BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - Indiana head coach Tom Crean, along with junior Jordan Hulls and freshman Cody Zeller, talk about the Hoosiers' game against No. 16/13 Michigan in Assembly Hall on Thursday, Jan. 5.
On Michigan's outside shooting:
"Their 3-point shooting is outstanding. The thing that's so good is they get so much of it off penetration and Trey Burke is doing a great job of not only shooting the basketball, but also creating shots for others. Tim Hardaway Jr. shoots the ball extremely well, but he also creates shots for others. In the course of transition, in the course of their half-court offense, and in the course of offensive rebound kick-outs, they're very, very dangerous with the way they shoot the 3 and again, part of that half-court offensive is their shot clock offense. It's very good so you can't get caught in an over-helping situation. It's got to be an early help, early recovery type of game, as it is on most teams that we're going to face that have numerous players that can do numerous things and Michigan's very deserving of everything that they get. They're an extremely well-rounded team."
On balancing some of the matchups against Michigan:
"It's one of those things. You've got to be able to guard multiple positional players. Zack Novak may play the four spot for them. Well, whoever you've got matched up with him has got to be able to handle that and I don't think you can get as caught up in the matchups as you can caught up in making sure that you understand that penetration and speed kill in this game, whether it's their break, which is as good as any in the league, whether it's their penetration off middle and side pick and roll, and again, if you're not controlling the dribbler a lot of bad things can happen to a defense when you're playing Michigan so that's really what it starts with."
On Evan Smotrycz:
"Going into the other day he was shooting 74 percent from 3 the last five games, that's unheard of. He's also averaging a double-double. I'd say the number one improvement area for him coincides with what's been the biggest improvement area, in my mind, for their team, which is their rebounding. I think maybe conventional wisdom thought that their running game might take a step back with Darius Morris not there. I think it's better than what it was a year ago. The defensive rebounding enables that to happen. He's a very, very good shooter off the catch, off the move, off screens and at the same time can make plays at the basket and is a force around the rim because of the way he rebounds."
On what makes them a better rebounding team this season:
"They're very athletic so I think that's part of it. I don't know, maybe just more of a commitment. That'd be a hard question to answer because I'm not sure what's gone into their thought process on that. For us, you've got to have more committed guys to the glass and you've got to have guys that are really grading out high in their attempts and you can't have a team that mixes and matches when they decide to go. Again, I'm not sure how Michigan teaches it, but when I watch them I see a team that is very consistent in going to both backboards. They're a year stronger so the physicality of the block-outs and things are probably that much better."
On the play of Christian Watford the past few games:
"He's getting better, there's no question about it. He's hungry, he's playing with some force, he's playing with an edge, he's playing a lot of minutes for us, and he's playing both ways, and he's gaining a lot of confidence because of it."
On if there's one area this team has grown from the start of the year to now:
"It's hard to tell. We're getting better, but we've got such uncharted water right now for this team. We've got to make sure that we are really, really continuing to stay locked in. I'd say the consistency of focus has been really good. The consistency of our depth has not been as good. You don't have any consistency when you have that. There's always such a group of things that we want to make sure we are getting better at and at the same time, whatever we feel our strengths are we want to continue to make sure that we're locked in to those. It'd be hard for me to quantify what would be one area."
On the challenge of dealing with expectations:
My expectations matter, as do the ones that they have for themselves and as long as we're on the same page with that then we have a chance to keep growing and getting better. It's if my expectations and their expectations don't match up. Outside expectations really don't play one bit into what we're doing and making sure we're locked in to what we're doing every day and making that the best day possible for that event - whether it's practice, whether it's how we prepare for the game with the film, or whether it's certainly the game, that's what's most important."
On the improving the consistency of depth:
"It certainly hasn't helped with having Will (Sheehey) out and that's a huge area because we viewed him as a starter. He is a starter in my mind with the way that he plays so that's hurt us. It's just a matter of we've been a little too up and down. Derek Elston is a great example. Last Wednesday night he certainly could've played better inside of the Michigan State game, but he bounced back and played pretty well against Ohio State. When you have consistency you're not talking about somebody being the most improved player of the week. What you want to have is you want to have guys that there are certain things that they bring every game.
"I think you have to accept that when somebody's out you're not going to necessarily going to replace them with somebody that does the same things so you better make sure that you're trying to utilize their strengths and I think in coaching we get away from that. I know I do sometimes so it's always a reality check to make sure that you're locked in to making sure you're getting the most out of that individual depending on what their strengths are, but at the same time, you cannot allow weaknesses to creep into how you're playing and that's where the consistency comes in. Are we getting better because we're getting tougher, because we're getting more physical, because we're getting more cerebral about the same, because we're understanding game-plans or are we up and down? When you have consistency you can answer yes to those questions at the front, even when you don't do well you can answer yes to them and that's a big step for us right now to take with this team no matter who's playing, but we've just got to continue to make sure that that focus is strong and if you have that then you have a chance to get better and all the things that I mentioned."
