Previewing No. 18/20 Indiana vs. Notre Dame at the Close The Gap Crossroads Classic Head Coach Tom Crean, senior Tom Pritchard and sophomore Victor Oladipo met with the media on Thursday
Dec. 15, 2011
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -
Indiana head men's basketball coach Tom Crean, along with senior Tom Pritchard and sophomore Victor Oladipo, preview the Hoosiers' game vs. Notre Dame, which will be the second game of the Close the Gap Crossroads Classic in Conseco Fieldhouse on Saturday, Dec. 17 at 4:30 p.m. ET.
"We've had a very productive week. We took Sunday off. We didn't practice yesterday, but the three practices we have had have been very, very intense, very upbeat, and very energetic. I would say that going back even to Monday that Verdell (Jones III) and Christian (Watford) were the two guys that came in here and you could just see the edge was alive and well and they got our practices going at a really good clip. Certainly we've had to maneuver a few times and we've lost a couple of guys along the way to going to take their tests, but we've had a couple different times that we've worked in to and for the most part we've had most of the guys there. It's been good, very good. We've been dealing with a little sickness this week, but other than that it's been very good.
"Our guys realize that we had a great opportunity last weekend and they took advantage of it. Their work ethic this week leads me to believe that they're ready to take the next opportunity at hand and go very hard and continue to make progress. I think they understand that there's a lot of room for improvement, especially after we watched the film of the game and at the same time, we're playing a very good opponent, a very dangerous opponent, that shoots the three extremely well. Their leading scorer is their inside player Jack Cooley, or especially over the last five games he's been their leading scorer.
"Then certainly it'll be a great venue. There will be a lot of pageantry I would think to that with a sellout crowd and four in-state schools playing at Conseco Fieldhouse and I think they're excited. At the same time, we haven't met as much because of the exams and we've got numerous guys taking finals today at five, but it'll get a little more normal for us after we leave here tomorrow night and get up to Indianapolis and then we'll be locked in getting ready for the game."
On the week off following the Kentucky game:
"It is what it is. It's not like you can look at it and dictate it one way or the other. I never like long turnarounds, but you know for one time a year for sure you're going to have it because of exam week, but at the same time you want to make sure you're getting better inside of that week, that they're getting a chance to rest up a little bit. We took yesterday off from practice, but we still did some specialization with some of the guys, we watched film, they get their legs under them. At the same time, you've got to keep them engaged mentally because it's real easy to get so locked in to what you're doing academically that you come in here and you let down. I think it helps their tests, I think it helps their preparation academically when they've got to stay sharp here and that's what we continue to push. They've spent a lot of time studying and a lot of time with their tutors and preparing for the tests and I think this is a good diversions for them and so it just is what it is."
On concern of being emotionally drained after a big win:
"We're not focused on any of that. We're just focused on as much preparation as we can have for the game. I don't know how we could be emotionally drained seven days later so I would hope not. Every game poses different challenges and every game is an opportunity in itself. This one was a very special opportunity because of how good Kentucky is, because of where it was played, because of the hype and everything that was surrounding it coming into it. We should be excited. Dick Vitale two weeks in a row, two games in a row, nothing wrong with that."
On putting the Kentucky game behind them:
"I don't want them to put it behind them. I want them to build on it. I think it can be a springboard to future opportunities. I think it would be very stupid and it wouldn't make much sense for us to come in here and try to downplay that game or downplay that it happened. It wouldn't make any sense. At the same time, it would be ridiculous as a coach to downplay that there were mistakes made in the game. The old adage in coaching that you don't accept in victory what you won't accept in defeat, even when you beat the No. 1 team in the country, I don't think you get away from that and we didn't. You want to build on it. You want it to springboard. You want confidence to grow, but at the same time, you want them to understand the bottom line is there's a lot of room to get better and that's exactly how we've treated it."
On Notre Dame's 3-point shooting:
"It's a very strong preparation in that they very rarely put somebody out there that can't make a 3-point shot and the ones that can't make a 3-point shot are very good around the rim and can make 15-footers so you've got to have great ball pressure. Maybe the strength of their game is their pick-and-roll game, their ball-screen game because that creates so many opportunities for the 3-point shot, so you have to have great pressure. You've got to understand exactly what you're trying to do. Your rotations have got to be solid and at the same time you cannot give this team open shots.
"Our shot challenges have got to be at an extreme high and they've been very high and they've got to continue to be that way, but we cannot allow a team like this to get comfortable. They pass the ball well, and this is what makes them a dangerous three-point shooting team outside of just spacing, they pass the ball extremely well and they really utilize the corners and that's a big, big factor in how you're defending because they want to use the entire court and we've got to make sure that we're not allowing ball reversal and them being able to swing it from side to side to be the strength of their team that day."
