Crean on N.C. State: “They cause a lot of problems for us.”

On his radio show Monday night, Indiana coach Tom Crean spoke at length about North Carolina State athleticism and said the Wolfpack would be by far the most explosive team the Hoosiers have faced to date. That was somewhat obvious, considering that N.C. State is the first team the Hoosiers will play from one of the six power conferences, but he gushed about the Pack even more during press availability on Tuesday.

The Pack enter Wednesday’s 7:15 p.m. game at the RBC Center in Raleigh, N.C. with a 5-1 record with the only loss coming against No. 20 Vanderbilt and a win over Texas already on the resume. They’ve turned up their pace in their first season under former Alabama coach Mark Gottfried and averaging 78.8 points per game.

“This team is very impressive to watch on film,” Crean said. “… Their explosiveness, they’re a very diverse team that can play a lot of different ways. They’re extremely good inside, they have a tremendous point guard that can get into the lane and create havoc and score baskets. They have Scott Wood who is shooting as well as anybody in the country right now at 58 percent from range. Certainly one of the absolute best shooters if not the best shooter that we will see all year. They cause a lot of problems for us. There’s no doubt about it.”

Wood, a 6-foot-6 junior from Marion, is a big part of that. He’s averaging 11.4 points per game and has made 15 3-pointers, 57.7 percent of his attempts. But he’s just one of six players who are averaging double figure points for the Wolfpack.

The leader of the group is sophomore swingman C.J. Leslie. The 6-foot-8, 209-pounder missed the first three games due to injury, but is averaging 16.7 points per game since his return and shooting 63.0 percent from the field.

“It’s very hard to prepare for that,” Crean said.  “It’s like preparing for a 6-foot-8 Victor (Oladipo). His second and third effort is tremendous. His first effort is very good, his first step is very good, but it’s the second and third effort with him I think that separates him. He’s tremendous around the basket. Can drive the ball. First step gets him fouled. You’ve constantly gotta be aware of him.”

Leslie and the Pack’s talented guards make them the most athletic team the Hoosiers have faced, but N.C. State also has a bruiser inside to rebound and bang in the post. Junior forward Richard Howell is, according to Gottfried, actually around 6-6 and not his listed height of 6-8, but he’s 250 pounds and is averaging 13.7 points and 8.8 rebounds per game.

That makes Howell the most effective wide body the Hoosiers have seen so far. That will prove a unique challenge for freshman forward Cody Zeller and it could mean IU will have to use more of senior forward Tom Pritchard than they have in any previous game this season.

“I think it’s more see how the game is going, feel it out,” Crean said. “But it’s not gonna be a game for the faint-hearted underneath the basket. You’re going to have to make contact. Tommy is a fierce competitor and he’s aggressive. He’ll rebound. He’s not afraid to get hit. He’s not afraid to hit first. Those things are really important. I would expect his personality and his senior experience will definitely help in this game.”

In other notes from Crean’s availability, senior guard Verdell Jones is apparently feeling better after playing through illness on Sunday night against Butler. Crean said he was much better in practice on Monday in Tuesday.

Crean was also asked about the possibility of Indiana’s series with Kentucky ending. Kentucky coach John Calipari has suggested that with the Southeastern Conference likely to expand its conference schedule, the Wildcats might have to drop one of their three annual non-conference rivalry games with Indiana, Louisville and North Carolina. He put up a poll on his website for UK fans to weigh in, and Indiana is ahead in the poll.

“I’m aware of that,” Crean said. “I would look at it in the sense that whatever happens moving forward, we’re always going to do what’s best for Indiana. Every school’s going to do what’s best for them and we’re no different. We’re going to do what’s best for us. I know we have a contract now, so we’ll just leave it as it is and see what happens.”

AUDIO: Tom Crean

AUDIO: Tom Pritchard, Matt Roth, Daniel Moore

20 comments

  1. North Carolina isn’t a traditional rival for Kaintuck but I wouldn’t expect Cali to know that. For that matter they never used to play Louisville, though that has become a big game. Indiana is their only long time non conference rival.

  2. I agree Chet, but most of their fans just want to play the best teams out there, and don’t consider IU a worthy rival anymore. IU fans know that is about to change, but we have to prove it before other people believe it.

  3. If I was a KY season ticket holder (they’d have to be free and come with a ride and pizza) I’d want to see the UNC game.

