Previewing VCU vs. Indiana - NCAA Tournament Third Round
March 16, 2012
PORTLAND, Ore. - Indiana head coach Tom Crean, along with junior Christian Watford, sophomore Victor Oladipo and freshman Cody Zeller participated in press conferences heading into the Hoosiers' third round game vs. VCU in the NCAA Tournament in Portland on Friday, March 16.
Indiana Press Conference
Q. Just to follow up on that, what kinds of things can you do in practice to sort of replicate the kind of pressure that they bring you?
Q. Can you talk about the responsibility on you and Remy tomorrow, especially with Jordan having to handle, I believe he played 35 minutes on Thursday, how much is it on you and Remy to help him out?
Q. The Indiana program was down when you got there, Coach Crean came in. Can you talk about what it took to get it back to where it is now?
Q. Wichita State's big man, Garrett Stutz, was really stopped pretty well last night by VCU defense. What did they do against him and what will be the keys for you against them?
Q. I know you guys were happy to win yesterday, but what was the team mood like on the bus going back to the hotel? Were you euphoric about it or was it more of a business as usual kind of thing?
Q. What was it about Coach Crean and Indiana that really lured you to commit there?
Q. What gave you the confidence in him?
Q. Is there any other team out there that you can compare the pressure to that you will see on Saturday that you maybe have faced earlier in the season?
Q. Coach Crean was talking last night that you guys basically didn't see Tim Buckley leading up to the game yesterday because he was so busy with prep. Going into this one, could you talk about how the assistants prepared you guys for these games, especially on a quick turnaround?
Q. What did you think watching VCU's run through the tournament last year and what was your reaction when you saw that they were in the same bracket grouping as you guys for this tournament?
Q. Victor, how do you balance the excitement of being here mixed with the pressure and all that stuff? How do you guys handle that?
Q. When you look back to when you got here at Indiana what did you think needed to be accomplished or some of the things that needed to be accomplished to get you to this point?
But I think the most important thing is every day that passed and we realized that we were in a tough situation, we needed to make sure that -- the fans were so great to us and so gracious -- that we had to make sure that we kept them with us, because we were starting to get a feel day after day that this was going to be really, really hard. And the bottom line is they stayed with us and our former players came back in droves.
As we've gone through it, then you start to really look forward to the future and to get to points like this, but when we first got there, there was no way to think clearly on anything for really past the next couple of days. It was all about what's going to happen next, how are we going to handle it and how do we get a team ready for the season.
Q. Has it progressed as quickly as you thought or a little quicker?
There really is no way to quantify it. We just had to keep getting better day after day. Now, the vision never wavered. It really didn't. We always knew where we wanted to end up, and we're continuing to try to get there.
But as far as putting any timeline on it, especially with the way that we had to literally have a brand-new team that first year, there was no way to have that timeline in place to say we're going to do this in X amount of years.
Q. Talk about how your staff has rarely seen Tim in the past few days. Talk about what your staff did since last night.
But this is a tough preparation because of their pressure, because of their -- we see a lot of good pick-and-roll teams. This team is no different. This team doesn't take a backseat to anybody we've played in pick-and-roll basketball. They do a lot of switching. They make you get ready for a lot.
And we've tried to take that time, not try to inundate our players with a ton of information, but try to keep giving it to them in bits and pieces. And then this practice that we have this afternoon will be very important.
Q. Is there any way to replicate their pressure in practice? Gregg Marshall from Wichita State said he was using six guys on the press to get his guys used to not having time and space. Is there any way to do that?
I don't know if we'll do a lot of that today because we've got to put a couple of different pressure releases in. But there will be some live action, there will be some stepping through traps. There's some definitive places that VCU wants you to catch the ball, which is like most pressing teams, which is deep in the corner, and then try to get you to throw it back underneath the basket. And they do an excellent job.
And this is not a game where I think we're going to be able to bring fatigue to the game. I thought we were able to bring fatigue to the game last night. I think this team is deep. I think they're used to the way they play. And we're not going to be able to replicate it as much. So it's really a lot more about how strong we are with the ball, what our vision is like and what our mindset is like in seeing that press.
