Feb 3, 2013, 12:38 AM EST
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.
Dec 13, 2013, 10:26 AM EST
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Dec 13, 2013, 9:08 AM EST
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Dec 12, 2013, 11:09 PM EST
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Dec 12, 2013, 9:58 PM EST
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Dec 12, 2013, 8:45 PM EST
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Dec 12, 2013, 7:00 PM EST
Now that we’re a month into the college basketball season, it’s a good time to take a look at the impact that the new points of emphasis regarding contact have had on the sport. Of course there have been some foul-fests due to the combination of players and officials working to adjust to the rules…
Dec 12, 2013, 5:18 PM EST
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Dec 12, 2013, 2:47 PM EST
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Dec 12, 2013, 2:07 PM EST
Another day, another update on just how beat up Michigan State is. According to Joe Rexrode of Freep.com, Matt Costello was not at practice, Gary Harris had his right ankle in a cast, Keith Appling’s wrist and hip were bothering him, and Adreian Payne’s plantar fasciitis was feeling good enough that he could practice. Those…
Dec 12, 2013, 1:54 PM EST
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Dec 12, 2013, 1:13 PM EST
Does Kentucky have an attendance issue? According to John Clay of the Lexington Herald-Leader, they do. Which is crazy when you think about it. Because this is the same program that brings in crowds for scrimmages and Midnight Madness that would set records at just about any other school in the country. But Clay’s got…
Dec 12, 2013, 11:31 AM EST
The former N.C. State coach Sidney Lowe has pleaded guilty to failing to file his North Carolina state tax returns for three years. According to the AP, Lowe received a suspended 45-day jail sentence, 36 months of unsupervised probation, and 100 hours of community service. He must pay more than $79,000 in back taxes plus a…
Dec 12, 2013, 11:03 AM EST
John Henson does not appear to be a fan of the NCAA. He’s in the NBA now, making millions as a member of the Milwaukee Bucks, which makes it seem like a strange time to lash out like this until you consider the plight of his former teammates, P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald. North Carolina’s…
Dec 12, 2013, 9:57 AM EST
On Thursday morning, the Cincinnati basketball team released a statement announcing that redshirt sophomore Jeremiah Davis will be transferring out of the program at the semester break. Davis’ family was struck with tragedy when their home was ravaged by a fire last month, and he made the decision to leave the Bearcats for a program…
Dec 12, 2013, 12:55 AM EST
GAME OF THE NIGHT: North Dakota State 73, Notre Dame 69 Marshal Bjorklund went for 26 points to lead North Dakota State to an upset win over Notre Dame on the Joyce Center on Wednesday night. It’s the second time that the Irish have lost at home this season, and that fact has Raphielle Johnson…
Dec 12, 2013, 12:21 AM EST
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson threw down this nastiness on New Mexico State on Wednesday night. Hollis-Jefferson is starting to emerge as one of the best players on this Arizona team. He’s versatile, he’s aggressive, he plays hard and he defends. He’s an athletic, ego-free baller, which is exactly the kind of piece that championship team have. He’s…
Dec 12, 2013, 12:12 AM EST
Last season Arizona forward Brandon Ashley was part of a trio of freshmen who arrived in Tucson amidst much fanfare. Joined by Grant Jerrett and Kaleb Tarczewski, the McDonald’s All-American was expected to hit the ground running in his debut campaign. While that didn’t happen Ashley was a productive member of a team that reached…
Dec 11, 2013, 9:40 PM EST
With the preseason favorites to win the Summit League visiting South Bend, tonight’s game against North Dakota State was no gimme for Notre Dame. And that’s exactly how it played out, as Marshall Bjorklund and his experienced teammates proved to be too much for the Fighting Irish to handle. Bjorklund scored 26 points on 11-for-14…
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