Crean: Team should benefit from holiday tournament

LAS VEGAS — Tom Crean still isn’t completely enamored with the idea of keeping his players from going home on or near Christmas. Considering that they didn’t get to go home for Thanksgiving either, he appreciates that it makes the season seem longer than it already is.

But for several other reasons, Crean said, the Las Vegas Classic, which begins today at the Orleans Arena  is exactly the sort of tournament this Indiana team should be in.

“As much as I hate that we’re not going to be able to let them get home for Christmas because the Big Ten starts the 27th, it is an optimum time to be involved in what they love, which is basketball,” Crean said. “I think we’ll have a lot of families here, families that will be able to see them, and we play the 27th and 31st. (Not going home for Christmas) is the only drawback to a schedule like this. That’s it.”

Playing in an exempt tournament around the Christmas holiday as opposed to the Thanksgiving holiday is obviously a change in scheduling philosophy, not only for Crean, but for IU in general. The Hoosiers have played in exempt tournaments each of the past four years and all of them were in November. Because of that, the Hoosiers have usually scheduled light in games leading up to the Big Ten season. Last year, the Hoosiers played Bryant in their last game before Big Ten play. The year before it was Lipscomb (though that turned out to be a loss). In Kelvin Sampson two years, he played Chicago State and Ball State  in the lead-up to Big Ten play. Mike Davis and Bobby Knight also scheduled similar smaller conference opponents in that period.

IU’s overall non-conference schedule this year hasn’t been that daunting, but Northern Iowa — which the Hoosiers play at 7:30 p.m. ET today — and either New Mexico or Colorado will provide tougher competition and more of a ramp up to Big Ten play than anyone else in recent years. Crean said he will decide later if that’s the right way to go.

“I’ll look at it at the end of the year to see if this was really a good idea for us to play at this time period,” Crean said. “I would think that it’s gonna be. It would be a lot different if we were in Hawaii right now or Alaska and we had to turn around and come back. Three hours is hard enough I would imagine. to have to come across the country like that would be a lot harder. Getting your guys battle tested and with an edge, that’s what’s most important as you’re going into league play. That’s what I hope we have when next week starts.”

The Hoosiers’ tournament starts with a Northern Iowa team that is out three of its top four scorers from last year’s Sweet 16 team. The Panthers haven’t looked quite as strong this year as they did last season, but they’re still 7-3 coming into the game.

“I think they’re a program,” Crean said. “I think they’re a program. I think that’s what (former coach) Greg McDermott had and what Ben (Jacobson) has continued to build there. They’re not just a team. They’re not just a one-hit wonder that shows up and all of the sudden they’re in the Sweet 16.”

The Hoosiers will likely have to go against them without their lone senior in guard Jeremiah Rivers. Rivers when down with what appeared to be an injured ankle in Sunday’s game against South Carolina State. He had to be carried off at the time, and though Crean doesn’t expect to be a long-term, serious injury, he doesn’t expect him to play in the tournament.

“It’s gonna be tough for him,” Crean said. “It really is. It’s getting better, but where it will be tomorrow, I do not know. Here’s hoping that he can continue to feel better. But he’ll be a game-time decision, but we’re not holding out extreme hope.”

AUDIO: Tom Crean

18 comments

  1. A lot of credit is due to Rivers for (a) accepting his role and (b) playing much better than he did last year.

    A lot of credit is also due to Tom Crean for getting all his players to “buy in.”

    In fact, in general, the psychological aspects of dealing with both individual players and a team are often under-emphasized: e.g., how to get high school stars to “buy in” to reduced roles, how to juggle players, how to have them prepared to perform at a moments’ notice and at times that can be unpredictable, etc. In some respects, these guys are just performers called upon to perform on what can be a very large stage.

    In my humble opinion, Tom Crean has done a very good job in this department. His guys seem to have “bought in,” and Crean has managed to find enough minutes to keep everyone “on board.” Players seems to have their “niches” and they know them and fulfill them. They appear to pull for each other, both on the surface and underneath.

    That’s great because a happy team is a lot more likely to be a good team and an unhappy team can be a disaster waiting to happen. One need only look at what happened to Dan Dakich a few years ago when his unhappy team self-destructed. I hasten to add that I don’t think any of that was his fault, but, nonetheless, it happened.

