Crean: North Carolina’s fast break unlike anything Hoosiers have seen

Most of the members of this Indiana team have played in big games now. They’ve seen Assembly Hall spilling over. They’ve been in the company of fellow blue blood programs operating at their peak, and they’ve faced teams stacked with future pros and they’ve won.

But if you listen to IU coach Tom Crean, the Hoosiers have never played a team that not only plays this fast, but has this effective of a fast break.

“They bring in some things that not only have we not seen this year, but I’m not sure we’ve seen it at any point in time,” Crean said. “I don’t know if we’ve ever seen a fast break come into Assembly Hall in our time here like we’re going to see tomorrow night. Their transition is literally second-to-none. It always is with Roy Williams teams. We saw it first hand when we were at Marquette and he was at Kansas and we played in the Final Four. As hard as we prepared for it, it was unlike anything we had seen, and I think that’s the way that they are right now.”

The pace at which the Tar Heels play can be frenetic. A year ago with Kendall Marshall running the point, they ranked 10th in Division I in tempo — measured in possessions per game — according to with 72.2 per game. This year with speedy freshman point guard Marcus Paige, they’re playing even faster with 73.7 possessions per game.

But it’s not just the speed of the tempo, it’s the effectiveness of the break that makes the Tar Heels difficult to deal with, Crean said, it’s the fact that all five players have to be guarded in transition.

“I think the push is really, really important,” Crean said. “The fact that they can run two high-level shooters to the corners. A lot of people you have to prepare for will run for layups and dunks. You have to do that with North Carolina. … Teams that aren’t committed to running run to the wings. They run to the corners, and you have to guard them in the corners. It’s not like you can just go back and get in your normal help defensive routine and roll against them. You’ve gotta go get to the corners. Everybody on their break is a legitimate threat to score. They do a great job of getting underneath the basket if the first post doesn’t get it in the post. And (James Michael) McAdoo is unlike everything we’ve seen with his ability to rebound out of the break. They are a phenomenal, not only transition team, but transition rebounding team. McAdoo leads the way with that. It’s never over. It’s never over. If they don’t score quick, if they don’t get a layup or a three, you’ve gotta really be able to guard against the second shot because McAdoo is a trailer with a full head of steam.”

Beyond the speed, the Hoosiers also have to be concerned about North Carolina’s length and more so depth of length. The Tar Heels don’t have a 7-footer to match Indiana sophomore center Cody Zeller, but they do have four players 6-foot-9 or taller. That wouldn’t be nearly as intimidating if the Hoosiers had freshmen Hanner Mosquera-Perea and Peter Jurkin as well as senior Derek Elston. However, Mosquera-Perea and Jurkin remain suspended until the Butler game on Dec. 15 and Crean said Monday that Elston will probably be out until after Christmas with his meniscus tear.

Crean said he’s hopeful that Indiana’s experience against a much bigger Georgetown team in an 82-72 overtime victory in the Legends Classic shows ways that they can deal with North Carolina’s length, but said the difference is still significant.

“We’re giving up a lot of size,” Crean said. “We gave up a lot of size against Georgia. We’re gonna give up size for a while. We’ve got guys that have a lot of size and length that aren’t playing for us right now. We’re definitely gonna give up that size. As we keep reminding our selves and our team, they gotta guard us too. They gotta guard us on the other end too. What we give up in size on one end, we need to take advantage of on the other end. As long as we have good communication and tenacity and really good intelligence on our fundamentals, then that helps us, but we have to make adjustments.”

Other Notes from Monday’s availability:

— Zeller obviously has a number of ties to North Carolina. His older brother Tyler starred there, and he was quite close to picking the Tar Heels as his college destination. North Carolina was one of his final three along with Indiana and Butler, and it was widely believed that it was really between the Hoosiers and the Tar Heels.

Zeller faced several questions about North Carolina on Monday, and his answers were as gracious and dull by design as most would expect.

“Obviously, it was close,” Zeller said. “They were in my top three. I have a lot of respect for everything that they do. Their coaching staff was great. Tyler enjoyed his time there. At the end of the day, I just thought that IU was the best place for me. I have no regrets for that. I’m definitely enjoying it here.”

— Tuesday’s game is, by a long shot, the Hoosiers’ biggest non-conference game at home this season, and because it’s against one of the other member’s of college basketball’s pantheon of historical powerhouses, the Hoosiers were asked about how they expect the atmosphere to compare to the Kentucky game last year.

There are a number of mitigating factors in this one, obviously. Last year’s Kentucky game came a week after the Hoosiers’ previous contest, which made for buildup similar to that of a football game. This year, the Hoosiers had one day between Sunday’s matchup with Ball State. And of course, this time the Hoosiers are the nation’s No. 1 team as opposed to last year when Kentucky was No. 1 and the Hoosiers were unranked.