Q. You and your coaching staff have been through NCAA tournament situations before. Is there a balance between getting as much work you want but getting enough rest for you to be as crisp as you want to be?
The one thing that I like to do back home is I like to get away and really kind of watch a lot of the games myself before we sit and have meetings. It's a little bit harder to do that right now because there's less time.
But our conversations are great. But, yeah, nobody is sleep deprived. We get the balance. Went for a run before I got -- before I went up, changed and got on the bus to come over here. We've got pretty good balance.
It's most important for the players that they stay fresh, that they stay excited, that they absorb what we're trying to give them. And it's not so much that it goes in one ear and they don't really comprehend what you're trying to give, that you do it in bits and pieces. That's the one thing I learned a long time ago. I saw Tom Izzo reference 1998 when we were playing Eastern Michigan and Princeton and Connecticut. And that's very much where that formula was created, and really happenstance. It was late at night and it was very short meetings for the players. And it worked. So I've adopted that. I know he has.
And that's really what you try to do to keep them at a fever pitch so when that game time comes that they feel great, that they feel prepared but yet they're really rested and ready to roll.
Q. You've had success at multiple programs now. You coached Wesley Matthews at Marquette, so now there's a coaching vacancy with the Blazers, I imagine it's just a matter of time before we see you here in Portland full-time?
Q. Maurice Creek is the guy that's had to sit through the season on the sidelines and last night he's in the civilian seats. What was that for him like last night and what has it been like for him the whole season?
And when you hear something like that, because I'm not tuned into that during the game, I'm tuned into it on the bench, but that's a great thing. Maurice has got a maturity about him. This cannot be easy. It's so hard -- there's no way to be in his shoes when you look at this and you look at all he's had to endure with those three surgeries within 22 months. But he keeps coming back.
There's obviously no way he would have been able to play this year. He's never been able to practice with us, other than shoot a little bit. But I just -- there's no question we want him to have the success that he so truly and richly deserves moving forward.
It's like why it's so hard to deal with when a guy like Verdell Jones puts so much into this, does so much and then can't play in this. And then you think about where Maurice has been the last couple of years. Again, as we said so many times to him, his mother said to him, God doesn't give you anything that you can't handle. And I think Maurice is living proof of that. And really, really proud of how he's continued to respond and mature this season.
Q. What about their pressure makes them so effective, a lot of teams obviously maybe try to press, but VCU does it better than anybody?
And I think they do an excellent job of pushing you in a spot. Their traps are really hard nosed, they close their traps. They're constantly coming at you if you get an advance with the back-tipping procedures.
So you've got to do a great job of catching the ball where you want to catch it. If you catch it where they want you to catch it, it's going to be a problem. It's going to be in the deep corner, there's going to be two defenders that are live and there's going to be a baseline and a sideline line that now turn into four people. And we've watched so much film where people have been in that situation and there's no way to capitalize on that.
So where you catch it, what you do on the next pass, those are the most important things. Your fundamentals really come into play, getting the ball out in front, reversing the basketball, head up, all those types of things. But if you asked one question, I think it's their length. Or one reason, I think it's their length.
Q. What was kind of the overall message that Tony La Russa gave to the team yesterday?
But the bottom line is everybody can respond to a message when they've been through it to a degree. That team was really -- they were close to being out of it. And there wasn't really a lot of people midyear, end of the year that were picking them to go anywhere. And their team really rallied around one another. And he gave some of those examples. And they hit home with our guys.
Q. Cody is obviously from a basketball family. Can you talk about the advantages of recruiting someone like that that's watched siblings have success and what he's done to help your program get back to this point?
It was truly an honor to recruit him. And the day that he was making his decision, it was a Thursday, I believe, I'd gone to get some breakfast and I made a call to his father. And it was, on my part, it was somewhat emotional. I said I don't know how this is going to turn out, I know I hope it turns out, but it has been an absolute honor of the parents of our three children, my wife and I, to be able to watch how they raised theirs, especially Cody. And I say that because nothing was going to speed them up, nothing was going to distract them. They knew what they wanted to do in the sense of how they were going to have it play out. And that's exactly how Cody is as a player.
