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March 16, 2012

Tom Crean

Victor Oladipo

Christian Watford

Cody Zeller


Q.  What kind of challenges does VCU present that maybe some of the other teams you've played this year haven't?
VICTOR OLADIPO:  They play high tempo.  They press a lot.  They get up and down the floor.  They like to turn teams over.  They're long and they're athletic.  They're kind of different from a lot of the Big Ten teams we've played.  We're going to have to come ready to play.

Q.  Just to follow up on that, what kinds of things can you do in practice to sort of replicate the kind of pressure that they bring you?
VICTOR OLADIPO:  Just practice at a high level, work on the things we have to work on in order to be successful, listen to what the coaches have to tell us, work on our press breaks and things like that.  And work on taking care of the ball.

Q.  Can you talk about the responsibility on you and Remy tomorrow, especially with Jordan having to handle, I believe he played 35 minutes on Thursday, how much is it on you and Remy to help him out?
VICTOR OLADIPO:  It's going to be big for everybody to step up to handle that pressure and be able to handle the ball.  It's going to be big for us to help Jordan a little bit in order for us to win.

Q.  The Indiana program was down when you got there, Coach Crean came in.  Can you talk about what it took to get it back to where it is now?
CHRISTIAN WATFORD:  It took a lot of hard work.  When I first got here we didn't really have anybody to lead.  So I kind of had to step up and take that role as a freshman.  We had some older class, but they didn't really know how to lead either, when they got here, nobody was really here.  So we just had to take it day‑by‑day.  And it was a constant grind.  And we finally got to this point.

Q.  Wichita State's big man, Garrett Stutz, was really stopped pretty well last night by VCU defense.  What did they do against him and what will be the keys for you against them?
CODY ZELLER:  We watched some of that film.  They like to play the up‑tempo game.  Pressure the guards a lot.  It makes it tough on the guards to get inside.  There's not going to be as many sets run as just playing basketball, and finding the open guy.  I'll just try to be active.

Q.  I know you guys were happy to win yesterday, but what was the team mood like on the bus going back to the hotel?  Were you euphoric about it or was it more of a business as usual kind of thing?
VICTOR OLADIPO:  We were happy about the win.  But it sits in that you know you have a game tomorrow.  And we've got to get back to the drawing board.  And that's exactly what we did when we first got back to the hotel, we got back to the drawing board.  It's a big game tomorrow and we're going to have to come ready to play.

Q.  What was it about Coach Crean and Indiana that really lured you to commit there?
CODY ZELLER:  He's a great coach, obviously.  The program wasn't winning a whole lot when they recruited me.  But I had confidence in the guys that were already here and what Coach Crean was doing with the program.  I liked him pretty well just from the recruiting process, and I couldn't be happier.

Q.  What gave you the confidence in him?
CODY ZELLER:  Just talking to him.  During the recruiting process you talk to all the coaches quite a bit.  After you talk to a guy that much you just kind of get a feeling for what he's about.  I found out that he was a pretty genuine guy about what he was saying and I had confidence in it.

Q.  Is there any other team out there that you can compare the pressure to that you will see on Saturday that you maybe have faced earlier in the season?
CHRISTIAN WATFORD:  Not really.  Big Ten teams don't really press and stuff like that.  Their length kind of reminds you of Kentucky the way they're long on length, but as far as pressure, we really haven't faced anybody like them.

Q.  Coach Crean was talking last night that you guys basically didn't see Tim Buckley leading up to the game yesterday because he was so busy with prep.  Going into this one, could you talk about how the assistants prepared you guys for these games, especially on a quick turnaround?
CHRISTIAN WATFORD:  They do a great job of preparing us.  And whenever we get in we've just got to learn the game plan pretty fast, it's kind of on the move.  We do a great job of learning it and actually going out and doing it.

Q.  What did you think watching VCU's run through the tournament last year and what was your reaction when you saw that they were in the same bracket grouping as you guys for this tournament?
CODY ZELLER:  I didn't think too much about it.  It's a different team than they had last year.  We're a different team.  We didn't meet them last year, so we don't have anything to compare it to.  But they're obviously a great team and we look forward to the game.

Q.  Victor, how do you balance the excitement of being here mixed with the pressure and all that stuff?  How do you guys handle that?
VICTOR OLADIPO:  It's like once you get into the game and the ball is thrown up and you are with your teammates, the nervousness and the pressure kind of goes away.  Now that we have a game under our belt, there's no really reason to be feeling any pressure or feeling any anxiousness.  It's just time to play basketball now.

Q.  When you look back to when you got here at Indiana what did you think needed to be accomplished or some of the things that needed to be accomplished to get you to this point?
COACH CREAN:  When we first started?

