Skip to content

Cody Zeller, the nation’s best role player, lifts Indiana to 1st in Big Ten

Feb 3, 2013, 12:38 AM EDT

Michigan Indiana Basketball

Cody Zeller was supposed to be the superstar for this Indiana team.

He was supposed to be the Player of the Year candidate, the all-american who has an offense custom-built to his every post-move; the guy that opposing coaches lost sleep fretting about and spent far too much practice time game-planning for.

Zeller is probably still the most talented player on the Indiana roster. He’s easily the best NBA prospect and his numbers are still pretty impressive. But at this point in the season, he’s probably not even Indiana’s MVP. That award would go to Victor Oladipo.

But I don’t think that matters at all to Zeller, as he has embraced the role that he has to play on this team. And rest assured, Zeller’s become a role-player, and that’s what makes Indiana so good. They are, at heart, a perimeter-oriented team. They have shooters everywhere on the floor. They have a pair of quality ball-handlers. Their MVP’s biggest improvement has been his ability to knock down open threes. Their power forward’s most valuable trait as a player is his ability to spread the floor.

It just so happens that this perimeter-oriented group just so happens to have the nation’s best center in the middle.

Indiana doesn’t need Zeller to make all the plays. They need him to make the winning plays. Like, for example, the two putback dunks he had midway through the second half that pushed Indiana’s lead back to six after Michigan had gotten within 57-55. Or the loose ball that he tracked down with just under two minutes left that saved possession for Indiana when they were up 69-62.

Zeller led the way with 19 points on 8-10 shooting and nine boards in Indiana’s 81-73 win on Saturday night against No. 1 Michigan in Assembly Hall, but he didn’t need a touch on every possession to do it. He capitalized on the opportunities he had and he made the big plays down the stretch.

And thanks to Zeller’s play, for the first time since Feb. 13th, 2008, Indiana is in sole possession of first place in the Big Ten standings.

And in all likelihood, the Hoosiers will be climbing their way back to the top of the polls come Monday morning after they knocked off Michigan, the current No. 1 team in the country. They may not actually be the best team in the country (ahem, Florida), but polls aren’t exactly the best way to measure the best teams. You’re No. 3 and beat No. 1 on the same day No. 2 loses, you’re moving on up.

It’s far too early in the season to be getting up-in-arms about something as meaningless as national rankings, but Indiana’s placement atop the Big Ten standings is hugely important.

Everyone in the Big Ten has a tough schedule this year, and a number of the marquee games have been backlogged, meaning that the top teams play each other quite a bit over the final month and a half of conference season.

Indiana’s may be the toughest simply because they have yet to play a difficult road game. Five of their last nine games are away from Bloomington. Those five road trips: at Illinois, at No. 11 Ohio State, at No. 13 Michigan State, at No. 23 Minnesota and at No. 1 Michigan. That doesn’t include their home game against the Buckeyes five days before the rematch with the Wolverines.

If the Hoosiers go 4-2 in those six games, I would be impressed. If I was a betting man, I’d be wagering on the Hoosiers going 3-3 during that stretch, point being that Indiana isn’t going to make it through the rest of conference season unscathed. Digging themselves a one game hole behind Michigan — even considering the fact that the Wolverines’ next three games are Ohio State, at Wisconsin and at Michigan State — would make an outright title a tough feat to accomplish.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Latest Posts
  1. Four-star 2016 combo guard cuts list to four

    Aug 2, 2015, 9:45 PM EDT

    Kelly Kline/Under Armour Kelly Kline/Under Armour

    St. John’s remains under consideration for the Brooklyn native.

  2. 2018 power forward Jontay Porter commits to Washington

    Aug 2, 2015, 6:37 PM EDT

    Lorenzo Romar AP

    He’s the younger brother of five-star 2017 forward Michael Porter Jr., and Michael Sr. considered joining the Washington staff this spring.