And you're starting to see it with the jump shot, you're seeing it with the driving. We see all those things in practice. It's a comfort level he has, when he brings that comfort level to the game that he knows he can do those things, his game takes another step. That's why he's as good as he is right now. There's so much great basketball ahead of him.
And that's really what the recruiting process was like. It was fun to watch him get better. It was fun to get to know him. It was fun to see the process that they used and the things that were important to them.
And as I've said many times before back home, when the Zellers are able to write a book, I'd be the first in line to buy it, when it comes to how to deal with your children, how to raise them, and in the same sense how to have people that have that kind of attention bestowed upon them, they're as real a deal a family as you could ever possibly imagine, to have all this attention that they get.
Q. Is there anything that you can draw upon from Butler's national semifinal victory over VCU?
I think the bottom line is as we go through what we want to do to attack them today and be able to get back tonight, watch the practice film and decide is this what we want to do and spend some time tonight and maybe tomorrow morning a little bit on bits and pieces from last year.
We've seen enough of how they've just destroyed certain teams this year with their pressure. And that's where we wanted to get our guys' attention more than anything else.
One thing that helps us and helps these guys is when they can see, okay, if this team would have done this, if this was open, look at how they're handling this, and I think our guys start to get a better example. At the same time they see just how good it is.
Q. How important is it for all five guys to handle the pressure and not just Jordy?
To expect one or two people to break this pressure, that's what they would want. And certainly we will miss Verdell. There's no question. There's no way around it, we will. But at the same time, other guys have to step into these opportunities and play with confidence and strength and toughness.
And like I said, execution equals recognition, and recognizing what's there and what the defense is giving us, and we've just got to go play.
Q. How much do Vic and Will change the attitude of this program, and how are those guys different and similar personally, I guess?
They helped really bring an even stronger work ethic to the program, even more of -- as simple as this sounds, it's really sometimes kind of complex, they love basketball. I mean, they love it. And there's very few things you could ask them about the game or about college or pro that they wouldn't have a clue, and they love playing it, they love following it.
And that kind of permeates inside of your team. And they came at a time when guys were kind of at the crossroads, how much do they love it, we're not winning, all this hard work, all this stuff that I'm asking them to do and we're doing, and we're not getting a payoff for it, and these guys really brought another level of energy to the program. This past summer it went up a couple more notches.
And we had a lot more guys that had a hard work, work ethic, gym rat mentality that spring, summer and fall than we had had in the past. And some guys changed, but I also think there was, we've got to keep up, this is going to be really, really competitive. And Will and Victor led the way.
And I think there's no question that the success that we're having this year, when you look at how their improvement has been, it's a big part of it. It speaks for itself.
Q. I know your players talked about this last night, but can you talk about the way Remy Abell played and the game last night and how important he will continue to be?
But the biggest thing is he's fear also. He doesn't get too tight or wound up in all of this. He's played in a lot of big games in his mind and this is just another stage for him.
VCU Press Conference
Q. How important is it for you guys tomorrow to get a good offensive game out of Juvonte Reddic?
Q. Why do you feel you guys are so much better defensively this year than you were last year?
Q. Even when you guys are not forcing turnovers necessarily what does your defense do to unsettle offense?
Q. Athletes at your level in general are pretty confident. You guys seem to be supremely confident, and it's like the idea of losing never even crosses your mind. I wonder how you develop that attitude and did you learn much of it from the players who preceded you last year?
Q. With a team like Indiana who has kind of been comfortable playing at a faster pace, like you said before, do you guys change your defense at all or do you just kind of adjust to them being able to play that fast?
Q. Would you mind addressing the confidence question, because you've come along the last two or three years?
Q. Can you talk a little bit about what it's like to be the Cinderella of March, what the run was like last year. How has that changed the program there at VCU? TROY DANIELS: It was a great run we had last year. We're trying to start that run this year. It's great for the community. Great for VCU. And really great for us.
Touching back to the motivation standpoint, it was just a lot of people were doubting us, and we're very motivated. And it helps us win in games, late in games. We know a lot of people are against us, we just want to use that as motivation. We want to start this run this year, so we're looking forward to it.
