Men's Basketball

    Coach Crean Meets With The Media To Discuss North Carolina Central

    Go Hoosiers!
    Go Hoosiers!

    Go Hoosiers!

    Dec. 18, 2009

    BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - Indiana men's basketball coach Tom Crean met with members of the media on Friday to discuss Saturday's game against North Carolina Central.

    Video Part 1 I Video Part 2

    Here's a full transcript:

    Opening Statement:
    "For us, it has been a productive week. Obviously the players have been in the midst of their exams and are finishing those up as we speak. Exam week is always one where it is very easy for them to get off track with their concentration and focus because they are so locked in to their academics. They might disagree, but I think practice really helps them in the sense of keeping that concentration and focus. They have to lock in and have that focus, so that makes it that much more of a fresh perspective when they have to get back to their studies. They have been in [Assembly Hall] a lot this week and not just for practice, so they are making progress and not just in basketball.

    "[Saturday night] the hardest thing with a game coming out of exam week is that concentration and focus that you really want. So we are going to be watching for that and challenging them to extend their focus throughout the game. We have had very good practices, so it hasn't been an issue there.

    "We need to continue to cut down on mistakes and errors on both sides of the ball and we need to build our communication on both ends of the court and get ready for a game.

    "This is going to be a game against a team that will run a very disciplined flex offense and a team that takes very disciplined shots. [North Carolina Central] is defending the three-point shot very well and they get to free-throw line and cause turnovers. They have athleticism and can score on the inside or the outside. They are an inside-outside kind of team and the flex offense is something that we have to continue to learn how to guard because we are going to see a lot of that offense on Tuesday night against Loyola.



    "This is a very good opportunity for us to play in front of the home crowd and to find that concentration, to work to get better and to get better at some things that we have struggled with so far this year."

    On whether exam week gives the team a break from basketball to an extent:
    "I never look at it that way, but maybe. A coach never looks at it like that. What I do is try to gauge a couple of guys. I learned this back when I was an assistant coach, that you gauge a couple of guys to help you figure out if you are going too hard or too long or whether you need to cut practice short. You are always trying to find that energy in a long week.

    "For example, we practiced Sunday and it was pretty tough. We practiced Monday and it was pretty tough. Tuesday we were here but it was very cerebral. There was a conditioning element to it but there wasn't a hitting element. Wednesday we were off and then yesterday we came back and it was a tough deal because we are trying to build a mindset. It was tough because we are trying to build them in so many different areas - like focus and being able to play through fatigue, and at the same time make good decisions under fatigue. Decision making under fatigue is so hard, but at the same time we need to make sure that our conditioning doesn't wane when we have had a week when we haven't played. It does seem like it has been a long time since we played Kentucky, probably because we had those two games (Pitt and Kentucky) inside of a week that were such high-profile games.

    "Coaches never look at the burnout factor, I may cut it shorter, but it's not like we do say `hey, let's take two or three days off here or there.' We just are not in the position to do that."

    On whether the exams took players away from practice:
    "We didn't have to make any too many adjustments. We were pretty much able to do everything within the afternoon. We weren't at our normal practice time but were able to do everything inside of the afternoon. So that was good.

    "We've had some times where guys had to leave early, or where guys have come in late. But for the most part, we finish or begin 90 percent in tact."

    On getting the players motivated for the lesser-known opponents:
    "It is a little tougher because that is the maturity of it coming into play. The best, mature teams know the difference. Some teams have household names on them and some don't. It's more a matter of making sure that when you have a youthful team like ours, they must understand that every game has got to be the game of the year. It may not get the build-up from the media or their families or the fans, but it has to be a mentality that if Indiana is playing, it's a big deal. We want them to feel that way. That's why the concentration and focus has to be there because that's the first to go when you are not locked in. It's also the first to go when you are fatigued. There is a lot of mental fatigue in our program right now because of the week and this being the first exam week for six of our guys and it's a challenging school. But that's why practices are really important that they are strong."

    On using the team's struggles last year against some lesser-known opponents this year:
    "We've brought that up. There were a lot of those elements that you are trying to guard against. We are not going to go back and show that film, but it's been a demanding week in the sense of `this is what we are going to do to turn it up.' It's not like we have changed drills or approaches. It's not like we have had to add a bunch of new things to say this is why we got beat on Saturday. We just need to continue to make progress and grow, and they know it. So it's been a very combative, mental-toughness driven week and that's what we need. When you have a week to build that, it's very important.

    "Sometimes you have some older teams that will have a week like that and rehab starts at 6:30 a.m. We made that clear right from the start, that the training room is not open all day long for an injury at the end of practice. That gets guys to play through some things. But you are also going to have some things that are real and we will continue to deal with those. Anytime you have a group of young men, all of them are never going to feel 100 percent at one time so you have to work through that. And we have had some sicknesses and things like that.

    "But we have had some really good practices. We haven't had `OK, we haven't played a game in a week so let's back off for a couple of days' kind of mentalities. We haven't had that."

    On using the string of home games to watch the team improve on a daily basis:
    "I think they have been improving on a daily basis all year. It's very clear to us as coaches that they have been getting better. You can break up the season any way you want and there has been improvement. Now sense of urgency hasn't always been where it needs to be. Playing through fatigue hasn't always been where it needs to be. But there are always going to be facets that you need improvement.