On Jack Cooley's impact on the team recently:
"He makes them a lot more dangerous because he can pass. They are a very good team and they are really learning to play with out Tim (Abromaitis), you can see that. That is a veteran group. Even though Jerian Grant didn't play a lot last year, he has really done an excellent job this year. But (Eric) Atkins has played, (Jack) Cooley has played. I know they are somewhat younger but they still have guys that have played a lot of games - Joey Brooks, Tom Knight. There are not any guys that we can say `OK, we are going to guard him this way because he can't shoot as well.' There is none of that. We have to be locked into knowing that their spacing is their great weapon because they can pass it, drive it and they utilize the corners. One thing that Cooley seems to do really well is pass out of the post."
On Notre Dame's adjustments since Abromaitis has been out:
"I think they just fill guys into that spot. I think Alex (Dragicevisch) is doing a good job as a freshman. Pat (Connaughton) has had six three's in a game for them against Sam Houston State so he is feeling comfortable. I don't think there is a big dropoff when he goes to the bench but I think Atkins has really taken control of the team with the ball, in the sense of the ball-screens, the reads and the attacking. Grant is doing a much better job of moving without the basketball. They seem comfortable, or at least that how it appears to me. But that was a big loss for them because (Abromaitis) can do so many different things but their 3-point percentages are not going down (since he has been out)."
On the Close The Gap Crossroads Classic:
"I am anxious to see it. The number one thing when that came up was `Would it be a big deal?' And I think every team has had a week off so there is some time for a lead-up to it. `Would it sell out?' and `Would TV be partnered in and locked in?' The fact that you have CBS with Ian Eagle and Bill Raftery (for the Purdue-Butler game) and us with ESPN Dan Shulman and Dick Vitale - all those questions are answered. And all the tickets are sold. I think it is good.
"It's like anything else, after it has been played a year or two, we will look at it and see if we want to continue this or do we want to change the format. I will be in those conversations when Fred (Glass) brings them to me but I won't be bringing them up unless there was something that didn't make sense.
"All of the particulars that have gone into it, I think they are really good. To play a game at Conseco Fieldhouse, just like at Lucas Oil, when you have Rick Fuson at Conseco and Mike Fox at Lucas Oil - those two guys and their teams are so First Class and first rate that you know it is going to be really well done. There are no fears whatsoever and we are really looking forward to it."
On the past week of practice:
"We've just been focused on our next opponent. Practice is going well. Everyone's competing every day and we're just focusing on next game, which is Notre Dame. They are a big in-state team and one of our goals was to dominate in-state, so we've just got to continue to do that."
On coming off of an emotional win:
"We took it in that night and we're all moving on now. The coaches and the players said at Monday's practice that we were going to move on, but still focus on what we need to do for later in the season."
On the development of the program since his arrival:
"It's just been a giant step for the team, from our freshmen year to where we are now. I'm blessed to be on this team and with these guys, practicing hard every day. They are really making this last year for us seniors really special."
On the biggest difference between the team his freshman year to this year:
"I'd say competing every day and guys are getting older, so we're here to help out the young guys. We're just taking it day-by-day right now competing in practice and against other teams."
On playing Notre Dame his freshman year in Maui:
"It definitely feels different. But the guys who played against them our freshmen year - the game didn't go so well, so we've got an extra chip on our shoulder. It's also another in-state team and we just have to take care of business."
On his families reaction to the Kentucky win:
"Everyone was really happy. They were really happy for me for sticking it out here. I've been really excited and happy about what we've been doing here the past couple of years. Guys have stepped up and that's something else we were missing my freshman year. We didn't really have a bunch of leaders. Verdell (Jones III) has grown so much over the past couple of years. It's to think back to our freshman year, but it's just something special and something that I'll always remember."
On what he thinks he's done to make this program better:
"Just going out there and competing every day, and making guys better on the practice court and also bringing that defensive intensity when we need it. Hopefully, we can all continue to improve our defense for these upcoming games."
On how well Cody Zeller has started his freshman year:
"You see it every day. He comes in every day with the right mindset and he continues to work. He's a hardworker and I wouldn't expect anything less than that."
On the challenge of having finals week while preparing for a game:
"It's not that challenging. We are student-athletes so we do have to figure out how to balance out both. It's been a long week putting exams and practice together, but that's the reason why you are here."
On Notre Dame's ability to shoot the 3-point shot:
"We've been watching film on them and we've been studying them. We're just going to continue to play good defense and stretch the help-side defense, and continue that all together and continue to play defense at a high level."
On facing his high school teammate Jerian Grant production this season:
"I know Jerian. I played with him all four years in high school (DeMatha) and going back home working out, I know how much hard work he puts in. He really wants to be good. I'm looking forward to playing against him. I know it's going to be a battle. We're friends off of the court, but when we are in between those lines, we're enemies. So it's going to be fun."
On his relationship with Grant:
"We're really close. We stay in touch a lot. Our families are really close, as well. I've known Jerian since eighth or ninth grade, so it's been a journey."