BLOOMINGTON – Talent wins. Isn't that the way it's supposed to be? Isn't that why recruiting -- and recruiting rankings -- is so big?
Indiana has basketball talent. There is no doubt about that. It also has youth, which means understanding and wisdom sometimes get overwhelmed by excitement and energy.
And so Tom Crean paces and shouts from the Assembly Hall sideline, a coach in perpetual motion for more reasons than ever before. He pushes his Hoosiers to attack on defense, execute on offense and always -- always -- play with purpose.
"We're still turning the ball over too much," he said. "That's going to take awhile because we make too many unforced errors with our footwork and our driving ... But we're going to play fast, so we're going to work through that."
Take, for instance, Monday night's 79-39 exhibition victory over Hillsdale College.
IU fell into a 13-2 hole, then dominated. It got big plays from veterans Yogi Ferrell (14 points) and Will Sheehey (12 points) -- the players who most have to come up big. It got production from freshmen Troy Williams (nine points) and Noah Vonleh (eight points, nine rebounds). It got stifling defense (Hillsdale shot 24.0 percent and committed 17 turnovers against eight assists).
“They really guarded us," Hillsdale coach Jason Tharp said. "They take away your opportunity to make a scoring pass because of their length. They have a lot of weapons. They're going to get better every week. What they are now, and what they'll be in March will be two totally different teams.”
For the first time we saw IU's complete roster in action. All seven newcomers played, which was big given freshmen such as Stanford Robinson, Williams, Devin Davis, Collin Hartman and Luke Fischer have been out with assorted ailments.
We also saw the Hoosiers in full attack-the-basket mode. Some of this was because Crean does not coach passive play. More was because of new rules on hand checks. More fouls are likely to be called, which rewards players who drive the paint.
You'd better believe Crean wants to drive -- and win.
“There are two things up for grabs as the season starts. There's usually one. First, everybody is 0-0. Everybody has the same level of energy and they can do things.
“Now, the game is up for grabs because the game is being called so differently. It's about who makes the adjustments? Who understands it best? Who can apply it and retain it? Those are the teams that will be successful.
“There will be some wild games the first month of the season. We want to do everything we can do to be creative, innovative, fast, but be disciplined. That's where your hands have to be free; you have to move your feet; you have to create angles defensively. You can't reach. You can't put that hand in the back.
“We've got to drive the ball. We're not great at playing downhill with the exception of Yogi and Stan. But we'll get better. That's where so many fouls will be created and that's how we'll get the ball in the post.”
The Hoosiers have three days to prepare before opening their season Friday night against Chicago State. Crean will continue to fret about turnovers (IU had 16 of them against 14 assists) and the occasional lack of defensive communication. He will be patient when he can, demanding when he must.
“There's no garbage time at Indiana,” he said. “I don't coach it. (The players) aren't here for it and the fans don't pay to see it. Everything we do has to be … we carry it all the way through. We have to learn a lot about that.”
Talent wins, but first you have to learn to win.