But still, it’s Indiana-North Carolina, and the Hoosiers expect Assembly Hall to be electric.

“It’s definitely gonna be crazy,” sophomore guard Remy Abell said. “It’s kind of like the Kentucky game last year. It might be a little better. Who knows? But it’s definitely gonna be crazy.”

AUDIO: Tom Crean

AUDIO: Remy Abell and Cody Zeller


  1. This game is where we would really enjoy Ron Patterson. As Juniors I saw Patterson playing against Marcus Paige teams twice in AAU ball. These confrontations are what built my respect for RP’s defense. He did not just neutralize Paige’s play, he ate him up by not only eliminating his penetration but denied him at the 10 second line by halting his dribble, owning the passing lanes, deflecting passes and stealing the ball for break away dunks. Like everyone of you on this blog I have watched much BB over many decades and I have never seen a HS player enjoy being so dominate on defense. Tonight Marcus Paige would be a non factor if Patterson was sporting the C & C.

  2. My guess is that neither PG is much of a factor. Im guessing that both coaches will be all over them to not try to do too much and take care of the ball. If one does try to make this a statement game for themself I predict that team loses.

    I’m hoping our experience and the home court gives us the win in a very tight game. This is going to be stressful… And I’m sure that I will be swearing at the TV and blaming the refs at certain points of the game.

  3. Look, this is not a team IU has to worry about right now. Now if this were last year’s team, IU would have issues but UNC lost 4 of their starting five to the NBA and have 2 Freshmen starting at KEY positions, C and PG. Plus, UNC’s best wing option will be out injured. IU will win this thing by 10-15. Now perhaps if they can have a re-match in the Tourney with a healthy more experienced UNC team on a neutral court, UNC may give IU a game.

  4. Why worry about a team loaded with McDonald’s All Americans (no, I haven’t checked, I’m guessing)? The Tar Heels may not be at their best but overlook them at your own peril. UNC, Kentucky, and Duke are still the 800lb gorillas in the recruiting room.

    We’re right there but until we hang our next banner (or two) or at least go to a couple consecutive Final Fours I don’t think there are any top programs we don’t have to ‘worry about’.

  5. Crean said it’s the fastest team he’s seen in all his years of coaching so to say we “don’t need to worry about them” is pretty dumb.

  6. Let me say that yes, you need to worry a bit as UNC will always have a chance. IU is playing a UNC team that is at the bottom of their cycle. IN other words, UNC typically has a Title caliber team every three years. Last year was that team and this is the low season in the cycle with a ton of inexperience. UNC beat UK in the fall of ’05 in a similar situation. UK was top 5 and UNC not ranked. UNC had lost their entire starting five plus the first TWO off the bench after winning the ’05 Title in March. But UNC had a Freshman named Tyler Hansbrough. They also beat at #1 dook team at dook that season due to Tyler. However, This year, there is no Tyler on the team. There is James MacAdoo but he has yet to show he is anywhere near as good as Tyler at the college level. He will be a good NBA player due to his size and athleticism but he just does not have that ‘it’ Hansbrough had. Of course, I am a Tar Heel so I am a tad more lacking in confidence about UNC chances than a non-Tar Heel fan would be. Oh, add KU to your list of 800 lbs as UK, dook, UNC and KU are clearly the top programs in no order. IU can join them if they keep Crean and recruit like he has been able to do. Roy will only be around for 5-6 years as will K. Perhaps dook or UNC will go after Crean then:-)?

  7. JPat…glad I saw your post. I really do think your contributions (and MikeP’s) will make this a better blog, and welcome that you are a part of it. My only strong feeling ever is that sometimes bloggers make it a personal attack on each other or on players (i.e last year with VJ3, some of the attacks of Crean simply because he has beliefs and makes them public,…etc).

    Two things I enjoy (and always enjoyed) about your posts. One, your relationship with your dad, your descriptions of your consulting him over football games, watching, speculating, sharing a vision. I’m sure it makes him one happy and proud man and dad. JPat…those of us past the puberty years (I’m 71) live for that. My son and I have been that way a lifetime. He graduated from West Point and served for 30 years and now he’s home and we get to do the same thing, with two grandchildren (boys 4, 21/2 who’ll jump on top of us yelling ‘fubble’).

    The other, which I remember from when you were posting, is your taking your kid to the game, your playing with him and teaching him on the street (Mass Hoosier does the same thing with his kids, and Chet has shared the same about his and his daughters). It is all good. Something that we can’t lose if we want to stay Hoosiers.