  4. The UK rivalry started to wilt when we stopped playing at a neutral site. There was nothing like Flllllllaaaaaaaaaggggggggsssss when both teams were screaming for their red or blue, respectively. But, I’m actually shocked that UK fans would want to dump it. I guess being irrelevant for a decade and a half will do that to you.

    Anyway, there aren’t too many coaches that I hold in more disdain than Coach Cal. I hope the rivalry stays and our defense wrecks havoc on the “dribble drive.” Is that even an offense?

  5. Most uk fans I know in this area respect IU and don’t want that game to be taken off the schedule. As far as your comment dd the nuetral site had nothing to do with it from a competitive standpoint. We have only won 3 or 4 of the last 20! I really still don’t understand why he would drop this game. They play 10 to 12 non conf games every year. Oh well this is what happens when you are irrelevant for as long as we have been.

  6. I can’t stand Duke, but I am watching this game and puking in my mouth at how Mason Plumlee is getting screwed by the refs on both ends… Sullinger is getting everything based on reputation right now. There’s nothing fluid about his game tonight. Bumping Mason out of bounds – no call. No principle of verticality on an obvious and-1 – no call. Gets swallowed up on a weak post move – bail-out call on Plumlee… BS.

    Just waiting for this same crap to happen to Cody.

  7. If Ohio St is allowed to foul the crap out of all their opponents the way they are beating up Duke, and get away with it, then IU has absolutely no chance at upsetting them.

  8. Most UK fans I talked to when I lived in Kentucky did not even consider Indiana a rival. Cannot say I blame them, but they would probably be among those voting to get rid of IU over UNC and Luhlville.

  9. Can I just voice my opinion of disgust towards Dick Vitale? Said UK fans are the best in the nation and basically that IU should realize its not good since Butler isnt good anymore. Not that I’m saying we’re the best around nor am I saying that Butler is amazing, but gimme a break. He needs to just marry Duke and move on.

  10. Actually, DickieV is a huge Indiana supporter and has been acknowledging our uprising publicly more than any other national media member other than Jay Bilas. Yes he is annoying, but hes got our back.

  11. Geoff, Ditto.

    DV vs Jay

    Vitale 50-50 on his appeal and accuracy of opinion

    Bilas 90-100 ” ” ” ” ” ” “

  12. Vitale is NOT an IU supporter.

    He’s a Knight-worshipper.

    And if he gives any praise to us, Bob will cut him off.

    Dick is still mad his God got “screwed” by us.

  13. I don’t care. Seems like a nice enough guy. I think he’s a mile wide and an inch deep.
    NC State is going to be a really tough match up for us physically. They are so long, strong, and athletic. Real studs. Our guys really need to do a better job on the boards or those guys will kill us with second chance points. I hope the guys regain their shooting touch. It’s gonna be big boy basketball tonight.

  14. i love the improvement in our team. i agree with dj, dicky v has supported us. i love the iu program and this team. just stick with them and they will improve. by the way i could care less about coach cal. two final fours vacated.

  15. I don’t remember Kentucky playing UNC with any regularity, either. Certainly not on annual basis. But I could be wrong. I think if Indiana puts good teams on the floor in the near future, dropping the game will be less appealing. UK fans, like fans of most teams that are national contenders, tend to want to play good teams to help their ‘tournament profile’ in March. Strength of schedule is the single biggest factor in RPI and, more generally, in seeding the tournament.

    I think campus sites are the best; always thought Indy and Louisville were a little bland as game sites. Certainly no student section influence like at Assembly and Rupp.

  16. Coach Crean said: “It’s like preparing for a 6-foot-8 Victor (Oladipo). His second and third effort is tremendous.” I hope that C J Leslie is NOT that good! A true 6’8 Victor Oladipo would be the #1 player in college basketball!

  17. BeatPurdue… what n tha eff are you smoking? That wasn’t a serious comment, right???

    Dipo is 6’5″ and not even the best player on his team… You think 3 inches would make him a high lottery pick?

    God love him – he has energy, handles it okayyyy, finishes well on the break, above average rebounder and defender, but doesn’t get to the rim at will, very shaky outside 17 feet, not much of a passer, and who knows what happens to his perimeter D with the added height…

    We’ll see what a 6’8″ Dipo looks like in 2 years when Parrea is a Soph… My guess is he’ll be real nice, but not close to the best player in college hoops.

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