ATHENS — Georgia basketball coach Tom Crean will be dialed in along with the rest of the sports world tonight to watch Texas Tech and Virginia meet in the NCAA tournament championship game.
But while many of us are following the bouncing ball, Crean’s trained eyes will be looking for any edge he can apply to the Bulldogs’ basketball team.
Crean, three times named conference coach of the year during his stints at Marquette and Indiana, is regarded as one of the sharpest minds in the game.
But he’s also a basketball purist, and that’s why he said he appreciates tonight’s matchup in Minneapolis.
“It’s great for basketball to have two strong, fundamentally sound teams,” Crean said. “I coached against Chris (Beard) was at Texas tech as an assistant to Bob Knight and against Tony (Bennett) when he was an assistant to Bo Ryan at Wisconsin, I have great respect for both guys.”
Crean wants to style Georgia’s defense more toward what Texas Tech does to the extent he actually showed his team film of the Red Raiders earlier this season.
But he also has great respect for Virginia’s vaunted “Pack Line” defense, used in the 1990s by Bennett’s father, Dick, at Wisconsin-Green Bay.
“Texas Tech is so good with the switching and they are very active with their hands, creating deflections, steals and blocks,” Crean said. “Virginia is very good with their commitment to not letting you in the paint from anywhere. It’s much more of a positional defense.
“They are both extremely good at rooting to the ball. So when they want to double or rotate, they are as good as any two teams in the country. I would say, one is more switching and one is more positional.”
Many are expecting a low-scoring game. Virginia is a 1-point favorite and the over-under is set at 118, a low number attributed to the defense prowess of the Cavaliers and Texas Tech.
“I think it will be higher scoring than people anticipate,” Crean said, “but I don’t think it will be high scoring in a monumental way.”
The key, Crean said, is shooting.
“I think somebody is going to have to make 10 or 11 threes in this game,” Crean said. “I think scoring at the bucket is going to be hard to come by.
“Like any other game with two hard-nosed defensive teams, who controls the foul line and the rebounding is going o be huge … but the team that can get into the double-digit threes is going to have a good opportunity. Mid-range shots and shots at the rim will be hard to get.”