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Cody Zeller’s reminder: Victor Oladipo isn’t Indiana’s only all-american

Mar 10, 2013, 7:29 PM EDT

Indiana v Michigan Getty Images

Indiana entered Sunday’s game at Michigan with the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten tournament sewn up and the nets from their regular season title already cut down.

It’s true that they were playing for a chance to win the outright Big Ten title, but whether or not the Hoosiers actually won on Sunday would have no effect on whether or not this team refers to themselves as the 2013 Big Ten regular season champions. Kansas won their ninth straight regular season title in the Big 12, which is a stat that you hear referenced quite often. But do you know how many times his team’s shared that regular season title?

Four.

There wasn’t all that much on the line for the Hoosiers: a loss at Michigan doesn’t hurt their chances at a No. 1 seed; pride and a chance to relegate Michigan to a No. 5 seed and a spot in the first round of the Big Ten tournament can only provide so much motivation.

Yet on Sunday, we got a glimpse at the Indiana team we all expected to see this season, as they knocked off Michigan in Crisler Arena 72-71 behind 25 points, 10 boards and a game-winning bucket with 13 seconds left from Cody Zeller.

The Hoosiers pounded the ball inside to Zeller, the consensus National Player of the Year in the preseason that has become the forgotten all-american in Victor Oladipo’s shadow, for 40 minutes. Michigan didn’t bring help for Mitch McGary or Jordan Morgan or Jon Horford until Zeller put the ball on the floor. The thinking? Once Zeller made his move, he wasn’t going to give the ball up. With shooters flooding Indiana’s perimeter, John Beilein was trying to minimize the number of open looks they got.

And here’s the funny thing: it worked.  If Christian Watford’s foul on Glenn Robinson III is called a flagrant; if Morgan, Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. don’t miss a free throw in the final minute (the latter two missed front-ends); if Morgan’s tip happens to fall through the hoop instead of off the rim, the outcome would have been different.

The Wolverines gave that game away, but it’s a game that Indiana, quite frankly, had no business winning. Michigan hadn’t lost at home this season. But they did lose to Penn State on the road, which was just another example of just how difficult it is to win in an opponent’s building in the Big Ten.

Indiana isn’t supposed to win at Michigan, but they were right there at the end, close enough to strike when the Wolverines made a mistake.

That was the doing of Zeller and his 25 points.

And on Michigan’s final mistake — Trey Burke missing a front-end of a 1-and-1 with 27.2 seconds left — it was Zeller who scored in the paint to give the Hoosiers the win and the outright Big Ten title.

He hasn’t been the focal point that often this season and he certainly hasn’t been this team’s media darling. But he was averaging 16.5 points and 8.0 boards entering Sunday with a 123.7 offensive rating (which is very good) while using 26.0% of Indiana’s possessions when he’s on the floor. Only five players in the country — Trey Burke, Kelly Olynyk, Nate Wolters, and Doug McDermott — are that efficient with a usage rate that high.

Zeller’s still a really, really good basketball player.

Don’t forget it just because he’s not the guy everyone is talking about on this team.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

  1. sdb74 - Mar 10, 2013 at 8:59 PM

    There wasn’t all that much on the line for IU today? I couldn’t disagree more. IU had not won an outright Big 10 title in 20 years. IU was playing to cement the #1 in the Midwest which will take them to the Indy regional. A loss today puts that up in the air. Today was HUGE.

  2. creek0512 - Mar 10, 2013 at 9:30 PM

    Typical idiotic media response who thinks the NCAA tourney is all that matters.

    Indiana had no business winning? IU had 24 offesive rebounds.

    Michigan was victimized by the same rim that wouldn’t let the ball through for IU in the first half.

  3. badgerbuck - Mar 10, 2013 at 9:54 PM

    I see Indiana going out early in NCAA tourney just not impressed with them,hell Wisconsin dominated them in Indy earlier this year

    • critter69 - Mar 10, 2013 at 11:24 PM

      I guess Wisconsin plays it’s best games on the road?

      Let’s see, they lost five games on the road:

      AT Florida
      AT Marquette
      AT Iowa
      AT Ohio State
      AT Minnesota

      Oh, and they protected the home court extremely well this year, too. Oh, my bad, as they lost to several teams at home, including:

      Virginia
      Michigan State
      Purdue

      Maybe it was on neutral courts? Nope, as they lost one of two games on a neutral court, namely Creighton.

      Maybe the Badgers should be happy that the Wolverines lost? Because that means Wisconsin slips into the fourth slot in the Big Ten, and doesn’t have to play four in a row, but three, to have played in the Big Ten Tournament Championship game this year.

      Oh, and the Indiana University Hoosiers play in Bloomington, not Indianapolis. Unless you think Bucky Badger plays home games in Milwaukee (if so, then Wisconsin lost on it’s home court to Marquette?)?

    • stlouis1baseball - Mar 11, 2013 at 12:17 PM

      Now you have gone off the deep end buck. Not impressed?
      Beat Michigan St. at E. Lansing. Beat Ohio St. at Columbus and beat Michigan at Ann Arbor.
      They play stout defense…move the ball better than any team in the Country and do so with humility. Off course…when you are one of three Seniors and you lost TEN GAMES as a Freshman you will have some humility.
      But yeah…I can see why you aren’t impressed.

  4. nickmiller63 - Mar 10, 2013 at 10:48 PM

    And if Wisconsin dominated them…shoot, game over.

  5. 11thstreetmafia - Mar 11, 2013 at 1:00 AM

    That was an entertaining game! For this writer to say that IU didn’t have much to play for obviously has never played a sport in his life. What a foolish thing to say. Did you see all of the players after the game? It looked as if they had something to play for.

  6. jpopejoy - Mar 11, 2013 at 10:27 AM

    IU lost by 5 to Wisconsin. That’s dominated? Indiana has been the most consistent team all year…trailing by 11 at the most at any point in the season. Wisconsin will lose the 1st or 2nd round. IU will be a 1 seed w a path through Indy.

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