BLOOMINGTON – One could argue that Indiana is as best prepared as it’s ever been entering Big Ten play.
You just won’t hear that from coach Tom Crean.
The No. 16 Hoosiers (10-2) have two of the conference’s best wins with victories over Kansas and North Carolina. They lost to top-15 Butler and Fort Wayne, but both are likely NCAA tourney teams.
The Hoosiers lead the Big Ten in scoring, three-point defense and rebound margin. They have talent and depth everywhere you look.
That includes ex-Bishop Luers standout James Blackmon, who leads the team in scoring and three-point shooting.
Still, Crean, who has guided IU to two outright conference titles in the last four seasons, isn’t ready to say this is the best prepared team he’s had entering league play.
“That’s a hypothetical. I don’t think like that. It’s all about that day’s improvement. I know that sounds boring, but that’s what it is. It’s about getting ready to have a good plan for tomorrow, whether it’s a game or a practice.
“Have we had a lot of different experiences inside of this schedule? Absolutely. Have I been really pleased and proud of the way they’ve responded to each game, even though didn’t always play as well? No question about it. Have there been times we’ve had too much slippage in games? Yes. Are there times when our youth and inexperience and lack of awareness has shown up? No question about it.
“It’s a matter of continuing to build on those things. Not take anything we do well for granted. The moment you get away from something for a couple of days, it’s like you never even did it, especially with a young team.
“So much of it is energy, great enthusiasm, not trying to make hard-hitting, thread-the-needle type of plays. We don’t need to do that. We have to keep emphasizing how important it is to move the ball, stay connected defensively, get on both backboards and run the court at a high level. If we can keep building on that, a lot of things will filter well for us.
“The only thing I think about is we end the season with four out of five on the road. That’s the only thing that strikes me about the schedule.”
IU begins three straight Big Ten home games – Nebraska, Wisconsin and Illinois. It ends with road games against Minnesota, Iowa, Purdue and Ohio State, with only a home game with Northwestern breaking up the travel.