Skip to content

Cody Zeller’s stats may go down this year, but is that good for IU?

Nov 21, 2012, 2:32 AM EDT

Mikael Hopkins, Otto Porter, Cody Zeller

BROOKLYN, N.Y. – The way Indiana’s postgame player availability works is that Tom Crean comes in and does his press conference, and when he’s finished talking, the players are brought in and stand off to the side for their interviews.

On Tuesday night, after Jordy Hulls earned MOP of the Legends Classic by scoring 17 points in an 82-72 overtime win over Georgetown in the final, all the cameras and reporters surrounded him. Standing next to Jordy? Cody Zeller, who awkwardly waited with a goofy smile for the stragglers that couldn’t get their cameras or recorders close enough to Hulls.

That’s Preseason Player of the Year Cody Zeller, mind you; the guy that could end up being the No. 1 pick in the 2013 NBA Draft and whose face has been plastered all over college basketball preview magazines. And I can promise you, the man known as “The Big Handsome” didn’t get put on the cover of Sports Illustrated for his dashing good looks.

How often do you think he’s an afterthought in a postgame press conference?

Because that’s exactly what he was on Tuesday.

And that’s the best news that an Indiana fan can hear.

One of the knocks on this Indiana team heading into the season, one of the main reasons that this season has been labeled as ‘not having any dominant teams’, is because of a perceived lack of talent surrounding Zeller. That’s not a shot at guys like Victor Oladipo and Christian Watford, but who else on this Indiana roster looks like an NBA player? Kentucky had six of them last season, by comparison. I dedicated an entire column to this back in April.

What the Hoosiers proved at Barclays in winning the Legends Classic, however, is that they do have some other pieces, because they beat Georgia and they beat Georgetown with Zeller looking, well, pretty normal.

To his credit, Zeller’s battling “asthmatic bronchitis or something” and, as he put it, “didn’t get my wind until tonight.” That “asthmatic bronchitis or something” could easily be credited for the six-point, four-rebound performance Zeller turned in on Monday. And while the 17 points and eight boards Zeller had Tuesday looked better in the box score, the Preseason Player of the Year was a long way from dominant. The Hoosiers didn’t look to him on key possessions down the stretch. He finished 4-11 from the floor and did the majority of his scoring at the free throw line.

And that may not be something that changes this season, either.

Because Indiana has enough quality pieces surrounding Zeller that they don’t need him to dominate this season.

“You’ve gotta do what’s required to win,” Indiana head coach Tom Crean said after the game. “I think Will Sheehey said it best: everybody did what they do best tonight.”

Indiana is deep. They played nine guys on Tuesday, have a tenth rotation player on the bench that didn’t get into the game and are still waiting for two big men that will see time to get ruled eligible by the NCAA. And while the other eight players that saw time aren’t on the fast track to the first round, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t quality college players. And it certainly doesn’t mean that they don’t fit into what Crean wants to do offensively.

“We keep trying to stress to these guys, it’s not the quantity of your minutes, it’s the quality of your play,” Crean said. “If you’re looking quantity of minutes, we’re not a good program right now. We’ve got too many guys. We really want to keep improving that quality of play. It’s easy to talk about it, it’s harder to do it.”

One of the biggest changes this season is the addition of freshman point guard Yogi Ferrell, who is another guy that can be relied upon to make a play in a big spot. He hit the dagger on Tuesday, a fadeaway three at the end of a shot clock in with 45 seconds left in overtime to give the Hoosiers a ten point lead. Ferrell was one of five guys in double figures against Georgetown and one of seven guys to score at least six points.

Everything doesn’t have to run through Zeller this season.

He can be just as effective acting as a decoy, freeing up the other weapons on the IU roster, as he can getting 25 post touches a game. Case in point: Indiana shot 34.6% from three before Zeller showed up on campus and knocked down threes at a 43.1% clip during his freshman season.

The point I’m trying to make?

