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Crean pushing Hoosiers to keep improving

Associated Press Modified: April 25, 2012 at 5:01 am •  Published: April 25, 2012

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) — Tom Crean knows the Indiana Hoosiers can't afford to take too many breaks this summer.

Certainly not if they want to live up to their own expectations.

Four weeks after the Hoosiers completed their most successful season in a decade, Crean told reporters he's looking for improvement in three areas — getting stronger, becoming more consistent with head-to-head matchups and on defense.

"We're preaching quality, not quantity. We're preaching improvement, but most importantly we're preaching to the choir and they're hungry," Crean said. "I think this group right now is hungry because they've tasted it, because there's so much competition they can feel and absorb it. It gives them more room for growth."

At Indiana, that means things are finally getting back to normal.

The Hoosiers are coming off their first 20-win season in the Crean era and their first NCAA tournament regional semifinal appearance in a decade. They beat three top-five teams during the regular-season, the first time that had happened in school history, and they were unbeaten in nonconference play for the first time since 1989-90.

Now that Cody Zeller and Christian Watford have both decided to return to school, fans are expecting even bigger things when Crean welcomes one of the nation's top recruiting classes to campus next fall.

The lineup could be even stronger than expected.

Crean acknowledged that senior Matt Roth, a 3-point shooting specialist, is contemplating a return next season, and the Hoosiers believe oft-injured shooting guard Maurice Creek could be healthy this fall, too.

Creeks' freshman season ended prematurely because of a fractured left kneecap. The next year, he was diagnosed with a season-ending stress fracture in his right kneecap. Last year, Creek never even got started, tearing his left Achilles' tendon in October.

Crean is hopeful he Creek will make it back.

"Maurice has to become the hardest worker on the team and that's not who he's always been. He's got to be in the Victor Oladipo, Jordan Hulls mindset because he's not really playing yet," Crean said. "We have high expectations for him in-house. He's got to get his lower body stronger as it continues to heal up. He needs to continue to build his upper body strength, but he needs to get back to being one of the best shooters in the country, which is where he was heading before he got hurt the first time."

If Creek can return to form, a big if, the Hoosiers might emerge as the national championship contender some analysts predict.

But Crean insists he and his players are paying no attention to the outside pressure and instead are focused on using this offseason the same way they used last year's offseason — to make improvements.

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