Crean focusing on competition

Before the start of practice, Indiana coach Tom Crean said the preseason would be much less about installing offensive plays as it would be about establishing a mindset of constant competition. Seven practices in, Crean said it isn’t there yet, but it’s coming along, and he’s trying to push it by scrimmaging as having competitive drills as much as possible.

“I think the biggest thing for us right now is every day, are we getting smarter, tougher, more physical and more fundamental?” he said. “And at the same time, are we creating a sense of urgency in what it means to win? I would do that with a team that was coming off a big time winning season, but when you haven’t won, you’ve gotta continue to understand the value of winning. You’ve gotta understand the value of game point. You’ve gotta understand how to come back. You’ve gotta understand how to put somebody away. We don’t have enough fire-breathing, I’m-gonna-get-this-done mentalities out there just yet. So you gotta try to cultivate that and build it. I know it’s extremely early, but the sense of urgency has got to be something that we’re attacking every day, and that’s what we are.”

They had to do it on Thursday without some key pieces. Sophomore guard Maurice Creek is still not quite at the level that he can practice every day, and sophomore forward Derek Elston suffered a minor ankle injury that will keep him out a few days, but the Hoosiers have tried to maintain the competitiveness at the same level.

“There’s a vulnerable spot in every practice,” Crean said. “There’s a vulnerable spot in every game. The teams with the sense of urgency, the teams that have the most competitive mindset and the most guys inside of that, they’re the ones that win. You can’t lower your expectations just because a few people aren’t as competitive as they need to be. You’ve gotta keep raising the level. We haven’t been able to do that in here as well in the past. We have to be able to do that now.”

Crean said the coaching staff is making a point to push sophomore Christian Watford to defend smaller players so he can be more comfortable at the small forward.

“It’s a process and it’s a mindset change,” Crean said. “But the one thing he can’t get away from is that he can score at the rim, and he can rebound. He’s gotta be able to guard smaller people constantly. We want to get to the point where whether we’re man or zone, that you’re gonna guard all kinds of people. you might be switching man-to-man, you might be in a different spot in the zone. Transition defense, there’s no guarantee who you’re going to guard. So he’s constantly gotta be challenged in those areas to bring out that athleticism, to bring out that mindset. It’s a good process. I have no disappointment in that whatsoever.”

Crean was also asked about the progress of first-year junior college transfer Guy-Marc Michel.

“Head’s swimming a little bit,” Crean said. “Head’s swimming. he’s getting tired. The aches and pains of it are kicking in a little bit. … It’s just a process for him as well. We’ve gotta get him to be more intense for longer periods of time, but it’s not like he’s trying to take himself out. He’s got a real strong sticktoitiveness, a real strong want-to. He’s just gotta get the conditioning aspect of that, the confidence to go with it. When he gets tired, he stands straight up. When he gets tired, he dribbles the ball up above his knee. When he gets tired, he sometimes might travel. But you put that kid a couple of weeks down the road, a couple of months down the road, those things are going to be gone and he’s going to be playing pretty well.”


  1. god, i hope he’s not going to teach michel to play in a crouch around the basket like a perimeter player guarding the dribble 25′ from the hoop. i still have nightmares of jobe and bawa scooting around the basket scrunched down to 6′ tall while opponents efortlessly scored over them. big men have to play tall around the basket, coach!

  2. Competition is a good thing, but too much of it can be very bad. This is year 3 and almost all we hear about is how the team is working on being competitive and giving effort. Those things are all great in 3rd grade when you can applaud effort, but in D-1 or even just the big 10 there are several if not every team that is going to be giving effort and being competitive. These kids didn’t get here because they didn’t like to win. This level is full of skilled athletes, what makes the elite the best is how they play as a team and the plays and strategy their coach employs. If it was about effort and straight talent, then Kentucky, not Duke, would have won last year. Butler wouldn’t have been in the Final Four, but there they were, two of the best TEAMS, who’s coaches put them into the position to win.

    Sometimes you have to be able to mess up and not be worried about making a mistake and it dropping you out of your spot from day to day, practice to practice, game to game. The best way to learn something new or elevate your game is to try it and fail in practice so that you can correct yourself. Competition doesn’t do that, it keeps you at your same skill level and just trying to not mess up and lose ground. Call this the Pritch principle, ever since he has had to look over his shoulder and just tries to not mess up, hes gone downhill. Hes not aggressive anymore, hes just trying not to screw up so he doesn’t get sent back to the bench immediately. I’m sick of hearing about effort and competitiveness being what we are ‘working’ on. We should already be competitive and working hard. Work on some strategy, some basketball skills, some actual plays with multiple options.

    Alright, sorry, off my soapbox, but for me this is Crean’s version of the Lynch ‘Did you see how good the other team was, give them some credit.’

  3. I 100% agree with you on the part about being sick of hearing about effort and competitiveness.
    That should be a given or the player should not be here. Lets work on our defensive rotations or a legitimate offense.

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