Crean seeks teaching points in every situation, adjustments for every moment. Basketball is a fast-paced sport and hesitation can get you beat.
The Hoosiers want to run, dictate and dominate. Opponents don't want anything to do with that, so they will zone, slow down, frustrate and, if they can, dictate on their own.
Over-matched Coppin State tried all of that on Saturday and still suffered an 87-51 defeat. The remaining patsies on IU's patsy-of-the-week schedule (Butler is the Dec. 15 exception) are likely to try the same approach. Nobody wants to get hammered by 30-plus points, which tends to happen if you run with these Hoosiers.
And so …
Crean borrows a page from his brothers in law — Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh and San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh — and problem solves on the go.
It starts with having a high-basketball IQ team, and the players' willingness to accept his message when the game plan goes askew.
“They want to do well,” Crean says, “and they're smart. That really helps …
“When I think of my brother-in-laws and the way they coach, when I think of the New England Patriots and the Green Bay Packers … they don't make adjustments at halftime. Halftime is too late.
“They make adjustments in the next series. We have to become that type of team. If we're adjusting at halftime, and making changes at halftime, that gets a little harder.”
Instant adjustment is crucial when Indiana goes against such college heavyweights as Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State. It's not so big against Coppin State and the rest of the non-conference fodder remaining — Central Connecticut State, Mount St. Mary's, Florida Atlantic and Jacksonville — but these games do provide on-the-job practice that should pay long-term benefits.
“When we can adjust on the fly from timeouts, maybe a possession, but especially at timeouts, that's where we've got to go,” Crean says. “You can have the greatest game plan in the world, but there is going to be something come up different in the game and you've got to adjust to it.
“If you don't have a smart team, if you don't have a team that will cover for one another, then that gets hard. This team is learning to do that.”
The biggest challenges this season have come from Georgia, Georgetown and North Carolina, with bigger ones still ahead.
“That is the beauty of these eight games … we've seen a lot of different things already,” Crean says. “Jordan (Hulls) and Yogi (Ferrell) have had to guard 6-8 guys from Georgetown. They've had to guard speed from North Carolina.
“Every game has teaching moments, but your teaching is only as good as their ability to absorb it, and they absorb pretty fast and well. We've got a lot of smart guys.”
Much of the focus remains on defense. Forget the potent offense. Crean wants these Hoosiers to be, first and foremost, a defensive team. That usually starts with junior guard Victor Oladipo, who was a one-man press against Coppin State with three steals and 20 deflections. He's long of arm, relentless in approach, passionate in everything.
Sure, Oladipo set a tone with his steal and dunk to start Saturday's second half, a few minutes after Crean had turned the hallway outside of IU's Assembly Hall locker room into an impromptu practice court, but he had plenty of defensive company, including Ferrell and Christian Watford.
“I wouldn't put it on one guy,” Crean says. “It's a team thing. Victor had 20 deflections. He's at the front of it, but Yogi did a great job. Christian did a great job. If you're pressing, it's not one guy. Victor got everybody's attention right away with the steal, but we're a defensive team.
“Victor is one of the better defenders in the country, but I don't think he's going to be alone when it all shakes out at the end of the year.”
Saturday's shaking will center on a 3-3 Central Connecticut State team that will have as much chance of an upset as the sun has of rising in the west.
And that, at least, will mean no adjustment at all.
Up nextTipoff: Central Connecticut State at Indiana, 6 p.m. Saturday
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