The Indiana Hoosiers (10-3) need to start the Big 10 season off with a victory. They will travel to Champaign, Illinois to take on the Illinois Fighting Illini (11-2) on Tuesday afternoon (3 p.m. ET on ESPN 2) in the conference opener for both teams. Both teams are very evenly matched at this point of the season despite the Hoosiers actually having more talent.
Indiana has all the talent in the world, but they’re underperforming. That’s another story for a different day. The Hoosiers will likely play 11 players on Tuesday afternoon in the State Farm Center. Illinois, on the other hand, has a rotation of only nine. Of those, four coming off the bench, and they’re all freshmen.
That’s why Indiana needs to get Illinois in early foul trouble and exploit those youngsters. None of the four freshmen average more than 3.5 points per game and all struggle to shoot. 6-foot-6 guard Malcolm Hall is the leader off the bench as he’s the leading scorer. He can give Illinois a big lineup when him and 6-foot-6 senior Joseph Bertrand are both on the court, but his struggles could also hurt them.
Illinois’ issue is that none of them have stepped up and they’re very thin in the frontcourt. The Illini only play three forwards as both Jon Ekey and Nnanna Egwu will start. Center Maverick Morgan comes off the bench, but he only averages 1.7 points-per-game. If IU can get Egwu or Ekey in foul trouble, then Illinois could be in trouble.
Gone are guards Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson who shot their way back into the game in Champaign last year. Gone is also Tyler Griffey who hit that last-second shot. If Indiana can play stout defense and get the Illini in some foul trouble, then the Hoosiers could leave there with just their third win at Illinois since 1999.