Recap of Tom Crean’s session on Big Ten teleconference #iubb

Tom Crean was the first coach to kick off this season’s weekly Big Ten teleconference on Monday morning. He touched on a handful of topics, including his freshmen guards, the team’s health and improving defensively.

A transcript of Crean’s comments follows:

Opening comments:
“We’re excited to play Michigan State. Some of us understand the challenge this will be. Our young guys don’t have any idea yet, but after going through the Nebraska game and some of the teams we played in the non-conference, they have a much better understanding of what it takes to win in these types of games. This will be a tremendous challenge for us because Michigan State is doing so many good things on both ends of the court. Their defense is many times stifling because they can take you out of so many things that you want to do, and their offense is capable of scoring inside and at the midrage, and they’re certainly one of the better 3-point shooting teams not only in the league, but in the (country). We’re just getting our final adjustments made before our meetings this morning and this afternoon. We’re excited to play.”

What kind of impact have James Blackmon Jr. and Robert Johnson had on your team?
“They’re becoming more experience by the day. I think the fact that we went to Montreal and got five games in a short period of time with those guys has helped. They’ve consistently improved throughout the year. They’re understanding the value of not only how good they can be in scoring the ball, but certainly what they can do defensively, what they can do on the glass, what they can do as facilitators, what they can do as drivers and cutters and everything that goes into the game. They have a seriousness about them that’s been apparent, certainly when we recruited them, but it’s been very, very apparent to everyone in the program really since they got here in the summertime. They really work hard o their game constantly, they’re always in the gym shooting, they’re starting to watch more film on their own and they’re very, very serious about getting better at their skills.”

Where is the team healthwise going into Big Ten play?
“We’re managing. I don’t think there’s any team that’s ever completely healthy because they go hard and things come up in games, but we’re managing it. I think that’s from having a trainer and a doctor and a staff that really understands what they need and we constantly talk about who needs some time off here, who needs to recover from this and we’ve been fortunate that they may miss some practice time, but they’re not missing enough practice time that it hurts them in the games. I think that’s really, really important. We manage guys daily and make sure they’re sharp when they’re not in there and they’re getting the mental and verbal reps, and at the same times, that they’re getting sharp enough to get ready for the games.”

Did you use tape of the Maryland game to show your young guys how they went into Michigan State?
“We did show flow of the Maryland-Michigan State game and we show a lot more in segments. But that was one game we showed that the message was that you just have to keep playing because Maryland missed shots that they normally make, Michigan State missed shots that they normally make, so the key is just keep coming at them. Maryland is very, very impressive in the fact that they play with great poise for such a young team. They move the ball extremely well and that’s what you have to do against Michigan State. If you expect them to make a mistake, you’ll be waiting all night long and going home with a 20-point loss. You have to keep the game moving and you have to keep making them make decisions throughout the game. You cannot just let them stand and be the help defenders that they are because their help defense is as good as anyones in the country. I thought Maryland did a really good job of not getting discouraged in the game and kept playing. For a young team, that’s a tremendous growth process right there and I think Mark (Turgeon) has done a great job. Mark’s a fantastic coach and that’s not a secret to anyone in coaching, but I think the fact that he has a young team mixed in with some experience like Dez Wells and Evan Smotrycz, who knows the Big Ten, I think it’s really impressive and I think they’re gonna be good for a very long time.”

Do you feel like the defense is making some progress?
“Ever since the Louisville game, we’ve made strides in a lot of areas because I think nobody was happy with the way that we played. We knew we left a lot on the table in that game — the sense of urgency of defense and the sense of physicality and tenacity of rebounding and poise on offense. We played too quick at times, we shot too quick when we needed to make another pass, so we’ve grown in a lot of areas there. I think it’s individually driven with the fact that you’ve got guys like Hanner Perea, Troy Williams, people of that nature that are really improving individually as defenders and as team defenders and rebounders. I think our freshmen of James and Robert are getting more and more comfortable with what they have to do and they’re gaining experience. Then it’s guys like Collin Hartman, Nick Zeisloft, Yogi, people like that are continuing to make strides not only individually on defense, but on team defense. Our communication is starting to improve and I think that’s a big part of it. We’re starting to understanding more and more that we have to get better at defending the rim — much better at that — but we’re starting to understanding more and more how improtnat it is that you don’t overhelp on the ball and give up open 3s. Especially now that we’re in league play, that is gonna be absolutely crucial and probably never as crucial as it is tonight.”