Don’t be surprised to see Zeller’s numbers take a hit this year, and don’t be surprised when Indiana benefits from it.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

Latest Posts
  1. Cincinnati adds commitment in 2015 class from forward

    Sep 15, 2014, 10:22 PM EDT

    Mick Cronin AP

    The Bearcats added a 2015 recruit on Monday night.

  2. Kansas begins Bill Self’s two-week Boot Camp

    Sep 15, 2014, 9:45 PM EDT

    Bill Self AP

    Kansas begins a two-week Boot Camp today.

  3. Richard Pitino warns Minnesota fans not to trust his dad before Louisville opener

    Sep 15, 2014, 7:30 PM EDT

    Billy Minardi Classic - Florida International v Louisville Getty Images

    Things are getting interesting between the Pitinos as we get closer to the Minnesota and Louisville game.

  4. Florida International’s court destroyed by CrossFit event

    Sep 15, 2014, 6:30 PM EDT

    Norfolk State v Illinois Getty Images

    Florida International had some bad luck over the weekend.

  5. Charlotte head coach Alan Major returns from medical leave of absense

    Sep 15, 2014, 5:30 PM EDT

    Atlantic 10 Basketball Tournament - First Round - Charlotte v Richmond Getty Images

    Charlotte head coach Alan Major has returned to the team.

  6. Another mixtape for Jaylen Brown, No. 2 prospect in 2015 (VIDEO)

    Sep 15, 2014, 4:10 PM EDT

    AP AP

    Brown is a 6-foot-7 powerhouse that has drawn some comparisons to Stanley Johnson.

  7. NCAA adopts new rules philosophy regarding student-athlete support

    Sep 15, 2014, 1:55 PM EDT

    NCAA_Logo AP

    The NCAA is trying to improve their ability to apply common sense to rules interpretations.

  8. Big Blue Nation already camping out for Big Blue Madness? (PHOTO)

    Sep 15, 2014, 1:02 PM EDT

    @JenNimePalumbo @JenNimePalumbo

    They’ll be out there for six full days. To get tickets to watch a practice.

  9. Shavon Shields shaves head to support coach’s son (PHOTO)

    Sep 15, 2014, 12:32 PM EDT

    @ChrisHarriman24 @ChrisHarriman24

    Avery Harriman continues his third battle with leukemia.

  10. USA Basketball, Mike Krzyzewski and thoughts on today’s ‘takedown’

    Sep 15, 2014, 11:19 AM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    It was less a shot at Coach K than it was a shot at USA Basketball.

  11. Alani Moore, Markelle Fultz shine at DMVElite 80

    Sep 15, 2014, 11:03 AM EDT

    DSC_8490

    The best players in the D.C. area competed at DMVElite 80 over the weekend.

  12. Wyoming adds another Florida product to its 2015 recruiting class

    Sep 14, 2014, 11:59 PM EDT

    Wyoming v UNLV Getty Images

    Of Wyoming’s five 2015 verbal commitments, three have come from Florida natives.

  13. 6-foot-8 power forward verbally commits to Fordham

    Sep 14, 2014, 10:08 PM EDT

    Tom Pecora Tom Pecora

    The Tabor Academy forward picked Fordham over offers from Duquesne, Quinnipiac and Saint Joseph’s.

  14. Boise State successfully keeps three-star guard home

    Sep 14, 2014, 8:47 PM EDT

    Leon Rice AP

    With Anthony Drmic and Derrick Marks both being seniors, this is an important addition for the Broncos.

  15. Three-star power forward to announce college choice Friday

    Sep 14, 2014, 7:50 PM EDT

    Scott Stuart/Rivals Scott Stuart/Rivals

    The Roselle Catholic (New Jersey) product is expected pick from Rhode Island, Seton Hall and South Carolina.

  16. Summer exhibitions provided Kansas big man with needed playing time

    Sep 14, 2014, 6:15 PM EDT

    Hunter Mickelson, Andrew Young AP

    Playing with an all-star team this summer helped the Arkansas transfer shake off the rust accumulated during his season on the sidelines.