Thursday, October 11, 2012

IU-Ohio State Coaches Share the Love; IU Basketball Practice Begins

In the cutthroat world intercollegiate coaching, sometimes you steal. You do it, the other guy does it, not because they have 10 Commandment issues, because that’s how you learn and grow in the profession.

Which brings us to Indiana’s Kevin Wilson and Ohio State’s Urban Meyer. They have known each other for years, back when both were assistant coaches. Both praise the other and say they have stolen ideas from the other.

In the coaching profession, that’s a good thing. It’s a compliment if you’ve devised a system others want to copy.

So Meyer calls Wilson an innovator and Wilson reciprocates while admiring Meyer’s “phenomenal success” and this warm and fuzzy moment will disappear as soon as the teams meet Saturday night at Memorial Stadium.

Wilson, who directed record-setting offenses while an Oklahoma offensive coordinator, says he’s not an innovator as much as a guy trying to teach players to “play hard and play physical.”

Wilson said he’d like his Indiana teams to, in a lot of ways, play as Meyer’s teams do. And then Wilson took it a step further.

“It's nice to have schemes or concepts. We had to attack Michigan State last week differently than most people because of our dynamic and our playmakers to give us a chance. You don't take your cards and fold your hand in college football. You have to play the cards.”

Wilson then referenced the late Randy Walker, the former Northwestern coach and Wilson’s former boss.

“Coach Walker told me a long time ago that every hand is a winning hand, but you've got to know how to play the cards. Sometimes you're bluffing, sometimes you've got a good hand, but you've got to play your cards. And as a coach, that's our job. It's to manage the cards and know how to push the bets and hold the bets, and when to take and when to fold, how to keep playing as we go, and that's coaching.

“At the same time, as we coach, its physicality and what I like about Coach Meyer is he's been very innovative in what he does, but there's a brand of football that is all about toughness and attitude and playing good defense and coming at you. Those are things that I believe, as a line coach, and with my background with Coach Walker, which is a background of Coach Mallory, that's still the essence of football.

“You can window-dress it all you want, shift formation, I-formation, huddle up, no huddle, three-man, four-man, two-deep quarters. It doesn't matter. It's a physical game, playing hard, and that's what I think (Meyer has) got going on at Ohio State, and that's what we're getting to at our place, is bringing the physicality and toughness.

“To me, it's nice to be quote "thinking you're innovative," and his offense is one of the premier, but if you cut all of the window-dressing out, there's fundamentals in basics that win, and that's what they do at Ohio State, and that's what we're trying to do down here."

For the record, Indiana is 2-3 with a three-game losing streak. Ohio State is 6-0 and considered a top-10 team by nearly everyone except, well, the writer of this blog. I have the Buckeyes at No. 17 because they haven't beaten a contending team (the Big Ten is embarrassingly weak this season) and struggled to get past a mediocre Pac-12 team in California.

Anyway, the Hoosiers have to play a near perfect game to win Saturday night. They also need Ohio State to commit about four turnovers and make some really poor decisions.

Can that happen?


Will it?

We’ll find out soon enough


IU basketball is set to open its practice season tonight. That first workout is closed except for ESPNU (Hoosier Hysteria is set for Oct. 20), so we have to guess on a few things. Fortunately, coach Tom Crean has provided some tidbits on what we can expect from a team looking to win a national championship.

For instance, Crean went on ex-Hoosier player Dan Dakich’s popluar radio to talk Cream ‘n Crimson basketball on Thursday.

Crean said freshman point guard Yogi Ferrell will make instant impact.

“He’s a one-man press offense,” Crean said.

He also said he wants to have a “starting eight” this season. In other words, he wants eight guys good enough to start in a rotation designed to push the pace and wear down opposing defenses.

There will be two constants in that rotation -- Cody Zeller and Jordan Hulls. Zeller might be the best player in America this season, and, as a point/shooting guard, Hulls is positioned to make an all-over-the-court impact.

Crean said everybody has bought into the work-hard-and-play-defense theme. He said there hasn’t been a time in the off-season where he’s had to worry about how hard everybody is working.

You'd better believe that's a good thing.

Crean told Dakich he wants to play at full-throttle speed, which means blink and you might miss something. The Hoosiers had the Big Ten’s best offense last year while averaging 53.5 shots a game. Crean would like to bump that up to 65 or so.

Crean also understands that if IU doesn’t play better defense, it has no chance of making it to the Final Four, let alone win a national championship.

“If you’re not carrying your weight on that," he said, "you may not get back in.”

As far as being a top-5 team this year (some experts list the Hoosiers at No. 1), Crean said, “Last year they responded to a lack of expectations, but they weren’t driven by it. They were driven by a desire to get better. It’s the same thing now.”

Oh, one final thing. Crean said that when Zeller arrived in Bloomington he lacked a little strength. He could bench press 185 pounds 10 times. Now he can bench press 225 pounds 14 times, and can also squat 415 pounds.

He will shoot three-pointers this season (he never took one last year), handle the ball more and, in short, do all the things you'd expect from a future NBA player.

First, of course, there's a season to remember to experience.

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