    Welcome back. Hope we can become good and trusted friend and celebrate, sometime soon (as in the next 5-7 years the train schedule for Pasadena) (an incredible trip).

    BTW- tell your dad, yes I do remember that year really, really well…I knew and had the pleasure of becoming close friends with several of the great coaches. Some years, I traveled with them to Canton, Ohio for the Ohio Coaches Assn meetings- we flew in a small one engine plane. It was piloted by one of them which made me prematurely grey. We flew VFR, following the railroad tracks. When we were about- what we thought to be- 100 miles from Canton, we had to put down in an an air field because the weather got low. We walked into the shack that served for an office and told the guy we were just staying until the clouds lifted a bit. He looked at us and said: ‘Why don’t I just call you a taxi, leave the plane here and ride in. It’s only five miles down the road’. Great days, great people, great teams with great attitudes. I was particularly close to Terry Cole, a kid who remained a kid to the day he passed and was nothing but good Hoosier folk. Your dad will remember names like …Gonzo, Butcher, Isenbarger, Al Gage, Cruzan, Duffy, Kaczmarek, Snidecki. Man for man, they were certainly not the most talented, but put them together and the Bears would have had to go four quarters against them.

  8. J Pat. Roy left KU for UNC. But yes, Roy went to UNC but KU is a better program than IU. He left right after playing in yet another NCAA Championship game. Right now UNC is clearly the better program. IU has SEVERAL years with major accomplishments before IU can be mentioned in the same breath as UNC or dook for that matter. Yes, IU was dominant back in the day but since the 90’s they have been a mediocre program at best. IU and UCLA are all time great programs but in modern BBall its UNC, UK, dook, KU (next level) then UConn (nnext level) then everybody else including IU. Funny how IU gets a top ranking without winning anything and all of the sudden, they are equal to UNC. That is a LOL comment. We will see if they can do something this year. If UNC or dook offered Crean, he would be taking a step UP right now. And if IU can put together 4-5 years of top rate Ball with a championship in there, you can then say they have once again reach elite status. But unless, UNC, UK, dook and UNC stop winning at the top level IU will continue to try and catch up. Look, I hate UK and dook and really do not like KU while I do like IU (as do most of us in this region) so I do not say this in spite, I say this because that is the way it is.

  9. Given the money those two schools would be willing to pay the head coach, Crean or any other coach would happily take those jobs. Everyone has their price, and while Crean is paid well by IU, his compensation package is not amongst the elite college basketball coaches. I don’t know the current data, but I would assume, KY, Louisville, UNC, Kansas, Duke, TX, Florida, Michigan State and Syracuse all pay their coaches more than Crean makes at IU. Maybe even Ohio State and UCLA.

    Arizona’s relatively new coach was being lured away within two years of taking over in Tucson, and AZ had to scramble to prevent from losing him.

    When Crean wins his first Championship, the price of college basketball in Bloomington is going to go up. Either that, or IU will lose him to another program. Money talks and these men have big egos and are hyper-competitive. And they all know what Calipari and Patino are making.

  10. Roy does not make near what K and Cali make from what I understand. Now do not get me wrong, he makes good money and with that Nike contract, it a very good. Somehow Cali got a contract to make him either 1 or 2 highest paid coaches before he did anything but get caught for cheating. Now he is at UK, perhaps he does not have to cheat but dang, how can a guy come in and get the top class 4 years in a row and it is not even close?

    His first year, he got hired in April, took a recruit or two from Memphis and offered three guys who had yet to qualify for the NCAA. All of the sudden, all three take a test and qualify in May. One of the guys, I think Bledsoe, looked as if he pulled a Derek Rose or something close to that but with UK power and money, it got swept under the rug.

    Then the next year, He somehow calls a Washington commit and gets him to change his mind and go to UK. All it took was a ‘call’. He then has a paid guy from EU where the NCAA did not allow him to play. I hear Davis made out well by going to UK but it is hearsay.

    They guy is just plain ole dirty but can coach and sell UK like it has never been sold before. As long as UK does not get caught, Cali is worth every penny to them as he just keeps getting the #1 player at each position and the #1 overall class. Every year and it does not seem to be slowing down. Amazing.

    Oh, back to Crean. Yes, if Roy left tomorrow and UNC wanted him, they could certainly get him with money and a bigger program. Now saying that, I am not sure, Crean is all that but then again….

  11. I don’t believe for one second Crean would leave for UNC unless it was just SILLY money.

    I truly think he LOVES being a Hoosier.

    And if he were offered silly money, I think IU would match it…..especially if he had won a Title by then.

