BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - Indiana head coach Tom Crean addressed the media on Tuesday afternoon before heading to Atlanta to take on No. 1 Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament on Friday, March 23. Here is a transcript from the press conference.
On Kentucky's defensive intensity:
"They're a great team on defense, because they have length, because they have intensity, because they have tremendous athleticism. They can really take some chances because (Anthony) Davis is behind there to block shots and to alter shots, which is as important as blocking them. To me, that is one of the greatest areas of improvement they've made, is that team defense is really, really good."
On the players' perspective of playing against Kentucky:
"I think they are focused regardless. I don't think that has as much to do with it as you might think. I think they know, because they've taken every game all year long for what it is, hence the 27 wins that we have. They've really done a great job of that. I think they know that there's a lot of hype surrounding this, they know that it's a big-time time of the year. But, most importantly, they know Kentucky is really good."
On Kentucky's three-point shooting:
"I think they're a very good three-point shooting team. They're like us in the sense they don't take a lot. We're a very good three-point shooting team because we don't hunt the three and they don't either. We take the three as part of the offense and we don't take the three as the majority part of it or the necessity part of the offense. I think they're the same way, I think they have excellent shooters. All you have to do is look at the fact that Anthony Davis is taking threes now and he's a very good rhythm shooter. Darius Miller is really on a roll. Certainly Doron Lamb is an excellent shooter. Marquis Teague is coming off an excellent game. (Terrence) Jones has been able to shoot the three since he got there. The list goes on and on. (Kyle) Wiltjer obviously, (Michael Kidd) Gilchrist can make three's. So you can't look at them and say `we're not going to guard this person here, we're not going to guard this person there.' You've got to be aware of all of them and that's an area where they're really, really dangerous. They don't put a player on the floor that can't impact winning on the offensive end or the defensive end. I think the biggest thing is John (Calipari) is such a good coach for a lot of different reasons but maybe this year, more than ever, that team really, really shares the basketball. When you look at the talent on that team, and when you look at the upside of that team and where some of those players are just scratching the surface of where they're going to be in basketball in their careers. And he's got them moving the basketball like that, that's really, really strong. I would imagine that's hard to do but he's done a phenomenal job of that and I think that's one of the reasons they've improved. It's also one of the reasons they've won so many games and they won so many games in a row going into the Vanderbilt game."
On the experience of keeping the team even-keeled:
"We're still trying to recover from the west coast time, we were out there all week. I'm glad we went when we did because it allowed us to get really entrenched in what we were trying to do and get our bodies where they needed to be. Well, there's a flipside to it and people think it's easy. It's one thing to get off the plane and have to go about business. It's a whole other thing when you've got all this surrounding them and they've got to get their bodies back and back in school and be playing at a high level against as good as a team as there is in the country. We've just got to continue to work through the process on that, but they're pretty even-keeled, they're very locked in."
On playing a familiar opponent:
"The game was so long ago that they are a different team, as are we. We do have to be able to do different things conceptually and schematically on both sides, both offensively and defensively. But these guys are used to that. They are used to adding things, they're used to tweaking things. They know that's a part of what we do and they really pick that up well. Even the other day, they were so locked in to run a play at the end of the game that they've never practiced and really succeeded at it three times in a row whether it was Cody (Zeller) scoring, Cody getting fouled or Victor (Oladipo) scoring and getting fouled. When your team has that ability to pick those kinds of things up, you can have a little more freedom in practice to really game plan with that. You know you can adjust a little bit easier during the game. But, with all that being said, Kentucky is so talented. There's very little room for margin of error."
On the importance of Indiana fan support:
"There's no question. We have a picture in our locker room from the Georgia Dome from when Indiana played the National Championship game and you can see a sea of red. We would love to see that and it sounds like we're going to have a lot of fans there, a lot of people making plans to go. I hope the students aren't skipping school too early. I hope they wait, get their classes done and then get in. But, I think we'll have a great crowd. I know Kentucky's planning on a great crowd. Xavier's not that far away. I don't know how Baylor travels. The bottom line is it's a Sweet Sixteen game. Our fans have been outstanding being with us for so long, obviously for decades, but inside with this process, I really hope a lot of them will take the opportunity to go."
On the difference between Kentucky now and back in December:
"The team defense, I would say for one. Then I would say, like any team, they're better offensively. They've added things. (Anthony) Davis with the shooting, there's so many different things. They move the ball really well, you can tell they go to their strengths. I think they know what their strengths are so they really work at going to their strengths. The other thing they're doing right now is they're really finding matchups that they want. Whether it's isolating someone at the post, putting someone at the elbow, coming off the dribble handoff. Doing a lot more for (Darius) Miller, his catch-and-shoot inside the arc is as good as I've seen it and he's getting it off quick. There's a laundry list of where their improvement is but I would start with the team defense and they're really, really playing to their strengths on offense."