Q. Is it possible for a mid-major like VCU to ever shake that Cinderella tag when you do well in a tournament?
Q. Can you talk a little bit about Coach Smart's style, what makes him unique, from a player's perspective what makes him a successful coach?
Q. Last couple of years you guys have beaten UCLA, USC, Kansas. What did those schools mean to you as basketball kids growing up? Do the names on the front of the uniform, does it mean anything now when you're going up against a school with a history like Indiana?
Q. In what ways is this team similar to last year's team and in what ways is it different?
Q. Why do you feel you guys are so much better defensively this year than you were last year?
Q. There seems to be no self-doubt among the players on this team. The shots you took late in the game last night came, just your second shot of the second half, and you were one for like six on your 3's before that. What is it about you guys that gives you that confidence and where does it come from?
Q. At what point in your career did you decide that going to pressing, trapping, havoc style was the way to go for you?
And I worked for three coaches specifically that I think were terrific, are terrific pressing coaches, Keith Dambrot at the University of Akron, Oliver Purnell I worked for at Dayton and at Clemson. And those Clemson teams, to me, were as good of pressing teams as any in the country. And then I worked for Billy Donovan at Florida, as well, who everybody knows is a great pressing coach.
Q. Does it also help that the press was already established at VCU before you got there. You had guys that kind of knew how to do it to a degree. Did you have to change a lot or was it established that they knew how to play it?
But I think to your point, there were some guys that had some pressing concepts already built in, Anthony Grant did a terrific job, getting guys to play hard. Getting guys to extend ball pressure. And that's what pressing is all about. So when we got there a few years ago, we put in our presses and we've kind of built the system from there and continued to evolve it.
Q. Your players seem to have no self-doubt. They seem to never think that they're going to lose. And you talk about playing aggressive, confident and loose. How do you instill that in them? Is it something that starts in the recruiting process when you see new players or do you develop it once they get there?
I know we're playing the Hoosiers, but I'll reference the movie "Hoosiers," they talked about in the movie, the baskets are still ten feet. The court is still the same length. Nothing has changed.
So I think for our guys, as coaches we try to instill a lot of confidence in them. Let them know they can go play their game. Our No. 1 rule on the court is to play hard. And if guys follow that rule, which I think our guys do a pretty good job of doing, then I'm all about allowing them to let their hair down offensively and go attack.
Q. When you guys are playing, have a short turnaround like you do tomorrow, how much of an advantage is there to playing a unique style?
So in theory, our style is something that will be new for them to see tomorrow. Sometimes that works out, sometimes it doesn't work out. But we practice the way that we play every single day. And in theory that should be an advantage for us. Hopefully our guys can turn theory into practice.
Q. To follow up on that, Gregg Marshall from Wichita State said they used six guys in practice and press. Is it possible for an opponent to replicate what you guys do?
I've never been big on that, putting six guys out there. I understand the concept, but there's certain opportunities that are going to be there when there's five guys out there and when you put a sixth guy it's a little bit artificial.
But I think what that does is maybe addresses the mindset of hey, there's going to be people flying at you, there's going to people all around. If we can break the press with an extra guy, then we're going to be fine against five guys. It's much more mental than it is anything else. And for us in certain games this year that's where we've had an advantage is mentally we've really been able to get teams on their heels. If we can be the aggressors, usually we have a really good chance to win.
Q. You were talking about Cody Zeller and not being able to replicate him. How much of a tough match-up is it with the press and with him being able to run the floor so well?
You talk about him running the floor. We definitely can't give him easy baskets in transition. I would guess that one of the things that they'll try to do is get the ball in quickly after makes or certainly on misses, get the ball outlet quickly and then look for Zeller running to the rim. If you can get the ball in extremely quickly before the press is set up, then that's one way to beat pressure defensive teams.
So for us, that's going to be a big point of emphasis. We have to get in the press quickly and make sure we get back and take away layups from him.
Q. The nation has gotten to know you and your program a little bit over the past couple of years. You've spent a few days in Portland now. And as of last night there's a vacancy in the head coaching position of the Portland Trail Blazers. So I guess the question is: When are we going to see you throw your hat in that ring?
