Tom Crean breaks down Michigan State on ESPN Gameday #iubb

Tom Crean made the short drive up Indiana State Road 37 to Lucas Oil Stadium on Saturday and joined ESPN College Gameday for a brief segment on Michigan State.

Crean offered insights into what has propelled the Spartans and former boss Tom Izzo into tonight’s Final Four matchup with Duke. His comments are below:

On what changed for Michigan between January and March?
Crean: “I think what Tom did is what we all want to do. He managed the distractions of his team, whether it was the injuries, whether it was somebody not playing as well. Travis Trice really got on point, not just as a point guard but on point with what he needed to do to be a leader on that team. He played with even more confidence. He’s always had a sense of confidence based on the size that he had, but really this year, he took it to another place during the Big Ten (season). I think the fact that Branden Dawson has been up and down in some areas, he’s starting to really play at a good place. He didn’t even play in the last game of the regular season against us, they win the game by two and then they go into the Big Ten tournament and, a week before, people were questioning where they were at. Well, Branden had something to do with that. All of a sudden, Branden is playing so much better. To me, the constant has been Denzel Valentine. I think he has continued to steady the ship when the other guys may not be playing as well. Now that they’re playing so well, Denzel can be the multi-dimensional big-time versatile player that he is.”

On what the Spartans are doing better defensively:
Crean: “I think that (Bryn) Forbes — I think the advantage that Forbes gives them now is not only do you have to be aware of him when he’s shooting the ball, but you have to screen him. You’ve got to be able to shake him and you’ve got to be able to play around him now in the sense that he’s not the weak link defensively. I think that’s been a big, big step for them. But they’re inside presence is good. No matter who he puts in there, they’re going to be forceful down low, they’re going to rebound, they’re going to defensive rebound in a big way and I think the thing that they do — he’s adjusted so much. He’s always been an elbow helper, where he always gets up into those elbows, but they’re doing such a great job of making that pass tough to the corner. So the length of a Valentine and the way that Dawson has improved; they make it really, really hard for you to run your offense anywhere on the side. If you get it into the corner, now you’re dealing with more length. So I think they just really adjusted to shrinking the floor even more than usual for him.”

On helping build Michigan State in the 1990s:
Crean: “There’s no question it was the rebounding drills and the toughness that went inside of that. The thing that Tom (Izzo) did from the very beginning was we were never going to not have at least 15 or 30 minutes of defensive breakdown drills. No matter what we did with the fastbreak, no matter what we did with the set plays, and he’s been tremendous with execution after timeouts for a long time, but they were never going to not have a day where we didn’t do 15-to-30 minutes of breakdown. So guys like Charlie Bell, when they come in at a young age and they’re really not ready to guard, all of a sudden as the year goes on he’s one of the best defenders on the team, along with Mateen (Cleaves) in the backcourt because he knew how to maneuver so many different ways. When you look at the toughness level that Mateen and Antonio (Smith) brought, it made Morris Peterson tougher, it made Charlie Bell tougher and, all of a sudden, there weren’t any weak links. Tom’s done a great job of that.”

One comment

  1. It is amazing that Coach watched Izzo emphasize defense in every practice and IU is so bad fundamentally on D. Yes you can blame some of it on the lack of size but not all. The lack of basic fundamentals on defense, the goofy switching defensive schemes mid possession, not stopping dribble penetration, etc. do not make you believe that IU has the same points of emphasis. I am kind of speechless that he recognizes what is successful but doesn’t practice it himself.

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