BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - Indiana head men's basketball coach Tom Crean previews the Hoosiers' game at NC State in the 13th annual Big Ten/ACC Challenge on Wednesday, Nov. 30 at 7:15 p.m. ET.
Tom Crean Opening Statement:
"This team is very impressive to watch on film. NC State, they've had some really tough games, they've had some games where they were really jelling, they've had some games that they find a way to win. They're extremely explosive. They look pretty deep to me and they're just, with the fact that C.J. Leslie was out for some time and that Scott Wood was out a little bit with an ankle injury, they really look like they're hitting their stride right now. As far as November, I think they're going to get a lot better just like we're going to get a lot better. Their explosiveness, they're a really diverse team. They can play a lot different ways. They're extremely good inside, they have a tremendous point guard that can get into the lane and create havoc and score baskets. They've got Scott Wood who's shooting as well, maybe as anyone in the country right now at 58 percent from range. He's certainly one of the absolute best shooters if not the best shooter that we will maybe see all year. They cause a lot of problems for us there's no question about it. Plus, it's a road game. What we've been focused on is not only them, but in a short period of time, continue to try and improve knowing that when you go on the road, your margin for error is slim to begin with, but when you're playing against athletes and very talented individuals like this from top to bottom, with a lot of length, they can really cause a lot of problems. We've got a lot of things to do. It starts with taking care of the ball on the road and make sure we're moving the ball offensively. Defensively we've got to get back in transition and it all starts with that. It'll be a major challenge for us tomorrow night, no doubt about it."
On the NC State's transition of coaching staffs:
"I just watched them on this year, I watched a little film from last year and this summer, but they have very talented players. They have a very good coaching staff, obviously, but that team was in place and just about there, I thought, a year ago when I watched games on television. But, I don't think, even losing the point guard, they haven't missed a beat. I thought maybe they'd be a little different without Ryan Harrow. I think they're really good. Lorenzo Brown is outstanding and they can beat you a lot of different ways. They're scoring 79 points a game and I haven't really gone back and looked statistically last year, but this team can play a lot of different ways. They can play very fast but they can also pound it in and they can beat you in a possession game as well."
On how big of a challenge NC State presents:
"Extremely. Every year. We're picked a certain place in the Big Ten and all of a sudden we're playing a team that's not picked anywhere near us. It's been that way since we got here. It was that way when we played Wake Forest when these guys were freshmen. It's been that way so we've just come to expect it. Indiana is a draw when it comes to television, I get that. But at the same time, they're right there. They were right there a year ago to being the kind of team, they had some excellent wins. But, it'll be a huge challenge. Their athleticism, their length, they can cover a lot of ground, they're very, very good inside and the one thing they maybe do as well as anything is offensive rebound. So it's a big challenge."
On Verdell Jones' health:
"He was very good today. I think everybody goes through [the flu] a little bit, but he was very good today. He was very efficient, back to his old self, so hopefully that will carry over."
On C.J. Leslie:
"It's very hard to prepare for that. It's like preparing for a 6-8 Victor [Oladipo]. His second and third effort is tremendous. His first effort is very good, his first step is very good, but it's the second and third effort of him that I think separates him. He is tremendous around the basket and can drive the ball, his first step gets him fouled and you constantly got to be aware of him. The one guy that's maybe the one guy that causes the most match-up problems for us though might be Richard Howell. He's really, really good. Fierce around the bucket, can step out and shoot, rebounding at a high level. So, this is not a game where you can look at it and feel like we can put a man and a half here and we can cheat there a little bit and we can step off there, you can't do that. Because the moment you do that, they're going to be by you and be at the offensive glass. And, we've got to rebound the ball better. There's no doubt about that. We've got to block out better. We blocked out better and got tougher in the second half but it wasn't near enough the first half the other night against Butler and we knew that. We knew what kind of offensive rebounding team they were, we knew how aggressive they were and if you don't make first contact, that's a problem. Well, in this game they not only make first contact but they'll just jump over you and that's something this team hasn't seen yet. There are guys in this program that have seen it, but this team hasn't seen that. They haven't gone up against that so that's huge in itself."
On matching Tom Pritchard against Richard Howell:
"I think the other night when we were able to play Tom and Cody [Zeller] together was good. I don't think that's a question that that's something that could happen more down the road. I think it's more `see how the game is going,' feel it out, but it's not going to be a game for the faint-hearted underneath the basket. You're going to have to make contact and Tommy is a fierce competitor and he's aggressive, he'll rebound, he's not afraid to get hit, he's not afraid to hit first. Those things are really important, so I would expect that his personality and his senior experience will definitely help us in this game. But, Christian [Watford], Derek [Elston], Cody, they've all got to rebound at a high level in this game. Will [Sheehey], Victor [Oladipo], much like the other night, you've got to get guard rebounds. That's one thing that Butler put a lot of pressure on you with is that they really rebound with their guards and we've got to do a better job with that."
Comparing past Big Ten/ACC Challenges to this year:
"This would have been the year we would have been home, but the way it worked out, we were willing to go on the road because we wanted to get some balance in the schedule with Kentucky. The way this had been is we were playing the ACC game and the Kentucky game on the road at the same time and at home at the same time and it just wasn't as good for us. So, that played into it a little bit. It doesn't phase me anymore. We're going to get a really good game. We're going to be a draw, Indiana always is. I like the opportunity to go see where we're at. It's a November game and I think it's important that we as coaches remember that first and foremost. We have not been in this type of environment and hopefully getting that win at Evansville helps these guys understand that they can go on the road and compete and play, but it's a different team. This is as challenged as we will have been athletically, depth, talent and the whole thing so we'll have to see where it goes. But, I know these guys are excited. We're all excited to play."
On difference between Evansville on the road and NC State:
"I don't think we're going to have 2,000 IU fans from Washington, Indiana at this, so it'll be different. But, it's good. The Big Ten is like that. This is a big test for us knowing that we've got another one in Conseco where we'll definitely be in a different area, but we'll have Indiana fans, before we go up to Michigan State and the Big Ten schedule we have. So, we're going to have to play, it's November, let's go, let's go see where we stand and let's go in there knowing that the task is high. We've got to have great concentration and focus. We want to go play and we want to play with confidence, but there's got to be a lot of intelligence in this game. Because they turn a lot of turnovers into dunk and not every team can do that. But, when you're in this league they can and this team is no different. You just look at it and you looked at who they've played and how they've played and if Vanderbilt is ranked as high as they are and Texas is who they are, there's no question NC State's in those conversations with those programs."