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 Michigan State:
1. HANDLE THE BALL BETTER
This was the first key for Tuesday's Illinois game, too, but that didn't seem to help much. The Hoosiers went out and turned the ball over a season-high 23 times against the Illini. That makes 63 turnovers in the last three games, and two of those games were against Nicholls State and Kennesaw State at Assembly Hall. Indiana will never survive a team like Michigan State if the Hoosiers turn it over at their current rate. IU is averaging more than 16 turnovers per game which ranks last in the Big Ten. That average needs to begin coming down and it has to start today at home against the No. 5 Spartans.
2. SLOW DOWN APPLING
It was a different team, especially in terms of IU personnel, but when you look at last season and how the Hoosiers were able to sweep Michigan State the No. 1 think was slowing down Keith Appling. Gary Harris scored 40 points total against IU in the two games a year ago and made five 3-pointers in the game at Assembly Hall. Adreian Payne had 18 in one game and 17 in the other. Appling? He had three points in the game at Assembly Hall in 19 minutes before fouling out and in East Lansing he had six points in 36 minutes and only got one foul. Combined, he was 2-for-12 from the field against the Hoosiers. He comes into today's game averaging more than 15 points per game and you know that Tom Izzo and company will do everything it can to get him involved and be successful early. Slowing down Appling could be a big key to this one.
3. FEED OFF THE CROWD
IU's 44-3 record at Assembly Hall over the last two and a half seasons is no accident and the Hoosiers have two wins to show against Michigan State in that run, too. The atmosphere could be a little different today as the students are not in session but the game is still a sellout. What will be the pep band situation? Will it be an alumni group or are some of the band members in the area and coming to the game? That will clearly add or take away from the overall atmosphere, too. The point though is that the crowd at Assembly Hall has been good in recent years of helping to push IU players perhaps above their abilities in key games. The Hoosiers feed off of the Assembly Hall energy and that will be a huge key today.
Follow Terry Hutchens at Twitter.com/Foxsportshutch