Q.  Yes.
COACH CREAN:  Well, there was no way to put it into context when we first started.  Really, what I thought I knew about Indiana and the Indiana that I would have imagined, that wasn't what it was at that time.  A guy like Dan Dakich did a really good job of trying to fix it in a short period of time, before the season ended, and made some points, that looking back on it now they made a lot of sense.
And when we got in there it was just a lot different.  There was no way to start thinking about where we were going to end up because literally we had to get a team ready to be on the court that year with 28 points coming back.  So a lot of our time was spent on recruiting for that season.  Spent time recruiting that upcoming class, which was obviously going to be paramount.  A lot of time spent recruiting the younger classes.
But I think the most important thing is every day that passed and we realized that we were in a tough situation, we needed to make sure that ‑‑ the fans were so great to us and so gracious ‑‑ that we had to make sure that we kept them with us, because we were starting to get a feel day after day that this was going to be really, really hard.  And the bottom line is they stayed with us and our former players came back in droves.
As we've gone through it, then you start to really look forward to the future and to get to points like this, but when we first got there, there was no way to think clearly on anything for really past the next couple of days.  It was all about what's going to happen next, how are we going to handle it and how do we get a team ready for the season.

Q.  Has it progressed as quickly as you thought or a little quicker?
COACH CREAN:  There's no way to quantify it.  I don't even use the word "patience" with our fans.  Nobody knew what they were being patient with.  Nobody had been through it.  I certainly hadn't and our staff hadn't been through it, our players hadn't been through anything like that.
There really is no way to quantify it.  We just had to keep getting better day after day.  Now, the vision never wavered.  It really didn't.  We always knew where we wanted to end up, and we're continuing to try to get there.
But as far as putting any timeline on it, especially with the way that we had to literally have a brand‑new team that first year, there was no way to have that timeline in place to say we're going to do this in X amount of years.

Q.  Talk about how your staff has rarely seen Tim in the past few days.  Talk about what your staff did since last night.
COACH CREAN:  Seen too much of Tim now.  He's been diligent.  He's been helping all of us.  We got back at it last night right away, brought the team in for a little bit, Tony La Russa spoke to them again, which was really good.  And then the kids went to bed and went to see their families and we continued to work.
We've just spent a lot of time watching segments of how they played.  We've spent a lot of time trying to really understand their pressure, to understand the things that are not as normal for our guys of what they've seen.  A lot of times your concepts can take care of some of the things you see in a short turnaround, and there are a few things.
But this is a tough preparation because of their pressure, because of their ‑‑ we see a lot of good pick‑and‑roll teams.  This team is no different.  This team doesn't take a backseat to anybody we've played in pick‑and‑roll basketball.  They do a lot of switching.  They make you get ready for a lot.
And we've tried to take that time, not try to inundate our players with a ton of information, but try to keep giving it to them in bits and pieces.  And then this practice that we have this afternoon will be very important.

Q.  Is there any way to replicate their pressure in practice?  Gregg Marshall from Wichita State said he was using six guys on the press to get his guys used to not having time and space.  Is there any way to do that?
COACH CREAN:  I don't know if we'll do it today.  What we used to do to get ready for Louisville's press back at Marquette is we'd start it with 8 and drop it to 7, to 6, and then give them confidence at 5.  What we've done at Indiana is more 7 on 5 and rotate guys in, maybe sometimes from different spots.
I don't know if we'll do a lot of that today because we've got to put a couple of different pressure releases in.  But there will be some live action, there will be some stepping through traps.  There's some definitive places that VCU wants you to catch the ball, which is like most pressing teams, which is deep in the corner, and then try to get you to throw it back underneath the basket.  And they do an excellent job.
And this is not a game where I think we're going to be able to bring fatigue to the game.  I thought we were able to bring fatigue to the game last night.  I think this team is deep.  I think they're used to the way they play.  And we're not going to be able to replicate it as much.  So it's really a lot more about how strong we are with the ball, what our vision is like and what our mindset is like in seeing that press.

Q.  You and your coaching staff have been through NCAA tournament situations before.  Is there a balance between getting as much work you want but getting enough rest for you to be as crisp as you want to be?
COACH CREAN:  Absolutely.  But it's more important for the players.  It's adrenalin.  It really is.  Nobody is tired.  The coaches are excited and we're locked in.  There's a lot of dialogue.
The one thing that I like to do back home is I like to get away and really kind of watch a lot of the games myself before we sit and have meetings.  It's a little bit harder to do that right now because there's less time.
But our conversations are great.  But, yeah, nobody is sleep deprived.  We get the balance.  Went for a run before I got ‑‑ before I went up, changed and got on the bus to come over here.  We've got pretty good balance.
It's most important for the players that they stay fresh, that they stay excited, that they absorb what we're trying to give them.  And it's not so much that it goes in one ear and they don't really comprehend what you're trying to give, that you do it in bits and pieces.  That's the one thing I learned a long time ago.
I saw Tom Izzo reference 1998 when we were playing Eastern Michigan and Princeton and Connecticut.  And that's very much where that formula was created, and really happenstance.  It was late at night and it was very short meetings for the players.  And it worked.  So I've adopted that.  I know he has.
And that's really what you try to do to keep them at a fever pitch so when that game time comes that they feel great, that they feel prepared but yet they're really rested and ready to roll.

