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March 15, 2015

Tom Crean

Q.  Just the reaction when you saw your name pop up on the board?
TOM CREAN:  I was stunned at how quick it came up, and I did not see it matching up with a 7 seed in complete honesty.  But I was sitting in a room‑‑ we didn't do anything official, but we were in the locker room, the lounge area there, and I just sat in a chair where I could see everybody's reaction, and my side was to the television, and I wanted to see my family's reaction, all the players' reaction, coaches that were here and their families' reaction, and it happened so fast that I know I missed a little bit of it.  But it was such an incredible thing for these guys, and really with the exception of Yogi and Hanner, and they were so young when it first happened and it was such a run that year with being No.1 for as much as we were and all of that, that you kind of get caught up in the day‑to‑day of it.
Well, these guys, there was some anxiousness to it.  They were very tight this morning when we went to weightlifting.  We practiced this afternoon before it, and because in my mind I'm saying we need to practice in case we're heading to Dayton because it'll be a short period of time, and we knew it could go anywhere from Tuesday night to Friday night, so we had to be prepared.
But it's a great, great feeling to watch people that put so much into it, being the players, the coaches and the families, and see them have that kind of expression of just pure, unbridled joy, and there's no question that's what it was.  It was exciting.

Q.  Why do you think that (inaudible)?
TOM CREAN:  Well, it's interesting, I wasn't even aware until a little while ago that we were the first 10 seed.  I think when it goes to show is that when they get in that room, they judge the body of work.  It's not a popularity contest.  It's not about who said what.  It's not about predictions, it's not about opinions, it's about the fact of the work, and I think the fact of the matter is that from start to finish, obviously we've lost games and we've had some lulls, but we scheduled the way that you're supposed to schedule, we won some of those games, we beat some ranked teams, and we play in one of the best leagues in the country, and we play a brand of basketball that is capable of winning games.
And obviously with the youth that we have, we've got to keep improving it, and hopefully this past week showed that we can and that we can get better and we are a resilient bunch.  But I haven't heard the explanations yet of it, but I think there's other factors in it, the power of the league, and I guess that would be a big one.  But we're just proud to be in it.  I don't have an explanation, but I know that when you just really want something so bad for people like we wanted it, like I wanted to see it for these players and the coaches, that you're just happy to be in, and when you get a situation like that it's an added bonus, and then reality sets in that you're getting ready to play an outstanding team, a team that has perennially been very good since Greg has been there, and we could talk more about that later, but a team that we're going to have to be really, really good to compete with and beat that night.  There's no doubt about it.

Q.  Obviously before you saw your name called was there any trepidation about not making it?
TOM CREAN:  You know, believe it or not, I really wasn't focused on any of that.  I was very calm today, very calm with all of it because you just kind of insulate yourself into the point of what you need to focus on, and I'm aware of what's out there and those type of things, but again, it just proves the point, those things don't matter.  What matters is what's done in that room.  What matters is what they think, not what somebody's opinion is what somebody's prediction is, and I think that plays it itself out when you look at the seed that we got.
No, it was a normal day.  It was prepare for practice, work on film.  I definitely jumped into some potential teams that we could have faced in Dayton just to have a leg up, looking at different numbers of different teams, go to church, come back, do some more work, take a run, go to practice, get ready to roll, and other than that, very normal day and very calm.  Felt a little‑‑ I felt a little bad for them this morning.  They were tight.  But that's part of it.  It's part of youth.  It's part of the anxiousness.  They wanted an opportunity, and to see them react the way that they did, and I wouldn't call it relief, I would call it just pure joy.  They were so excited, which is one of the major reasons I do this job is to watch those guys have moments like that.  It really is.  It's just like watching your family be that happy.

Q.  I guess to follow up on that, you talked about them being tight.  Did you talk to them at all, or is it something maybe on a day like this, you just kind of let them have to experience it?
TOM CREAN:  No, we've done what we've done.  We got back and focused on basketball.  We focused on what we needed to get better at, especially with our films and our meeting last night.  It's not about‑‑ it was not about worrying about it.  We knew barring something unforeseen we were going to be playing another game, okay, whether it was in that tournament or the NIT, and our focus needed to be on making sure that no matter when it was, we knew we were preparing for a game, not a team, and we had to make sure that we kept getting better.  So I think we've done a really solid job of staying focused on what we could, which has been what the mantra has been all year long anyways, and this week was definitely about that as we prepared for Chicago.  There needed to be some‑‑ we needed to reenergize a little bit and sharpen up a little bit, but we also needed to see what was holding us back.  We worked hard to correct that for the most part with the exception of some of the (inaudible) on Friday night.

Q.  How is Hanner doing, and getting into that (inaudible) getting an extra day?
TOM CREAN:  Oh, that could definitely work better for him.  Yeah, he's shooting and has been warming up and rehabbing, moving pretty well.  We didn't practice him today, but we're definitely on a belief that he's going to be back.  So certainly Friday helps a great deal.  Would Tuesday have helped?  That's to be‑‑ I don't know.  We don't have to worry about that now.  But hopefully later in the week he's definitely going to keep making the progress that he's making, because like I said the other day, it certainly could have been a lot worse, and the way it looked, it was a lot worse, but it ended up not being that way, which is very fortunate for him, to not have to go through another trek like that, and for us.