On defending Marquis Teague:
"We have to play great defense, it's not as much about an individual matchup as it is how good our team defense is. He's got great quickness and explosiveness so if you let him get into the paint and make plays, he can do that with anyone in the country, there's no doubt about that. You just can't let him in there consistently, or even sporadically, you've got to do a great job of keeping the lane covered as much as possible. That's easier said than done because they are shooters. They're hard to match up with. A lot of teams we play and certainly most teams at this time of the year, they're not putting anybody out on the court who can't make shots, who can't score. Kentucky has guys who can do a lot of things. They can rebound the ball at a high level, they can drive it. They have a lot of multidimensional guys in the sense that they can score from three. They can score on a pull-up if they want it or they can get all the way to the rim. Then, you start to add the offensive rebounding abilities of Davis, Gilchrist and Jones. We're going to have to be completely aware and locked in. Our team defense is going to have to be fantastic, our weak side defense certainly. We've got to defend penetration as much as possible. They don't give you many places where you're going to get a break."
On the friendship with Coach Calipari:
"We've been friends for a long time. I've got a lot of respect for him. Even if I didn't know him very well, I would put him up with anybody as far as a basketball coach. I remember when we were in Conference USA together and he had come to Memphis and I learned more watching him, watching his game tapes, even when we weren't in competition with him that helped me in the sense of spacing, misdirection, defensive things, trapping. I went into that league at 33 and you had Denny Crum, Bob Huggins in that league, Bobby Lutz. Then it was Rick Pitino, John Calipari. It was a total clinic every time you watched game tape. John, I think the biggest thing, he just continues to evolve in so many ways. For as good as he is and as much talent as he has as a coach and with his team, he's constantly asking questions, looking to adjust, looking to add. A lot of guys at his level who are on his career path he's had wouldn't have to do that, he does. I think that's one of the reasons he's such a great coach and that's a big part of our friendship is being able to talk basketball and to compare notes. I learn as much from him, watching him coach and watching how he does things with his team as much as anybody out there."
On how Indiana's improved since December:
"It's a process, a process of going through the season. We've played 26 games since we've played them so I think the team evolved a lot of different ways. We've won games a lot of different ways. We've had to come back from some defeats. I think we're better in almost all areas. I think that's one of the keys to this program. Player development is ongoing and they continue to do that. It was a year ago this Tuesday after spring break when we started our individual workouts and it has just continued to take off and they work very hard. Guys are adding to their game. I think we're better at a lot of things."
On what the first win against Kentucky did for this team:
"I think it helped the confidence immensely that they can prepare like they did, that they can play with that kind of intensity and that they can get the right result out of it. I think very importantly though we learned a lot in that game. I think we learned how we almost squandered it and gave it back because we rushed shots, we made poor decisions, and we didn't guard the dribble as well, things of that nature. That stuff is really, really important and it always takes a while for a team to learn possession by possession basketball and how important it is to never get away from where you need to be, get away what got you do to that point. Our team was very young in that game and we played with tremendous intensity and enthusiasm and did some excellent things but we were also very young and I'd like to think that in the months time over that we've really matured in our decision making and how to finish games but how to also not let the game when the game is up for grabs momentum wise do a lot more things to get it back."
On the atmosphere since getting back from Portland:
"I think it has been great. I think it has been fantastic. I have not been out too much but when we got back, it was fantastic. We had people at the airport, we had people here. I was telling a couple friends of mine, I just really enjoy watching it from the back view now. Like our players were all up in the front of the plane and we land and they could see that there were people waiting outside and out came the camera phones and they were all jacked up. The same thing when we got back here. I wanted them to get off the bus first. I could watch them get the reaction because once you get outside you want to thank people for being there, shake their hands and sign autographs. I wanted to watch them go out and do that. It is fun to watch it that way but we have been really locked in here. We have got a real purpose here to go to Atlanta with the right mindset. They share that. They are leading the way on that. I am really kind of seeing it that way. I ran on campus once, if I have time today I will probably go again. That was nice. People are great but they are always great. They love this program."
On Anthony Davis and Cody Zeller:
"Well they are two different players. In the sense of Anthony Davis, he is getting better. He has added the jump shot certainly to his game. He has set every single shot block record probably that there is for freshman I think. He alters shots. He gives his team a lot of confidence to get out and take some chances and really get after the ball because they know he's back there. You cannot just let him roam free. He's very, very good and there is just absolutely no way to duplicate how quick he gets up for a dunk, how quick he can rise. He is going to be fantastic as you see him getting better throughout the year. Cody, the same way, just continuing to improve. They are two different players but they are two young players that got a big part of their team and they continue to improve at an extremely high level. I do not think Kentucky has had to play without Anthony Davis much this year and hopefully we won't have to play without Cody much on Friday night."
On Will's improvement from when Crean first saw him to now:
"I think he is better with the ball. He is certainly a better 3-point shooter. He had a pretty good defensive mindset, but way better about going into seeing himself as a stopper. He came with the midrange. He could offensive rebounds, but he has got to do even more of that. He is just an all-around better player. The biggest difference is he is a lot stronger. But he was really well coached by his high school coach, Adam Ross. That is the one thing you really get with Victor and Will that you do not know as much about because they were not from Indiana but they were extremely well-coached year round whether it was their high school team or whether it was their summer teams. That helps. They came in with tremendous work ethics. I think Will, like Victor, you didn't ask about Victor but the two of them are very much the same in the way that since they have got to Indiana they have made Cook Hall a big, big part of their life in the way that they are in there. I think you see the product of their development, the way that they work and it's not just about practice time for them. It's about the extra time they spend too and they spend a lot of time at it."