One year ago, members of the IU men’s basketball team were crowned kings of Brooklyn in the Progressive Legends Classic.
They had overcome the adversity of trailing at halftime in the first game against Georgia and the struggle of winning against Georgetown in overtime.
Even with veteran experience, the Hoosiers struggled at times under the bright lights of the Barclays Center last season.
Tonight, as IU Coach Tom Crean’s squad plays its first game of the 2K Sports Classic Tournament in the hallowed halls of Madison Square Garden, Crean said he doesn’t want his players to block out the differences between Assembly Hall and the court the Hoosiers play Washington on this evening.
“We can talk about it all week in the sense that we’re going to New York, and lights aren’t any brighter,” Crean said. “It’s a 90-foot court with 10 feet from the floor to the rim. It doesn’t make any difference, but it is. It’s different.
“This is a hard environment not to get distracted. The bottom line is we want them to have fun, and we want them to see New York. I want them to experience that.”
Last season, Hoosier fans flocked to the Barclays Center remarkably well, dominating the Georgia crowd in the semifinals and matching the Georgetown contingency, who would have had a much shorter trip.
Crean said he’s hopeful for another dominating crimson crowd tonight and Friday, but for the Hoosiers, this trip is all about continuing to form an identity with such a young core of players.
Even with the addition of the new NCAA foul rules this season, the Hoosiers have managed to keep the team’s high-scoring mentality of last season, where IU averaged 78.6 points per game, ranking fifth in the NCAA.
This season, the Hoosiers averaged 90.75 points per game against their first four opponents, but against arguably IU’s best opponent thus far — LIU Brooklyn — IU averaged just 38 percent shooting from the floor and squeaked out a 73-72 victory.
At times, certain players have struggled from the foul line, and the team hasn’t been immune to scoring droughts from a team with a lot of athleticism but a few pure shooting threats.
The Hoosiers have reached double-digits in fast-break points in only a single game — against Samford.
Crean said his team has to have an identity in transition offense, defense and shooting, and he said this goal is still a work in progress.
“If you’re getting good shots and have rebounding balance, you have your guys getting back on the air time of the pass, but it’s not a one- or two-man job,” Crean said.
“College basketball right now is so much about how you attack in transition and how many two-on-ones you can create.”
Crean said after watching tape on Washington, the Huskies thrive on speed and a transition game that he said is the best his team has seen on film thus far.
Though Washington has already suffered a loss this season — an 86-72 defeat at the hands of UC Irvine a week ago — Crean said his team will get a great look at some key qualities the Hoosiers must pick up before they get into the meat of the conference schedule this season.
“Their speed, their transition game is the best we have watched on film and the best we will see in a long time,” Crean said. “They get the ball out of bounds really quick. They attack and do a great job off of one pass, getting the ball ahead and attacking the rim. They want to play fast.”
Follow reporter Nathan Brown on Twitter @nathan_brown10.