    "But to answer your question, to have that time really continues to allow us to dive into different things and to dive into their individual games. They continue to get rest. But we have been doing individual instruction during the week, anywhere from two to three times per week during the season. Last year we backed off of that a little bit because of the youth, but this year we are not backing off on that one bit."

    On the importance of communication:
    "It's just a matter of making sure that your partner knows that they're covering in every facet, whether it's setting a screen, helping you know a screen is coming, getting you through a screen, coverages, or what plays that we're in.

    "We talk a lot about echo. We do a lot of things inside of our practices, basic things and complex things. We talk about echoing, where it's not just a coach telling you, it's you echoing it back and forth. There's a responsibility for everybody. I hear our bench locked in more to what the play call is for the other team.

    "We're still very young, and not to the maturity level of what real communication has got to be on the court. Some of that is a lack of totally understanding what that individual needs to do. That's part of youth and working so hard to get your job covered that you don't always understand, remember or see the value of how important it is to help everybody else do their job. That comes with time and that's what we continue to push towards."

    On the emphasis over the past week in practice:
    "There's been quite a few, but it's not much different than what it would be any other week. Every day is filled with fundamentals and repetition. It's filled with very physical, competitive drills or scrimmage sequences. There's a lot of blocking out. There's a lot of offensive rebounding. There's a lot of emphasis on those types of things. You name it and we're doing it. We've spent more time on zone offense. I think we'll see zone tomorrow. This team [NCCU] at times has played a lot of zone. We know that that's a certain possibility. Kentucky came into the game with a plan to play some zone and we got them out of it right away. Pittsburgh got out of the zone right away. Maryland didn't have to get out of the zone because we didn't attack it right.

    "This time of year, especially with a team this young, the number one thing you're trying to reach is any level of consistency that you can hang your hat on from a day-to-day basis. Right now for us, it's that we play very hard and we work very hard. We don't have a lot of weak links in practice. We don't have a lot of guys that are very inconsistent in their approach to practice and in their work ethic. Eventually that's going to carry over into games."

    On the progress of the practice facility:
    "I did see the recent pictures that were done and they're impressive. I don't know when I'll get a chance to go back through there, but having the pictures in hand and being able to show recruits that when they come in and at some point, when they get a little closer to being completed, we'll take recruits through there to see that. Right now with the games it's been too busy for that and I've been gone a bunch, including today, but it's great to talk about it. There's no doubt about that."

    On how far along the offense is coming along:
    "We're constantly adding. Today, it's like spring cleaning. I went through and deleted some things that we'll put back in the playbook for a situation or for a different team. There's constantly times where every game you're going to add something that you think helps you in that game or something that you've been holding onto to be a part of your progression. Every once in a while, not for their sake because it's not like we work on everything everyday, but I don't want to get my mind clouded with too many things there.

    "We're spending a lot of time right now on building our pick and roll game, building our pin-down game, getting it inside, and how we play off of the post. We certainly want to get more inside-out baskets. We certainly want to get more basic exchanges and movements when we get the ball up. We've got to get back to our emphasis after a made basket that we throw it ahead and after a missed basket or a turnover we make the best play. Those are the things that I'm more concerned about than any one or two individual plays a day.

    "At the same time, we are putting those things in and looking for the options out of them and being more specific about what we're looking for. One thing we saw in the game from Saturday, even with us not scoring points during that 18-0 run, we were in the lane every time. If we didn't turn the ball over in a ridiculous way, which we didn't have many of those obviously, we were in the lane every time. We just didn't make great decisions and we didn't finish shots. There are not a lot of things I would change about what we did. We just didn't come out of there with something. When you go into the lane, by pass or by drive, you've got to come out of there with something, either the basket, a foul, an and one, an inside out three. You've got to come out of there with something good. That's what we're continuing to work on."

    On the approach to the upcoming games with Big Ten play coming up:
    "It's all mindset and preparation for that. For us to come in here and practice against Michigan on a daily basis right now with three games on the horizon would be coaching suicide. That wouldn't be smart. We're not ready for that. We're not ready to jump into a game that way, we've got to stay in the moment and in the present of what we're trying to get accomplished.

    "You're constantly building your concepts and building your base on things that you're going to need in those games as well. So every time that we're working zone offense, every time that we're defending threes, and every time that we're getting back in transition, that's just another step closer to being able to play a team like Michigan. Every time we're defending Christian Watford or chasing Jordan Hulls or Maurice Creek off a screen, that's just another step closer to getting ready to play Ohio State. You don't focus on those teams as much as you're focusing on all the aspects of basketball.

    "I think you can make a big mistake if you just get locked into the opponent and you spend an inordinate amount of time on that when you could be spending a lot of time on your team. At the same time, we put North Carolina Central's offense in on Tuesday. So we're never getting away from the prep, but you've got to make sure that your team is getting better. This month will really help provide that, really diving into their skills."

    Thoughts on North Carolina Central:
    "They can score inside. They're inside out. They can get it into the lane. They're not a knee-jerk reaction team. They make the right plays. Their coaching is outstanding in the sense of if they're running something, they're running it to score. They make good decisions. They've got some turnovers, but they're also creating turnovers. I think their zone is very good and they're going to trap the baseline, they're going to trap the corners some. We've got to make sure that we attack that. We want to make this thing go. I don't think it's in our best interests to let this thing become a half-court affair. That's not how we want to play and I'm not sure that that's how they want to play, but we have to able to come in and adjust to anything that a team does. They're playing very, very hard. They have a couple of double figure scorers, but they're far from a two-man team."


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