On how Austin Etherington and Remy Abell have responded to Big Ten play:
"It's too early to tell. We've played two games where the minutes have been sporadic. I thought the couple of minutes that Austin gave us were very good and the key is to build on that and be able to do more. I think Remy started the momentum train moving for us in a good direction when he came in at the end of the first half and we put him on (Aaron) Craft and even thought it wasn't like he made a stop like Victor (Oladipo) did, he at least got up and he changed the comfort level that Aaron Craft was having in the game because he was extremely comfortable at the beginning of the game and you can't let players like that kind of do what they want. That's how you measure it for freshmen to me and then that continues to build on to the next step for them. Overall, it's just a matter of you want to be able to play on demand and you really know you're building something strong when you go to the bench and you don't feel much drop off and that's what we have to continue to get better at. That's the long term, long haul goal for building a program back to a prominent level that we're trying to do and we've got to take strides there."
On Trey Burke making a quick adjustment to the collegiate level:
"Well he was really good to begin with and I think that's one thing maybe hasn't been talked about as much. The kid was a very successful high school player. He's gone into a system that's a high command position when you play the point guard in John's (Beilein) offense and there are a lot of things that you have to, but the ball is going to be in your hands quite a bit. I think the thing that he's done is he's adjusted to the strength and speed of the college game with his ability, and again I don't know him and never recruited him so I'm just going based on what I saw in the past versus this year. He's very good at getting to the basket, very good. He's outstanding in the pick and roll and again, he's creating so much offense for himself and for his teammates based on his speed and penetration. He seems to be a very in control guard to me. It's probably what a lot of people might look at when they see Cody (Zeller), they don't see a typical freshman, well when you look at Trey Burke you don't see a typical freshman. He's a guy that looks like he's been doing this for a long time and he's very comfortable with whatever he's asked to do."
On how important it is to win at home:
"Every game has been and I said earlier today that when I go to a moment in this season it'd be the Evansville win because we hadn't won on the road, we were going into a tough environment, and we went out there proved to ourselves that we could play very well. Every game has been a springboard for something else and again, every game has been a different type of win, but I think anytime you play or coach you want to protect home court, you want to have an incredible record at home, and we've got so much tremendous support that we don't want to let the fans down with that and I think they've done a great job of supporting this team through all the peaks and valleys of a game, not just what we've dealt with in our time here, but the peaks and valleys that come in a game. I do think the mistake our team can make is to think that home is going to take care of things. I think you better understand that when we line up tomorrow night, it's a great example - that is a really good team who can play well away and have guys that have been successful away from Crisler Arena. You just want to continue to build confidence in your team and certainly winning at home is a huge part of that."
Junior Jordan Hulls
On keeping the focus and an edge to the team heading into the game:
"Definitely, we have to be that way. We practice the same way all season, which is what's getting us the success that we've had, but we still have lots of room to improve. That's what we're doing. It's a new game, new matchups, new everything, so we've just got to focus on that and getting ready for that. We've been doing really well preparing for that."
On preparing for a team like Michigan:
"All of them can shoot - one through five, in some of the different lineups that they have. We've just got to have our matchups ready and be ready for anything. With their zone, we know that they mix it up on defense, so we have to be ready for anything. We've just got to play defense the way that we are capable of doing and creating our offense off our defense will be the main thing for us."
On Trey Burke:
"He's a good point guard. You've just got to keep him in front of you. He likes to get to the basket, but he can also shoot so he's a dual threat. We're going to get our matchups down and see what's going to work best for us and have good help-side defense, good team defense."
On the expectations of the program:
"Every body is going to have their own expectations of us and what we need to do, but as a team, we have our own. We just have to keep raising our level and keep playing the way that we're capable of playing, and that's starting with our defense."
On how difficult Assembly Hall is to play in:
"The fans have been great, even went we weren't as successful. The loyalty has always been there. It's always great to sellout the crowd and they are doing a great job of supporting us. You can hear them on the court when it's going crazy and that's always good to have."
Freshman Cody Zeller
On the challenge that Michigan presents:
"They are obviously a good team. I've never played them, but watching film, they shoot well. They are highly ranked and are going to be another good test for us."
On the match-ups:
"They have four maybe five guys on the floor that can shoot and we'll know our match-ups well enough, who can shoot, who doesn't, so we'll be ready for it."
On how playing in the state championships games helped with the transition to college basketball:
"I think somewhat because of the competitive nature of the state tournament, it's unlike any other. It was very competitive in high school and it's very competitive here in college. I think what prepared me more than anything was my high school coach. He taught me a lot as far as getting ready for the college level."