BLOOMINGTON -- Jason Brickman has Tom Crean's attention. Make no mistake about that. When you total 14 assists in a game, as the LIU Brooklyn senior point guard did a few days ago against Saint Peter's, you become a person of interest.
Tonight, the Indiana Hoosiers will be very interested.
“Getting ready for him is like getting ready for Aaron Craft,” Crean said, referring to Ohio State's do-it-all catalyst. “He's always looking for his teammates. He's fundamentally sound.”
IU (1-0) will test that soundness in a regional opener of the 2K Sports Classic to benefit the Wounded Warriors Project.
Brickman had 13 points against Saint Peter's along with those 14 assists, which were four more than any other player in the nation totaled in the opening weekend. He added six rebounds and three steals. He led the nation in assists last year, averaging 8.5.
“He's naturally gifted in the sense he can make plays and can shoot, but he finds people,” Crean said. “He's one of best guards we've seen in being able to use all aspects of ball screen. That's going to put a lot of pressure on us.”
Long Island (1-0) is no patsy. It has won three straight Northeast Conference titles. Last year coach Jack Perri won the Joe B. Hall national coach of the year award given to the best first-year coach.
Still, the Hoosiers are 21.5-point favorites.
“We can't afford to get ahead of ourselves,” Crean said. “This is a NCAA tourney team. They know how to play fast. Our young guys will see more pick-and-rolls than they've seen in their lives.”
Long Island lost four starters from a 20-14 team, including conference player of the year Jamal Olasawere and NEC tourney MVP C.J. Garner. It's picked to finish fourth in the NEC.
Still, it has weapons. It had five players score in double figures against Saint Peter's. Guard Gerrell Martin had a career-high 24 points while going 6-for-8 from three-point range. He shoots 44.6 percent for his career from three-point range.
The Blackbirds were fourth nationally in scoring last year at 78.7 points, and their season opener showed they hadn't lost their scoring knack.
“They have midseason-form spacing right now,” Crean said. “You can tell that some of them have done it and been a part of it.”
IU would have played Long Island in the second round of last year's NCAA tourney if the Blackbirds had beaten James Madison in their opener. Long Island is 2-16 against Big Ten teams. It lost to Michigan State in the second round of the 2012 NCAA tourney.
As far as the Hoosiers, Crean saw much that needed improved from Friday's 100-72 win over Chicago State. Athleticism and length won't always overcome mistakes, even against a Long Island team that doesn't have a starter taller than 6-6.
“We can have all of this length and athleticism and the ability to cover ground and the ability to make up for mistakes,” Crean said. “That can be our edge. But our strength has got to be the discipline of the defense. The discipline of not reaching, not gambling, not going for a play that's not there. Not being late on a rotation. Not switching out and having our hands down. Not challenging a shot the right way.
“The discipline of all of those details is what make a great defense. That's what we're trying to get them to understand.
“You're not going to make up against good teams by thinking you're just going to outrun them or be longer than them and get back and stop layups and open threes. You've got to get back and actually be in position and be down to play defense.”