But I'm in the moment right now at VCU. And I love it at VCU, I'm just excited about our opportunity against Indiana tomorrow.
Q. Are jobs like that something -- is that appealing to you, that NBA position?
For me, I've never thought about it seriously. I'm just a 34-year-old guy at VCU. I played at Kenyon College. That kind of stuff is unreal to me. I just try to do a good job with our team here and hopefully things will work out.
Q. The Hoosiers attributed some of their success yesterday to getting out here early and their preparation. I'm curious what stands out to you about your team's preparation in particular in these instances where you have a very short turnaround?
So I don't think it's so much about when you get there, for us. Maybe for other teams it is. I think in the book, the "Art of War," it says the first side to the battlefield normally wins.
It's all about how you look at it. But it comes down to having your guys, when you get on the floor, locked in on what they need to do. And for us when we got to Portland, the first practice we had, we practiced over at Portland State. I thought it was just okay. But then I thought about it when the practice got done. And it's a five and a half hour flight, our guys had been laying around in the hotel for awhile.
So, again, it's all about once you take the floor for the game, are you in the right frame of mind? Are your guys ready to execute the game plan? With the short turnaround, there's so many things that you try to cram into your guys' heads, especially with a Tom Crean-coached team. They're probably putting in ten new plays as we speak. We can't know everything that they do. We just have to have three, five, seven key aspects of what they do that we're trying to take away.
Q. Since you already got a coach question, you've obviously been mentioned for various actual college jobs, Illinois among them. Have you given any thought to that? Is it a distraction to hear your name starting to come up when you're getting ready for an NCAA tournament run?
It's pretty easy actually while you're still playing just to focus on the task at hand. We talk to the guys all the time about being in the moment, letting go of the past and certainly not focusing on the future, because you don't have control over those things.
There's a lot of things that in the past that we certainly would love to go back and change. I think all of us here. And there's a lot of stuff in the future that we'd love to mold and shape and control. But all we can control is what we have today. And that's been our motto as a team all year long is to own today, focus on today. Today is all about preparing for Indiana. Tomorrow is about playing Indiana. And then we'll go from there.
Q. Troy Daniels said that in a practice you're always telling the players that they're great and it's something you're trying to instill in them. So are your practices just sort of big love-ins filled with pats on your back and everything or do you have to do it in a variety of ways?
Q. You've given us the first Sun Tzu reference. I know you collect quotations, I read that someone. Any particular quotations you've rolled out in particular for this postseason?
No, I haven't rolled too many out. We joke around, our coaching staff, we use different quotes. I think there's a Shakespeare quote, everyone wants to talk about the past, Shakespeare said what's won is done. Soul's joy lies in the doing. We've used that at times because everyone wants to talk about last year's Final Four run, but that's done, that's over. It's all about now.
Q. Can you elaborate on that a little bit, talking about getting over the run from last year. You said you've moved on, it's in the past?
But nobody really sits around in their room and dwells on it or is watching tapes of last year. It's all about the opportunity that we have now. And there's 32 teams after tonight that have a chance to win a National Championship, 32 teams. And there's 300-some teams in Division I basketball.
So to be around, to be alive at this time of year in the NCAA tournament is such a special, golden opportunity. So why would we take any of our energy and focus on the past?
Q. Bradford talked about how last year you guys had a lot more offensive play makers. And how this year you guys are really focused a lot more on defense. How much better is this team in implementing your system?
Because we're not as good of a shooting team, we have our stretches where we score really well, where we shoot really well. But we really depend on our pressure defense. We depend on our ability to stop teams in the half court and I think that's what's allowed us to win 29 games.
Q. Just curious, the success your conference has had with you guys and George Mason, are you surprised you haven't gotten the benefit of the doubt on Selection Sunday as a league that maybe the A-10 and the Mountain West has gotten at this point?
I do think if you look over the past several seasons the teams from our league that have been given the opportunity in the NCAA tournament have really taken advantage of it and done well. So hopefully in the future we'll continue to do better. We'll continue to get more teams in the tournament. And I think as we get teams in the tournament we'll have an opportunity to advance.
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