Q.  What stands out about (inaudible)?
TOM CREAN:  I didn't know that one.  I'll know a lot more about the numbers later tonight.  What stands out is how physical they are, and they're very, very thick.  It's eye popping when you watch them on the screen right now with how strong and physical they are, and their guards, the inside play, I mean, not a huge team but a very thick, well‑built, well‑conditioned, weight room‑built team.  The thing is you're going to have to be ready for a fight on the glass.  If you don't come in with that kind of mindset, it's not going to be a great game for you.  You've got to earn your baskets against them because of that physicality.  I think they're a great screening team, so you're going to have to really do a fantastic job of navigating on defense, and they've got a couple of bona fide stars in Baker and VanVleet, and the bottom line is they've got a bunch of other guys that really know how to play and that make each other better constantly.  They get the ball inside.
This is one of the most balanced team we will have faced for the ability to shoot threes, play at the rim and get to the free‑throw line, and this is where hopefully the schedule that we've played, the league that we've played in helps prepare you for that, but I think the one thing that to me that stands out about them that they don't get a lot of credit for is how fast they are.  I think they can play a lot of different styles.  They're one of the more experienced teams.  You can see the experience in them because they make so few mistakes, and they don't turn it over very much, and they've got a lot of positive assist‑turnover ratios with their players.
It's not a game where we're going to be able to go in and get by with a lot of mistakes or get by with not rebounding the ball, so we're really going to have to be on top of our game for that in a short period of time.

Q.  You talked about your team not having a ton of experience.  (Inaudible.)  Is experience overrated?
TOM CREAN:  No, it's not overrated at all.  This time of year‑‑ and there's nothing we can do about it, right.  We've got to understand‑‑ our situation basketball is going to be crucial, and how you come out of timeouts.  Your special situations, baseline out of bounds, sideline out of bounds, you have steal possessions at places, and we're going to have to get on the glass, but we can't get away from what we do.  We can't get tight with taking a shot.  The key is to not take challenged shots.  When we don't make the next pass, we're not nearly as good, and we've got some guys that can make shots with a hand in their face, but we've got to make sure that it's one dribble quick, we're shot taking, we're making the next pass, we're getting Troy where he needs to be to be strong.  This is a time of year where we'll be new to them, they'll be new to us, everybody will prepare, but you've got to find a way to get your edges to come out.  You've got to find a way to get your strengths to come out in the game because they're going to want the same thing, and who does a better job of taking away each other's strengths is usually going to be the team that finds a way to win the game.
Then it comes down to that margin for error that is so small, so how do you capitalize on that.  Were you good in your baseline and sidelines, like I said?  Did you come out of the timeouts the right way?  Did you go and make your free throws?
And our guys are excited because they believe if Doug McDermott scored all those baskets in that gym, it's got to be some nice, soft rims.  First thing I heard Yogi say.  Hopefully we'll shoot the ball well, but they shoot the ball well.
It's not underrated at all.  You've got kids in this game now that have played in the Final Four game against Louisville.  We've got to be‑‑ and I had a great seat for that game.  It's funny watching those guys now; they're just a little bit bigger, but they have the same type of game, and their game was pretty good then.  We're not going to win on the experience game.  We've got to win on making sure we play as mistake free as possible and yet play to our strengths.

Q.  Can you talk a little bit about Van Vleet?
TOM CREAN:  Well, I haven't watched enough film to say that it's one guy.  Obviously he's a great point guard, but Baker is going to play in the NBA, too.  They're a good team.  They have a very good backcourt, and they know how to play inside.  They're very physical and strong, and they don't post‑up and hit you with their back, they post‑up and nail you.  I mean, they come into you.  And I mean that in an aggressive positive way.  They get after you.
So we're going to have to do a great job on him.  I don't know him.  I've respected him for a long time.  He chases down rebounds.  He's got great deceptiveness in his game with his footwork, whether it's with the dribble, without the dribble.  They do a great job from what I've seen initially here now on reading screens, and again, he can play at the rim because of his strength, he can play in the mid range.  He's got a very positive assist‑turnover ratio, and he can make threes.
What you think they're getting ready to do they may not be getting ready to do.  The other day with Dez Wells, one thing they've really done a great job of is Dez gets down into what we call the alley area.  He gets down into the baseline area.  He's just waiting for you to stand up just for a little bit.  Obviously we had some match‑up issues because we're not as big, right, but you can't ever stand up with him.  You can't ever get even with him because as soon as he sees that, he's nailing you and he's coming into your body, and that's what experienced players do.  They understand how to set you up.
That's what I see with Fred, that's what I see with Ron Baker.  Those guys set you up, and if you get caught relaxing for a second, they're going to go by you, they're going to shoot it over you, or they're going to cut in front of you, so we've got to be on high alert.  Our awareness has got to be tremendous in this game.