    Beyond that, one might suggest that, in his later years at IU, Bob Knight’s decreasing success ratio was due to his increasing inability to perform this critical function. As many have commented, he just no longer seemed able to “relate.” Others said that “his type of player” wasn’t being produced any more. But the end result is the same. His routine wasn’t getting the desired result any more.

    In fact, unlike the “glory years” when his command of his teams’ emotions was spot on, in his later years, it was often counterproductive.

    Of course, Crean’s balancing act in keeping everyone happy may be more difficult as the team hits the Big Ten schedule. One can hope that the connections forged now will withstand the heat of the Big Ten and what will no doubt be a lesser percentage of wins.

    But I think Crean is the right guy, at the right time, with the right combination of skills. As many have noted, his bench coaching is the one area in which questions remain to be answered. He’s bought some time to answer those questions with his successes in other areas. Let’s hope the answer to that question is as good as all his other answers have been.

  2. In the past I was damned hard on Rivers, I think justifiably so, but he is like a different player this season and is now an indispensable performer to successfully get over .500 for the season and possibly in conference play.

  3. Why is the IU game this Wednesday, 12/22, not being televised? I thought that was the purpose of the B10 channel to allow B10 fans to see their teams play. I don’t get it.

  4. Share the disappointment as expressed by another fan…I could not get the N.Iowa game on the tube and apparently will not receive tonight’s game from Vegas.

  5. The game is being televised on DirecTV (613) and Comcast (418). Also on Dish. Check CBS College Sports for availability in your area.

  6. DirecTV rocks for sports. Just before the NFL season began I got a call and they asked if I wanted NFL Total Access for $2/month thru the playoffs. Uh…maybe.

  7. Clarion, I was hard on Rivers as well but I think he was asked to do too much last year, I really do. I was at the College Mall the day after a loss and Rivers was by himself walking next to Applebees with his head down. I said, “hang in there Rivers, hangin there”. He looked up with a smaile and said, “Thanks, thanks a lot”. It was as genyine an exchange as I have ever had. I wish him the best and he looks really good out there this year.

    Tigertom, thanks!!!

  8. JPat,

    Ditto! The things he does well are the things most important for team success. He is now the role model we have needed for two seasons.

  9. JPat,

    Ditto! The things he does well are the things most important for this teams success. He is now the upperclassman role model we have needed for two seasons.

  10. No Rivers will hurt this week. I’ve really enjoyed watching him play this year. His drive for the layup on the defender who slapped the ground was awesome. It was like he just said “Yeah, did you really just slap the ground and act like you can guard me?”)

    So do I tape the game (yes I have the sports package on Comcast so I can watch the game) and go play hoops from 7-9

    OR do I just watch the game live and forget about basketball this evening.

    Tough call.

  11. I was also a Rivers detractor last year.

    I attribute it to the way Rivers entered the program. I think perhaps our hopes for him were set too high, and he played in accordance to his and our lofty expectations.

    He claimed he wanted out of Georgetown and into IU to be allowed to showcase all of his talents — not just his abilities as a defender. I think we expected him to come in and be the veteran leader that could wrangle a group of unruly freshmen and help mold them into a cohesive unit.

    I think perhaps Rivers overshot his offensive talents. Maybe he was asked to do too much, and maybe he wanted/tried to do too much. Probably a bit of both. Once we saw his struggles offensively, we were naturally disappointed.

    I think it’s refreshing to see that he is acknowledging and accepting a role that plays to his abilities. He’s transformed from someone who gave me heart attacks with his decision making to a calming presence on the court. I don’t mind when the ball is in his hands, anymore either.

    I hope he continues to serve the team well, and that his recovery is a speedy one. We’ll need him to lock down some opposing players in conference play.

  12. Rivers will be missed in Vegas. He really has become more consistent. I think he will have some big plays/games down the road. He kinda reminds me of Steve Eyl. Strong athletic defender, rebounder. Think about the expectations on this kid. Transferring, his Dad, his brother being kick ass. He has the potential to be the most explosive on the court besides maybe Oladipo.

  13. My comcast HD had it in the 1700 block of channels, hope this helps.

    Smitty, watch the game live from vegas baby!

  14. My love of watching IU live on TV outweighs my love of playing basketball with a bunch of other out-of-shape school teachers.

    I’m excited to see us match up with someone a little more comparable. This is the first of what undoubtedly will be many “biggest games of the season” for the Hoosiers.

    Of course, being in Vegas would be the best option, if it were an option! But I’m still paying off my credit card for the last trip I made there!

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