A player to watch: Illinois

Cody Zeller scored four points and pulled down three rebounds in his Big Ten debut at Michigan State his freshman season. He played 23 foul-plagued minutes. How will Noah Vonleh fare in his Big Ten debut Tuesday at Illinois?

With each game this season we'll put the spotlight on an Indiana player that we believe is someone to keep an eye on for that particular game.

For today's game against Illinois, we'll take another look at freshman Noah Vonleh.

All eyes will be on Vonleh for a variety of reasons Tuesday against Illinois. It will be the same kind of fascination that people had with Cody Zeller when he had his Big Ten opener his freshman season when the Hoosiers traveled to Michigan State. That one left a little to be desired for Hoosier fans when Zeller scored four points and pulled down three rebounds in 23 minutes of action. He had four fouls and never got into the flow in an 80-65 loss to the Spartans. With Vonleh, all eyes will be on him to see how he handles both his Big Ten debut and a Big Ten road game, too. The other thing with Vonleh, though, is the announcement Monday that Luke Fischer has withdrawn from school. All of a sudden a thin Indiana front line just got more exposed. Will this mean that Vonleh's minutes will have to increase significantly? One would think this was going to have to be the case any way but probably more so now. And that means that Vonleh will have to stay out of foul trouble. Look at Vonleh's last three games though. He played 21, 17 and 19 minutes against Notre Dame, Nicholls State and Kennesaw State. Vonleh will very likely have to become a player that is playing closer to 30 minutes a game. Just how he handles that will be something that IU fans will want to keep a close eye on.

One of the reasons to keep an eye on Vonleh though is just to see how assertive the 6-9 freshman forward will be now that the bright lights of Big Ten play have been turned on. This is a player who is averaging 12 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. But that's just half of the story. Look at his last eight games compared to his first five in terms of how many shots per game he has taken. In the first five, he was aggressive and taking the ball to the basket. He had four games with at least 10 field goal attempts and the other game he took seven. In the eight games since then, he has not taken more than six shots in any game. He is also averaging about 10 points per game in those eight games. But Vonleh will need to have a double-double type of a presence against Illinois for the Hoosiers to have a chance to open the season 1-0 in conference play.

Follow Terry Hutchens at Twitter.com/Foxsportshutch


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