seed, historically a lot of those 12 seeds are underrated and they pull out upsets. But I think with the mindset we’ve got all year, we’ve just got to be ready. When any team makes the tournament, you know they’re good, especially a team with only five losses.
They’re a talented team. They beat Dayton, at Georgia, at Illinois. They’re definitely not going to get overlooked at all. You can’t at this point of the year. You’ve got to give everything you’ve got scouting and learn them like the back of your hand.
Q. Were you prepared to be a 5 seed?
MAX BIELFELDT: I mean we know we’re going to get put where we get put. You’re going to have to play all the same teams to go where you want to go anyway. So whether you’re 3, 4, 5, 10, 16 seed, doesn’t matter to us, we’re just going to try to beat whoever’s in front of us.
Q. The Big Ten didn’t seem like it got a lot of respect in terms of the seeding. Do you guys feel like that? Do you feel maybe the conference has a little bit of a chip on its shoulder?
NICK ZEISLOFT: I mean, seeding-wise it might look like that, but it’s such a great conference anyways. We know it’s a battle-tested conference, it’s a great one, and teams are going to see that in the tournament.
YOGI FERRELL: I felt like we’ve got more guys on this team that are willing to fight for each other. I think that’s the biggest thing and difference that I see is the desire, the pride to want to go out there and get a stop for our teammates, so I feel like this team is more connected. Last year’s team, a little bit inexperienced with the NCAA tournament. But I’ve been in it, Max has been in it, so we can give a little bit of wisdom to these guys.
Q. What do you know about Chattanooga?
YOGI FERRELL: Well, we know they can score very well, averaging up to 77 points per game. They’ve got a Defensive Player of the Year for their conference, so they have a great all-around game, and we know they’ve got great guards that can score it. Their inside presence is very solid on defense, and they’re a team that only has five losses, and we know they’re a great team that can play together.
Q. What have you heard from people since you found out who you’re playing?
MAX BIELFELDT: We’ve got a lot of people who definitely hand us things we didn’t know. We don’t exactly have access to that on our own, but we have the managers and all the guys do a great job telling us what we need to know and getting us prepared as far as scouting. I know they’re up there working their butts off clipping videos from all the games they’ve played and find some areas of attack.
Q. What’s the key ingredient to do well in March?
YOGI FERRELL: The key ingredient I would say play every game like it’s your last. You never know what stop in the game is going to be the one for you to win the game. Just got to have the mindset, got to be connected. You’ve got to have great fundamentals. You’ve got to refine your fundamentals, refine your techniques and your concepts defensively because now it’s just one-and-done.
Q. Max, what would you tell the young guys about what this whole thing is like?
MAX BIELFELDT: It’s definitely one of a kind. You come to this kind of year, and the whole thing the way it’s set up, it’s not the NBA where you have seven games. It’s one game. You have to come out and you have 40 minutes maybe more to prove yourself. You’ve got to make every minute count. However much pressure is on you, you can’t break.
So you’ve got to be that team that can withstand more of the pressure than the other team. When things really get crazy instead of breaking you come closer together and you really just play as one offensively, defensively, and that’s when you really get it going.
Q. Will it be hard not thinking about the potential matchup against Kentucky?
YOGI FERRELL: I don’t think it will be very hard. We’re going to prepare for Chattanooga just like Kentucky, and I feel like when we get to that game we’ll be prepared for Kentucky. But right now all we’re focused on is Chattanooga and just getting them down.
Q. Max, you’ve been a part of a run before; can you talk about that?
MAX BIELFELDT: Yeah, the teams I’ve been fortunate enough to be on had just that incredible spirit. So many games at this point, they don’t call it March Madness for nothing. So many games at this point come down to the last possession and the last whatever three or four. You’ve just got to make sure that you make every one count. You can’t lose focus in a game. You’ve got to execute. One less turnover or one more stop could be the difference.
As long as your team understands that and values the ball and still plays the game that you want to play, that’s when you have a really dangerous team. I think if we stay focused and our mentality is where I think it will be after we get in the Big Ten tournament and the journey we’ve been on this season, I think we can be one of those teams that really just gets it going.
Q. What makes this team one that can make a run in the tournament?
MAX BIELFELDT: I’d say the biggest thing is everything we’ve been through this season. I think nothing that comes at us is going to be unexpected. I feel like we’ve been through just about every major scenario that you go through in a season. Like Notre Dame, whether you’re down 16 or we’ve been through that and a hostile Duke crowd, we’ve been through that. We’ve gotten better from everything, wins and losses throughout the year.
No matter what happens I think as long as the young guys are wanting it as bad as the old guys and playing it like it’s their last game and really just playing as hard as they can and staying connected at the same time, the five guys out there, and all the guys on the bench are connected, I think we can be really special.
Q. Can you talk about how hard it was not to be playing basketball this last weekend, but also what you guys learned?
NICK ZEISLOFT: Yeah, we definitely didn’t play how we wanted to. We’ve seen the film, look slow at times. We’ve dissected it well today and yesterday. There are things we can learn. We realize that we were kind of out of character on some things and we can definitely get better at.
Q. Can you talk about coming down the stretch in your career and how you’ll feel?
YOGI FERRELL: My feelings are especially high, and I’m going to be playing as hard as I’ve ever played probably in these games right here. I know I play hard, but especially for this one because I feel like our team definitely deserves it and we’ve worked so hard. Like Max said, everything we’ve been through. So emotions are very high. We’re very excited and humbled by this moment, where we got picked and we’ve just got to go on with confidence.