Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Seeing Red -- Indiana Hopes To Stun Illinois
The theme is red. Not crimson. Red. Keep that in mind. Indiana wants Assembly Hall glowing in red tonight (as in fans dressing in red), much like Illinois’ Assembly Hall glows in orange.
The Illini roll into town with plenty of talent and if they haven’t always played to the level of that talent (they’re 14-6 overall, 4-3 in the Big Ten), that doesn’t mean they won’t.
The Hoosiers (10-10, 1-6) want to make sure it doesn’t happen to them.
First, coach Tom Crean needed to ratchet up the intensity. He wanted to make sure the effort level that proved so costly at Iowa wasn’t duplicated. Now there are no sure things in sports, but that doesn’t mean you can’t try and Crean is, if nothing else, a coach who tries very, very hard. No coach in America works as hard on the sidelines, and he’s trying to develop a program that surpasses his energy and passion.
So that means more full-throttle practices. Crean increased the intensity this week and we’ll see tonight if it pays off.
“We’ve had a couple of good days to be able to get our legs back underneath us and have some standard-setting-kind of practices that we needed to have again” he said. “It wasn’t like we were having bad practices at all, but it’s always important when you come off a situation where you didn’t play nearly as well as you could have, but it’s not coach-driven, that it’s player driven. We’re starting to grow into that.”
Crean has seen signs of this in the past, only to have the Hoosiers revert to substandard play. Is he worried it will happen again?
“I don’t worry in the sense that when we bring our practice to the court, we have a chance against everybody and we’re going to play pretty well in the way that they’re competing. We just have to learn to be consistent.”
Consistency will have to come without Maurice Creek and Verdell Jones, who are still out with injuries. Creek is out and Crean would only say about Jones that he’s making progress and working with the medical staff every day.
As far as the rest:
“A lot of things have to go right for us right now," Crean said. "When you take people out of the lineup like we did the other day, you’ve got to make your open shots. You’ve got to get to the foul line. Our transition defense and our one-on-one defense, especially straight-line drives, were very poor. We regressed in that area and we’ve certainly tried to focus on that the last few days.”
IU will need all the focus it can get against Illinois and its dynamic point guard, Demetri McCamey. He averages better than 15 points a game. He has almost a 3-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. What does that mean? McCamey just might be the Big Ten’s best point guard, although he’ll get arguments from, say, Wisconsin’s Jordan Taylor.
“He won’t be denied,” Crean said. “I think that’s probably the best thing. He plays the game a lot of different ways. It certainly looks to me that he’s as excited by the pass as he is the shot. When he gets in the mode that he’s not going to be denied, whether it’s running the offense, getting to the basket in ball screens, getting to the basket in a one-four low, he is extremely hard to guard.
“The thing they’re doing so much more that’s different even from last year is they’ve got three guys in transition who are constantly baseline screening. They’re running a double-screen basically on the baseline so (McCamey) can get right into that high pick and roll and create a lot of havoc with that.”
IU doesn’t need havoc.
What does it need?
You know that answer. A victory. Specifically, a victory over a quality opponent. Last year the Hoosiers beat Pitt. This year IU's best win is over Michigan, which isn't saying much.
If the Hoosiers can upset a top-25 team, as Illinois is, then maybe a turnaround is closer than people think.
And then the red light at Cook Hall will reason have a reason to glow.