Q.  You've had success at multiple programs now.  You coached Wesley Matthews at Marquette, so now there's a coaching vacancy with the Blazers, I imagine it's just a matter of time before we see you here in Portland full‑time?
COACH CREAN:  I think Tim Buckley already told Bob that he is not a candidate for the Portland Trail Blazers job.  We leave the declarations of not being involved in jobs to John Calipari, not me.  I told him I was going to say that.  I talked to him today.  We were sharing notes.  I say that in complete jest, and with respect, and with respect.

Q.  Maurice Creek is the guy that's had to sit through the season on the sidelines and last night he's in the civilian seats.  What was that for him like last night and what has it been like for him the whole season?
COACH CREAN:  It's a great question.  I tell you what, I hate that.  If there was one thing that anybody gave me, you can change one thing about the NCAA tournament it would be to have a few more people be involved in that bench.  And it's just the way that it is.  But everybody down there has a job to do.
I just wanted to make sure before we went out that he understood there was really no way around that and it's nothing against him at all.  But I've had three or four people tell me, including the guys last night that were here, including Tony La Russa, my friend Dick Strong, they kept talking about how great our guys were at calling things out.  And Maurice is a big part of that.
And when you hear something like that, because I'm not tuned into that during the game, I'm tuned into it on the bench, but that's a great thing.  Maurice has got a maturity about him.  This cannot be easy.  It's so hard ‑‑ there's no way to be in his shoes when you look at this and you look at all he's had to endure with those three surgeries within 22 months.  But he keeps coming back.
There's obviously no way he would have been able to play this year.  He's never been able to practice with us, other than shoot a little bit.  But I just ‑‑ there's no question we want him to have the success that he so truly and richly deserves moving forward.
It's like why it's so hard to deal with when a guy like Verdell Jones puts so much into this, does so much and then can't play in this.  And then you think about where Maurice has been the last couple of years.  Again, as we said so many times to him, his mother said to him, God doesn't give you anything that you can't handle.  And I think Maurice is living proof of that.  And really, really proud of how he's continued to respond and mature this season.

Q.  What about their pressure makes them so effective, a lot of teams obviously maybe try to press, but VCU does it better than anybody?
COACH CREAN:  It's their length.  And you grew up in Louisville, so you know what that length has been like, with what Rick has done with those presses at Louisville.  Because it's the intensity of it.  There's a toughness to it.  But it's really, really hard to play against that kind of length.  And they have tremendous length.
And I think they do an excellent job of pushing you in a spot.  Their traps are really hard nosed, they close their traps.  They're constantly coming at you if you get an advance with the back‑tipping procedures.
So you've got to do a great job of catching the ball where you want to catch it.  If you catch it where they want you to catch it, it's going to be a problem.  It's going to be in the deep corner, there's going to be two defenders that are live and there's going to be a baseline and a sideline line that now turn into four people.  And we've watched so much film where people have been in that situation and there's no way to capitalize on that.
So where you catch it, what you do on the next pass, those are the most important things.  Your fundamentals really come into play, getting the ball out in front, reversing the basketball, head up, all those types of things.  But if you asked one question, I think it's their length.  Or one reason, I think it's their length.

Q.  What was kind of the overall message that Tony La Russa gave to the team yesterday?
COACH CREAN:  There was a couple of different ones.  When you can have speakers that can give you real life situations there's nothing like it.  It was like this when Jim and John, my brother‑in‑laws, were in a while back.  He really talked about things that made their Cardinals team special.  And the messages that he gave them.  When you look at their team and look at how ‑‑ we've got a lot of Cubs fans in there and he took a few shots at them, which is okay.
But the bottom line is everybody can respond to a message when they've been through it to a degree.  That team was really ‑‑ they were close to being out of it.  And there wasn't really a lot of people midyear, end of the year that were picking them to go anywhere.  And their team really rallied around one another.  And he gave some of those examples.  And they hit home with our guys.

