With every basketball game that Indiana plays this season we will take a look at three things to watch that could be important for that game.
Here are the three keys for today's Big Ten opener with Illinois:
1. HANDLE THE BALL BETTER
In Indiana's last two games of the non-conference season against lowly Nicholls State and Kennesaw State, the Hoosiers had 20 turnovers in each game. That's not going to cut it in Big Ten play. Indiana is averaging 15.9 turnovers per game. That's last by a large margin in the conference. In fact, Purdue ranks 11th in the Big Ten in turnovers per game at 11.8. Illinois is only averaging 10.5 and in its final non-conference game at Illinois Chicago, the Illini only turned it over four times. Indiana needs to be closer to 10 turnovers than to 15 or more in its Big Ten opener against Illinois.
2. BEAT THE ZONE
You know Indiana is going to see it. The Hoosiers will likely see the zone in just about every game they play in Big Ten play. And why not? When you don't shoot the ball well from the perimeter, teams can pack it against you and force you to beat them from the outside. IU is shooting 47.3 percent from the field which ranks fourth in the conference. But it's a misleading statistic because the majority of that shooting is in the paint on put backs and lay ups in transition. Indiana ranks last in the Big Ten from 3-point range shooting 31.5 percent (Illinois ranks 10th at 33.5 percent by the way). The point is that Indiana is going to be seeing some zone and the only way to get teams to get away from it will be to start shooting the ball at a better percentage from the perimeter. That will be a significant key in this game and several games moving forward.
3. STATEMENT GAME?
In the minds of many, the jury is still out on what to expect from Indiana basketball in Big Ten season. If the Hoosiers could come out and knock off Illinois on the road in the Big Ten opener it would go a long way to answering some big questions with this Indiana team. In addition, it would clearly ease some of the pressure IU will feel if it loses to Illinois and then faces Michigan State and Wisconsin as its first two Big Ten home games. Is this a statement game? If Indiana wins, it could be. If the Hoosiers lose it's not as big of a deal unless IU also were to lose to Illinois when they play in Bloomington later this month. IU has to come away with at least a split with the Illini this season.
Follow Terry Hutchens at Twitter.com/Foxsportshutch