Q.  (Inaudible.)
TOM CREAN:  Well, I didn't cry, actually, which is rare.  It happened so fast, I was stunned.  I'd be lying to say that I saw a 10 seed coming.  Honored to have it.  We're grateful for it.  And it came up so fast because it's all of a sudden, it's like there's Kansas, and then there's Wichita State, and I'm saying, wow, Wichita State can play Kansas in the semi‑‑ whoa, there's Indiana, and it was just one of those deals.  That was my thought process, and I turned right away to catch them, and so it's a great feeling.
When you watch your kids, your wife, I mean, the coaches' wives, Chuck was in New York recruiting but yet his wife and two sons were in there, and it's just an incredible feeling to watch them be a part of it.  It's just one of those moments that you never, ever get tired of.  You've had the thrill of sitting there watching your name come up, but when you get to watch somebody else watch the name come up, that's bigger to me now.  In the old days it was different, but that's bigger to me now.

Q.  Yogi talked in Chicago and said that the team did some self‑analysis between the end of the regular season and the Big Ten Tournament and saw these moments where they were sustaining intensity that weren't being sustained and he felt like he got some of that back in Chicago.  Did you see that?
TOM CREAN:  Absolutely, it's in the film.  It's very easy to see in the film.  Like I said, you have got to absorb it first.  It's got to hit you in the heart.  You've got to see it and go, whoa, I can do better here, and then you have to apply it.  It wasn't like anybody wasn't playing.  Think about it; that free throw rolls in, there's a pretty good chance we've got the crowd behind us and we're rolling into that overtime, everybody is excited because of the comeback, maybe we get the win, right?  That's another topic.  But we didn't, so we had to really look.  But even if we'd have won that game, we would have had to go in there and say, we're missing some things here.
There's some things that we do that we're not doing as well right now.  And one of the great lessons for these guys is they get a lot of attention and a lot of credit and they've earned their way to having a very good offense because of the way we can shoot and the way they get out and run, but we're only really that good on offense if we're getting some things off of our defense.  We're really only that good on offense if we're not turning the ball over.  We're really only that good on offense if we're getting through the paint.  If you're getting to the paint you've got a chance to get fouled; that gives you that much more.  So the bottom line is you've got to pick your defense up and you've got to pick your edge up a little bit.
And we wanted to get after Northwestern.  If you get after Melo Trimble that way and you pick him up full court, all of a sudden he's shooting 12, 14 free throws.  So you've still got to have ‑‑ the pick‑up point for Tre Demps and Bryant McIntosh was different than the pick‑up point for Melo Trimble, but the bottom line is the same thing.  You've got to bring some energy to it, got to bring some edge to it, you've got to have your help defense ready to go, and you've got to be ready to be in a physical battle.
And again, to me we lost the game Friday night, but the fact of the matter, when you really look back at it, and watching the film you can see it, when the shooting wasn't keeping us in it, okay, being able to go down there and defend them was keeping us in it, and both teams were really, really battling.  We played a team that night that to me, they can win a lot this month.  I mean, they are an outstanding team because they have experience, they have guard play, they have inside play, they have the match‑up that's a nightmare in Dez Wells.  They're well coached, and they're deep, and they shoot it.  For us to go toe to toe on that line with them was encouraging to me that even when we don't have our offense clicking the way that it is, and we missed some open shots again late, that we're capable of going against a good team like that this time of year.  That we have to build on.

Q.  Going back to the inexperience, is there a way to make that work in your favor and play a little more free or have a little more fun with it?
TOM CREAN:  We don't want free and loose to turn into sloppy and inconsistent because sometimes that can have‑‑ the biggest thing you've got to watch for this time of year is getting out of character.  It doesn't matter if it's young or old.  It's a lot easier to do it when you're young, but sometimes it happens when you're older.  You cannot go into this tournament with anything less than playing the most simple brand of basketball that works for you.  We added some things today.  We added a couple things conceptually today.  We went back and worked hard on our edges today, and it was only an hour and a half.  So you want to play to your strengths.  You want to add a few things.  But the last thing you want to get is start having players trying to invent new things in this time of year.  Those teams don't win.  And with inexperience, and when you get into a situation like that‑‑ the biggest thing that scares me now‑‑ I shouldn't say scares me, but you see it on film and you just go, whoa, this is a physical, strong team.  They're not the biggest team we will have faced but they're an extremely physical team.  So we're going to have to deal with that.  Okay, we're going to have to deal with finding a way to still keep that court spaced.  We've got to find a way to not let them overpower us.  We've got to find a way to deal with all these screens.
So now you start to go, okay, this is what they do, Ohio State does, very similar to this, or Purdue does that or Michigan State does that.  You start giving them reference points because it's not about trying to teach them all these things that Wichita State does, it's about, hey, this is how we got at Ohio State when they did this or Baker does this or remember when so‑and‑so did that, kind of jogs them a little bit, and you keep trying to simplify it through your game planning throughout the week.
But you just keep harping on the simplicity of the game.  Next pass, get back on defense, block your man out, and most importantly, play with that energy and play with that edge.  That's what it comes down to more than anything else.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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