Q.  Cody is obviously from a basketball family.  Can you talk about the advantages of recruiting someone like that that's watched siblings have success and what he's done to help your program get back to this point?
COACH CREAN:  Well, the recruiting part of it is nothing was going to phase him.  The recruiting never phased him.  They had a plan.  They had a process.  I don't know this for sure, but I think they probably learned and developed this process when Luke, the oldest, was going through it, when Steve and Lorri had their oldest son go through it.  And they probably had it down pretty well when Tyler was going through it.  And it was nothing new when Cody was going through it.
It was truly an honor to recruit him.  And the day that he was making his decision, it was a Thursday, I believe, I'd gone to get some breakfast and I made a call to his father.  And it was, on my part, it was somewhat emotional.  I said I don't know how this is going to turn out, I know I hope it turns out, but it has been an absolute honor of the parents of our three children, my wife and I, to be able to watch how they raised theirs, especially Cody.  And I say that because nothing was going to speed them up, nothing was going to distract them.  They knew what they wanted to do in the sense of how they were going to have it play out.  And that's exactly how Cody is as a player.
And you're starting to see it with the jump shot, you're seeing it with the driving.  We see all those things in practice.  It's a comfort level he has, when he brings that comfort level to the game that he knows he can do those things, his game takes another step.  That's why he's as good as he is right now.  There's so much great basketball ahead of him.
And that's really what the recruiting process was like.  It was fun to watch him get better.  It was fun to get to know him.  It was fun to see the process that they used and the things that were important to them.
And as I've said many times before back home, when the Zellers are able to write a book, I'd be the first in line to buy it, when it comes to how to deal with your children, how to raise them, and in the same sense how to have people that have that kind of attention bestowed upon them, they're as real a deal a family as you could ever possibly imagine, to have all this attention that they get.

Q.  Is there anything that you can draw upon from Butler's national semifinal victory over VCU?
COACH CREAN:  You know, we haven't looked at that yet.  And we haven't looked at a couple of tapes that we want to look at them from last year.  So that's a good question.
I think the bottom line is as we go through what we want to do to attack them today and be able to get back tonight, watch the practice film and decide is this what we want to do and spend some time tonight and maybe tomorrow morning a little bit on bits and pieces from last year.
We've seen enough of how they've just destroyed certain teams this year with their pressure.  And that's where we wanted to get our guys' attention more than anything else.
One thing that helps us and helps these guys is when they can see, okay, if this team would have done this, if this was open, look at how they're handling this, and I think our guys start to get a better example.  At the same time they see just how good it is.

Q.  How important is it for all five guys to handle the pressure and not just Jordy?
COACH CREAN:  It's important.  As we said as a team last night and this morning, everyone has to be a decision maker, a handler, everyone has to be a play maker, and everyone has to be a finisher.  It's the way that it is.
To expect one or two people to break this pressure, that's what they would want.  And certainly we will miss Verdell.  There's no question.  There's no way around it, we will.  But at the same time, other guys have to step into these opportunities and play with confidence and strength and toughness.
And like I said, execution equals recognition, and recognizing what's there and what the defense is giving us, and we've just got to go play.

Q.  How much do Vic and Will change the attitude of this program, and how are those guys different and similar personally, I guess?
COACH CREAN:  That's a good question.  I think they came in, when they came in a year and a half ago, they came in with a tremendous work ethic.  They established right away that they were going to be full‑time recipients of the benefits of having a place look Koch Hall.  And they were in there a lot.  We'd see them in the summertime bouncing in and out.  Jordan would be in there a lot.
They helped really bring an even stronger work ethic to the program, even more of ‑‑ as simple as this sounds, it's really sometimes kind of complex, they love basketball.  I mean, they love it.  And there's very few things you could ask them about the game or about college or pro that they wouldn't have a clue, and they love playing it, they love following it.
And that kind of permeates inside of your team.  And they came at a time when guys were kind of at the crossroads, how much do they love it, we're not winning, all this hard work, all this stuff that I'm asking them to do and we're doing, and we're not getting a payoff for it, and these guys really brought another level of energy to the program.  This past summer it went up a couple more notches.
And we had a lot more guys that had a hard work, work ethic, gym rat mentality that spring, summer and fall than we had had in the past.  And some guys changed, but I also think there was, we've got to keep up, this is going to be really, really competitive.  And Will and Victor led the way.
And I think there's no question that the success that we're having this year, when you look at how their improvement has been, it's a big part of it.  It speaks for itself.

Q.  I know your players talked about this last night, but can you talk about the way Remy Abell played and the game last night and how important he will continue to be?
COACH CREAN:  Remy is fearless, and I think that's a big part of it.  Remy is hard to deal with in practice.  He's hard to guard, I mean when I say hard to deal with.  He gets to the lane.  He's got the strongest lower body on our team.  He's had some very good games.  I think the Purdue game, at Purdue gave him tremendous confidence that he could be a big part of this team and lead it to victory.
And there's no question that he's now got another coach in Verdell sitting there and making sure he's ready to go.  Sitting by him in the film room.  Those things are important.
But the biggest thing is he's fear also.  He doesn't get too tight or wound up in all of this.  He's played in a lot of big games in his mind and this is just another stage for him.

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