Is he up to it?
The odds say yes, but odds don’t equal guarantee.
Here’s what we know.
Zeller is listed as 7-foot and 240 pounds. He is coming off, by offensive standards, perhaps the worst game of his career. In 21 minutes against Penn State he was 0-for-4 from the field for two points. It was the first time in his two-year career that he didn’t make a field goal. He also was just 2-for-4 from the line. His four turnovers tied his season high.
That doesn’t mean Zeller didn’t make a positive impact. He had eight rebounds, three assists and three blocks. He also had a steal. He drew in as many as three Nittany Lions, which opened things up for the rest of the Hoosiers in what became an easy 72-49 victory.
For the season Zeller leads IU in scoring (16.4), rebounds (8.2) and blocks (27). No big man in the country runs the floor better than he does. Every defense has to account for him, often with double teams, which means somebody is open if Zeller can find him.
He usually does.
Here’s what else we know. Michigan State has as big, as strong and as physical a front court as there is in the Big Ten. It has the 1-2 combination of 6-9, 270-pound Derrick Nix and 6-10, 240-pound Adreian Payne. It has 6-6, 230-pound Branden Dawson. It can bring 6-9, 245-pound Alex Guana and 6-9, 245-pound Matt Costello off the bench.
The Spartans will try to pound Zeller into irrelevance in today’s Big Ten showdown. They tried it twice last year. The first time, an IU loss at the Breslin Center in what was Zeller’s Big Ten baptism of fire, he was held to four points and three rebounds in 23 mostly ineffective minutes. The second time, an IU win at Assembly Hall, he totaled 18 points and four rebounds.
In other words, he learned and adjusted.
Zeller understands what he’s up against, coach Tom Crean said, and how to counteract it.
“It’s movement,” Crean said. “He has to constantly move. We learned a lot from that game last year. That was his indoctrination into physical high-level basketball. He handled it well.”
Zeller likely will have to handle it better to lead the No. 7 Hoosiers (17-2 overall, 5-1 in the Big Ten) to a victory over No. 13 Michigan State (16-3, 6-1).
“The key is movement and spacing,” Crean said. “It’s up to us to put him in some different situations, but it’s up to him to be very aggressive and keep building on what he’s doing.”
Zeller is a factor even when he’s not a factor, and if that sounds confusing, well, work with us.
Okay, work with Crean.
“Cody is impacting the game in so many diffent ways,” the coach says. “He leads (the Big Ten) in free throws attempted (140) and made (101).
“What about fouls drawn? He and Christian are up there. They have to be.”
For the record, IU sports information director J.D. Campbell indicated nobody keeps track of fouls drawn.
“Cody attracts a lot of attention in so many ways,” Crean said. “He’s helping get us in the bonus that much quicker. Look at the shots he’d be getting if there were not fouls. Our trick is to make sure we get him in space, get him moving and let him be the attack player he’s trying to be.”
The Hoosiers are trying to get separation from the rest of the Big Ten. Beating Michigan State would be a big step in that direction. Given that they are 10-point favorites -- what’s up with that considering the Spartans have won six straight games and have owned the Cream ‘m Crimson in recent years -- and have the Assembly Hall advantage, figure a strong IU performance.
Crean wants his players fresh for this game, and for the grueling five-games-in-13-days stretch that begins with the Spartans. That means dialing back all the non-stop practicing.
“We cut back practice, physically,” Crean said. “We can’t cut it mentally in how you prepare. When you go to the film room, it’s not a taxing situation, but you’ve got to enjoy it while looking for those things. The best teams are doing that. Our mental approach has to be phenomenal, not just the physical approach. There are a lot of different things to look for. We analayze so many different things.”
Analyze is one thing. Execute and out-perform are another. There’s no reason the Hoosiers can’t do both, staring with Michigan Sttate.
Trevon Bluiett remains a big target in IU’s Class of 2014 recruiting plans. He took yet another unofficial visit to Indiana by attending Wednesday’s win over Penn State along with many of his Indianapolis Park Tudor teammates.
The 6-5 forward is having a monster junior season for one of the best teams in the state. He averages 28.5 points, 9.7 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 2.0 steals for Park Tudor, which is 14-1 and ranked No. 1 in Class 2A. It is the defending state champs, last year’s title coming courtesy of Yogi Ferrell, now a standout Hoosier freshman point guard.
As you can imagine, he’s got a ton of scholarship offers. Besides IU, Purdue, Notre Dame, Butler, Michigan, Louisville, Florida, Illinois, Kansas State, Iowa and more.
Since he won’t sign until next fall and won’t cut his final list until the summer, he has plenty of time to see a bunch of great games this season – for free and with great seats.
Yes, there are a lot of advantages to being an elite recruit.
This is the time of year when college football coaches sweat. Will their committed recruits stick to their word and actually sign? With the signing period set to begin Feb. 6, the drama builds.
It’s building more than usual for IU in the aftermath of Mark Hagen’s departure to Texas A&M. He was the Hoosiers’ defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator, which means he had a major impact in many of the 16 committed players, especially defensive players.
There is a buzz that some of those commitments might reconsider now that Hagen is gone. For instance, Texas defensive tackle Jacobi Hunter has decided to visit California, which has caused Indiana to actively keep recruiting defensive tackles in case Hunter changes his mind.
Nothing is sure until the players sign that national letter of intent. In the end, you want a guy who is fully committed to your program.
On Feb. 6, we’ll know who those guys are for Indiana.
Remember basketball player Devan Dumes, who played in 2009 and 2010, averging 9.5 points in 57 games. The Indianapolis Star reported that the 25-year-old Dumes was charged with criminal recklessness and carrying a handgun without a license after firing multiple gunshots into a house where his 1-year-old nephew and brother were inside. The incident happened on Jan. 9 in Indianapolis.