  3. UTEP adds four-star forward Brodricks Jones, former San Diego State commit

    Aug 2, 2015, 5:10 PM EDT

    Tim Floyd AP

    With Vince Hunter in the professional ranks and Matt Willms dealing with a foot issue, this is an important pickup for the Miners.

  4. Report: Two official visits set for five-star Class of 2016 shooting guard

    Aug 2, 2015, 4:00 PM EDT

    markelle fultz

    Markelle Fultz will take two official visits once he leaves adidas Nations.

  5. POSTERIZED: Wenyen Gabriel dunks on defender at adidas Nations

    Aug 2, 2015, 2:45 PM EDT

    (adidas) (adidas)

    Wenyen Gabriel’s tremendous summer only got better with this off-handed throw down on a defender.

  6. Xavier gets commitment from four-star guard

    Aug 2, 2015, 1:45 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Xavier added another piece in the 2016 class with a guard commitment.

  7. N.C. State secures commitment from four-star 2015 wing

    Aug 2, 2015, 12:33 PM EDT

    Mark Gottfried (AP Photo) Mark Gottfried (AP Photo)

    N.C. State added a dynamic wing scorer late in their 2015 recruiting efforts on Sunday as reclassified 6-foot-7 wing Maverick Rowan committed to the Wolfpack. A three-level scorer, Rowan was previously committed to Pitt and later backed off of his pledge to the Panthers before deciding to move up a grade by taking two summer…

  8. Texas A&M finishes 2015 recruiting efforts with late guard commitment

    Aug 2, 2015, 11:45 AM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Texas A&M finished off a tremendous 2015 recruiting class with one more combo guard.

  9. 2017 power forward/center verbally commits to Arkansas

    Aug 2, 2015, 10:15 AM EDT

    Mike Anderson AP

    After a rough July that included suspensions and a recruit heading to prep school, Arkansas received some good news on the first day of August.

  10. Three-star shooting guard becomes Wake Forest’s second 2016 commitment

    Aug 2, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT

    Danny Manning AP

    Brandon Childress, son of Wake Forest great Randolph Childress, was the first commit in the class for the Demon Deacons.

  11. Former Weber State, D-League assistant Phil Beckner joins Nebraska coaching staff

    Aug 1, 2015, 9:15 PM EDT

    Robert Casey/Weber State Athletics Robert Casey/Weber State Athletics

    Praised for his ability as both a coach and recruiter, Beckner also helped develop Damian Lillard into a lottery pick.

  12. Three-star power forward trims list to five

    Aug 1, 2015, 7:59 PM EDT

    Rivals.com Rivals.com

    Childs played well with the Utah Prospects in Las Vegas during the final evaluation period.

  13. Five-star shooting guard focusing on ten schools

    Aug 1, 2015, 6:39 PM EDT

    Adidas Eurocamp 2015 - Day One Getty Images

    Indiana, Kentucky and St. John’s are among the ten, as many expected.

  14. Semifinal matchups for Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic announced

    Aug 1, 2015, 5:27 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    SMU will be the headliner for this event, with the semifinals scheduled for December 22 and the third place and title games the following night.

  15. Wichita State lands transfer guard from Texas A&M

    Aug 1, 2015, 3:20 PM EDT

    (Getty Images) Getty Images

    Former Texas A&M guard Peyton Allen is now a Shocker.

  16. Iowa sophomore forward shows improvement in summer league

    Aug 1, 2015, 1:30 PM EDT

    (Brian Ray/Hawkeyesports.com) (Brian Ray/Hawkeyesports.com)

    Iowa is hoping for improvement from a sophomore forward who showed promise this summer.

  17. adidas Nations releases list of college counselors

    Aug 1, 2015, 10:00 AM EDT

    Kelly Kline/Under Armour Kelly Kline/Under Armour

    There will be 39 college counselors playing at adidas Nations this weekend.

  18. Isaac Humphries is Kentucky’s insurance policy inside, but should that be concerning?

    Aug 1, 2015, 8:52 AM EDT

    FIBA FIBA

    Is this an addition for depth, or should Kentucky be concerned about another center?