  12. Laffy, I doubt it too but for some one to say he would not because IU currently is on par with UNC, is just absurd. Good luck tonight. Of course, I probably need luck more than you if my team is to win:-)

  13. It’s not absurd right now Leo…

    1) IU is a top 5 program in the history of college basketball
    2) IU has a better, bigger fan base
    3) Indiana has arguably the best HS basketball – deep recruiting pool in state
    4) IU is currently in a much stronger and better financed conference with its own network
    5) IU is recruiting at a truly national level now, for the first time in school history.
    6) our roster is set to be stacked for the foreseeable future – already a stable of verbal commits from top players, and players that look to be solid 4-year types.
    7) not following in the footsteps of a legendary coach
    8) Doesn’t have 2 other high-level programs to battle for recruits in-state like Duke and NCST
    9) brand new state of the art facilities for the basketball team at IU
    10) UNC doesn’t have anything that holds a candle to The Hoosier Scoop

    So yeah I say IU is the more attractive job right now…

  14. Leo, you play mind games with yourself thinking IU is not back to Elite. Duke nor UNC could afford Coach Crean if a bidding war commenced with IU for his employment.

  15. Leo, here’s a hypothesis about UK and Calipari and their success recruiting. Most of UK’s big money is from the horse racing industry. They are extremely competitive, even with each other; believe in big expenditures to grow physical talent whether ‘champion’ horses or the slaves who built their horse farms (where they ‘test’ them in their own track, Keenland) prepare and perform the physical functions for a mint julep drinking ‘massah’ under the guidance of a rigid supervisor/foreman/trainer; living ‘at the edge’ of the law (making and selling moonshine whiskey) and ‘gambling’ on their own ability to circumvent social rules is basic to their way of life. This is how they grew up for nearly 300 years. Other than that ‘inbred’ plantation culture, these folks really have very little of interest in their lives. So they put their money on buying the bodies to make the operation successful, use the winnings to build monuments and palaces to themselves and, more than anything, are smart enough to understand they can only get away with it in Kentucky.

    Interesting, even the U. of Louisville has hovered back and forth between doing the same thing. The problem, they found after doing the same thing in football, they sit on the Ohio River and not nearly as insulated as Lexington and Frankfort in their hills.

    The law? Practically everyone in the seats at Rupp Arena is a ‘Judge’ or a ‘Colonel’, tell you something about how they see any attempt to live by rules?

    So Leo, I know of very few places as insulated as Kentucky. I doubt that John Dillinger would have ever attempted to rob their bank, there are only two roads in and out of town. And, they go to practically, nowhere.

  16. One more thing came to mind Leo. In that context, the decision by Kentucky to end the series because they wanted to play in a ‘neutral side’…hey, in the context of the hypothesis, you got to take your ‘stock'(animal or human) to market. That’s the whole point of the Plantation.

  17. Leo, unlike you, I happen to know Roy. He’s got a place a couple hundred yards from my cabin. We don’t socialize much but I talk to him from time to time and I know tons of his childhood friends, coaches, and players from when he coached at TC Roberson in Arden. He took two of my former players, the Moody boys, as walk ons, one at Kansas and one at UNC. One of them worked his way into the starting lineup. He had no emotional attachment to Kansas other than his daughter being a student there. Since his childhood in Swannanoa he’s had the Tar Heels in his blood. He lived for the Heels.

    Coach Crean has a similar attachment to the Hoosiers. Now, if they doubled his salary he might be hard pressed to stay, but to think Tom would leave the Hoosiers for the Tar Heels just shows you have no idea what you are talking about.

  18. TTG,my Dad was a “Kentucky Colonel”. It pretty meaningless except to other “Colonels”. I imagine my banker brother-in-law acquired the moniker (and requisite certificate).

    It’s a club he really didn’t fit in to and I, personally, would want no part of.

  19. Tsao…dad has had cancer for years and beaten it down a couple of times. We were not real close growing up but are now best friends….thanks for the words…they are appreciated big time! Your post was nice, thank you…I needed it!

    Leo, I see your post was at around 5 pm but if I remember and I could be wrong, IU has 5 banners while UNC has 5 banners and Duke 4…I think. I measure success by that mainly and don’t forget IU went to the title game in 2002. I am with Laffy…Crean is not leaving and Glass just extended him a week or so ago…Leo did you know that? Leo, I know UNC fans are hurting today…IU has taken them down more than most programs have. I had a blast last night watching the game. IU could have won by 35. Crean was classy in taking Zeller out. I wonder how much the fuel in that private jet cost old Roy to fly here at the end and try to sway Zeller??? Leo, go hit up a UNC blog!!!

  20. J Pat you stated it well. Last night was as much fun as a Hoosier could have and keep out of jail.

    Leo, I would add that last night an Elite team schooled an x-elite team with ease. The Heels will never fear the noise of Cameron again after setting front row in the decibels of AE.

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