Thursday night, Indiana basketball coach Tom Crean took a few minutes to talk with the IU media about Friday's regular season opener with Chicago State. Here is the transcript of some of what Crean had to say:
TOM CREAN: "I've known Tracy Dildy for a long time. I knew him as a player when he was at UIC and I know him as a coach at Chicago State. He has a team now that has experience and is deep in every position. He's got an outstanding defensive team, and judging by how many steals they get, they are a tremendous trapping team with screens and trapping in the backcourt. With their trapping, switching, and pressure, they're going to create some havoc for us. It's a great opener for us because it gives our guys a chance to go against a more experienced and older team, and it's going to put tremendous pressure on them defensively as well as offensively, by the way that they drive and the way they run in transition.
"They are coming off a good finish last season and they have a lot of guys back. Quinton Pippen does a lot of things on offense and Ross is an outstanding forward. We are excited for the game and it's going to be very interesting, to put it mildly, to see how a very inexperienced team deals with that kind of pressure inside of this game. We are looking forward to that and we are looking forward to a great crowd.
"We've had two solid days of practice- I wouldn't characterize them as unbelievable- but they've been pretty good days. We have had to get a lot of things cleaned up and some new things put in, and now we are getting ready for the pressure we are going to see and we are getting really excited to play."
On how comfortable he is with where the team is at the start of the season:
CREAN: "I don't think like that. If I was to answer that question I'd say `not at all.' I can't think like that though. It's a negative way of thinking and I don't want to be like that. We have a lot of games coming up in a short period of time and that's going to be great for this team to have to deal with that. We are going to see a lot of different styles of basketball.
"Tomorrow, the pressure that Chicago State is able to put on is enormous. We are going to find out what kind of instincts we have. We can't come down and turn the ball over because that will turn it into easy baskets for them. It's not like you come down and say, `We're going to go from A, to B, to C. If A doesn't work, we'll go right to B, and if B isn't there we will go to C.' You might go from A to F, to C, to D, and then back to B. When you're going against a pressure team you have to play basketball and it's going to be very good for us to have to do that. I don't have a lot to gauge this kind of inexperience on. There are certain standards I want to see them at and I think we are going to find out just how deep a team we have.
"As I've said all along, I don't think you can look at our team and say, `They're going to have this starting line-up for this period of time,' or `These are their starters for the year.' I don't see that at all and I'm certainly not coaching it that way. Right now, it's time to be efficient. There will be a certain level of patience and perspective when you're such a young team, but we have to be efficient. I thought the other night we did some really good things, but I thought our level of intensity dropped when we got up, and that can't happen. Whether it's mental conditioning or playing with the lead, there is going to be so many things this team is going to have to deal with that they have no idea of yet. You just try to get better every day and learn from the experiences."
On the challenge between running out in transition and not playing "too fast":
CREAN: "I think you are either a press-break team or a press-attack team, and we've always tried to be a press-attack team. Chicago State averaged over nine and a half steals per game last year and they look like a very long and aggressive team. We have to make sure that we are staying true to the fundamentals- getting the ball to the middle, getting it reversed, making the simple plays. You want to get as many easy baskets as you can and you want to eliminate easy baskets from them. It's going to be about taking care of the ball for us and making sure that they face five defenders as well as getting to the offensive glass. The live-ball turnovers are what will really, really hurt a team. The unforced turnover you can always get back and set your defense, but the live-ball turnovers are a recipe for disaster and we can't have those."
On Chicago State's defensive press:
CREAN: "They mix it up. There's a zone pressure that's 1-2-1-1, there's a 2-2-1 press, and I think as scary as any of that is, is the way they trap out of their zone and the way they trap the ball screens. This team is going to force the tempo defensively and it will be very good for us to have to deal with that. Will we trust the dribble-splits? Will we make the next pass? Will we take on the trapper? All those are different things that go into dealing with that. Will we get the ball reversed? Will we put the ball over our head? Will we panic when the pressure comes? Will we get pushed to the baseline? Those are the kinds of things that they are really good at. They are good at angling you and getting you to places you don't want to be. They're going to go get the first pass and they do an excellent job of taking the return pass away. It will be different for us."