IU Insider Blog: One final tuneup

Indiana seems to be limping toward the end of the non-conference season and is clearly in need of a big momentum-building effort as it faces Kennesaw State. Can the Owls be a springboard game for the Hoosiers moving into Big Ten play?

One more game.

One more game until we finally get to find out just how good this Indiana basketball team will be this season.

There are a lot of skeptics right now. The loss to Notre Dame didn't help. That was a game that Indiana fans expected to win and the Hoosiers didn't show up for the challenge.

The Nicholls State didn't exactly make IU fans feel all warm and fuzzy inside either. The Colonels around and Indiana won 79-66 but the Hoosiers simply didn't look like a team ready to open Big Ten play in the near future.

And that's the reality here. In nine days, Indiana will travel to Illinois to take on the Illini in a 3 p.m. tip on New's Eve.

That first four games of the Big Ten schedule could be a brutal stretch to open the year. IU's two home games in that group are against Michigan State and Wisconsin. Those teams have a combined record of 21-1. The Michigan State game will be played on Jan. 4 when the IU students are still not in session. And Wisconsin has owned Indiana in recent years.

The two road games in the first four are Illinois and Penn State. Just how the Hoosiers can fare against that kind of competition will tell us a lot, too. The Illini have had some good wins and it will be tough to beat them in the Big Ten opener in their building.

So what do you hope to see out of Indiana Sunday against Kennesaw State?

Here is what I'm looking for:

Noah Vonleh to dominate

We all know that Vonleh is capable but he still isn't to the point where he's demanding the ball and dominating games the way he'll need in order for Indiana to have the best chance to compete in the upper half of the Big Ten standings. If Vonleh can't dominate teams like Nicholls State or Kennesaw State, how will he fare when the bright lights of the Big Ten come on?

Yogi Ferrell needs to be more consistent

That was a good second half Friday against Nicholls State. He had seven of his eight assists in the second half. He didn't turn the ball over. He finished with a game-high 16 points and knocked down a trio of 3-pointers. Ferrell needs to run the show, he needs to carry a good chunk of the scoring load but also put his teammates in the right position. A game like Kennesaw State can be the kind of game where he builds a little more momentum.

Troy Williams needs to play more like he did against Washington

Williams was big against the Huskies. He had 22 points on 8-of-12 shooting. The bright lights were on in Madison Square Garden and Indiana fans left that game thinking that Williams was going to be a key player for the Hoosiers this year. Since then, it has been a mixed bag. Williams needs to let the game come to him and not look like he's forcing the action. And he needs to hit his free throws, too.

Those are few things that I think the Hoosiers need to do individually going into Big Ten play. There are plenty of team concerns as well including handling the basketball better, shooting better from the perimeter and just playing with more consistency.

As the Big Ten season arrives, the youthful excuse needs to disappear more and more. With 13 college games under their belts, the IU freshmen need to look more like sophomores and less like freshmen.

One more game. One more non-conference opponent before the Hoosiers will start playing them against some of the best in the land on a weekly basis in the Big Ten.

Follow Terry Hutchens at Twitter.com/Foxsportshutch

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