Thoughts from Brey, Crean

Mike Brey, Tom Crean.

Here’s a story that will run in The Herald-Times tomorrow:

MAUI, Hawaii — There are three basketball teams temporarily residing on this island that have a legitimate chance to make it to the Final Four in five months.
Then, there is Indiana. For the Hoosiers, this trip is an initial step in a process that will take much longer. For Tom Crean and his crew, there is no temptation to look ahead to March. Leave that to No. 1 North Carolina, No. 7 Texas and No. 8 Notre Dame, which Indiana opens the tournament with today at 5:30 p.m. (EST).
What the Hoosiers are working for lies so far ahead in the future that seizing the chance to improve today is the only option.
“The biggest thing for our program right now with all of the players that we have that are so new to this is learn how to compete on a consistent and daily basis,” Crean said at a morning press conference about 300 yards from the water crashing onto Ka’anapali beach. “No matter what happens over this tournament and over the next few days we will learn where we stand in that.”

Crean is quite familiar with Notre Dame, having gone 5-3 against the Fighting Irish during his nine years at Marquette. The teams played three times last season alone, with Marquette eventually knocking Notre Dame from the Big East Tournament.
But this year’s Notre Dame team, Crean has quickly concluded, is better. His team, with its roster of just one returning scholarship player, will have its “hands full, at the very least,” Crean said.
“They were very good last year obviously, but you can see differences in their body, their athleticism, and you can see they are a veteran group and made strides to get better,” he said. “What was already an incredible challenge is that much greater because its not just any one facet of their program that you have to prepare for, you have to prepare for all of it.”
The Hoosiers have had three days of practice to prepare for Notre Dame since arriving last Thursday (they did not practice that day). That’s plenty of time to implement what could be a detailed scheme designed specifically for this game. But Crean wasn’t focusing on that Sunday.
“We’ll game plan and everything accordingly to get prepared for Notre Dame, but we have to go out and compete,” Crean said. “Notre Dame is not the program that they are and have the winning streak they have at home and played the way they played in the Big East and around the country without being great competitors. Not only do they win, but they compete. Every time out. Our guys are going to have to do a really good job of matching them.”
Notre Dame coach Mike Brey, who has won consecutive Big East coach of the year awards, sees many similarities between Crean’s team this year and the ones he coached for nine seasons at Marquette.
“He did a fabulous job at Marquette and is in the midst of doing it in Indiana,” he said. “Doing it the right way. I think there’s great energy in the state with him there, and they’re really going to come out and play hard and guard the heck out of you. That’s always what his teams have done no matter where he’s been. Just from watching tape I’m impressed how they come after people. It’s no different than that Marquette team that was sicked on us in the Garden or in Milwaukee or in South Bend. It just says IU on the jerseys.”
Brey’s veteran team — his top seven are all juniors or seniors — began working together in August this year by taking a foreign tour to Ireland (where else?)
Not only are the Fighting Irish accustomed to playing high level competition, they’re only months removed from the grind of playing several games in as many days. In fact, Brey didn’t even hesitate to schedule a game at Loyola Marymount Friday, which the Fighting Irish won 65-54.
“I think again when you have older guys, they want to play,” he said. “They want to play as many games as possible. The drill work and practice stuff sometimes gets a little old when you have seven junior and seniors.”
Brey was frank in identifying his team’s major weakness, one that Indiana will undoubtedly have to exploit if it hopes to spread the floor and find open shots.
“Our biggest thing is just not getting beat off the dribble,” he said. “We’ve gotten better the last two of years where we’ve kept people out of the lane and just not let people drive us. I still think that’s a work in progress. I’m a little concerned about that. When we start getting beat off the dribble, then we’re in trouble and we’re rotating and people are getting to the offensive boards.”