Photo courtesy of IU Athletics
Whose stock is up, and whose is down in Bloomington right now?
1. Cody Zeller
No surprise here, The Big Handsome continues to prove he’s the best player on the roster, and is one of the big reasons why the Hoosiers are ranked 8th in the country in both points per game (83.7) and field goal percentage (.515).
The success of the team is dependent on him. Zeller was averaging 15 points per game coming into the Notre Dame contest, and had 14 at halftime alone. He finished with 21, two short of his career high, 23.
Not only is Zeller tremendous offensively, but his defense also deserves just as much credit. Zeller is leading the team in steals per game with 2.3, and with his 6’11” frame, has become a difficult challenge for any big man he faces down low. This kid is the real deal.
2. Victor Oladipo
For the most part, Oladipo struggled offensively against Kentucky, going just 4-for-12 from the field. Yes, he did have 13 points, but that came along with a lousy 33 percent shooting percentage, with five free throws.
Regardless, it wasn’t his best game. The sophomore came back hungry against Notre Dame, to say the least. Oladipo connected on three 3-pointers, while going six of seven from the field for a grand total of 16 points, tied for his second highest of the season.
Oladipo continues to show off his athleticism each and every game, as a dunk or two per contest are starting to become expected. It is also noteworthy he did not commit a single turnover; the first time he’s done that all season. As Dan Shulman pointed out, if he keeps improving like he has been, it won’t be the last time he plays in a pro arena.
1. Christian Watford
It’s hard to put Watford in this category after his game-winning three back in Bloomington a week ago against Kentucky (as if I need to point it out), but he struggled mightily in Indianapolis on Saturday, particularly in the first half.
Overall, Watford had a .222 shooting percentage Saturday against the Fighting Irish. This is after having arguably his best game in a Hoosier uniform last week against a far more talented opponent. During the course of the game, Watford just wasn’t clicking. I look for him to bounce back on the 19th when Indiana welcomes Howard to Bloomington.
2. Derek Elston
Elston is an interesting case. After starting the season off incredibly strong coming off of the bench, the forward has been a non-factor since the Gardner-Webb matchup on November 21st when he put up 10 points and nine rebounds.
Last week against Kentucky, Elston didn’t play, so although I wasn’t expecting much from him, throwing up a prayer with six seconds left in the first half was disappointing to see. Thanks to freshman Remy Abell getting the board and hitting a fade away jumper as time expired, it worked out fine. However, that’s inexcusable. Each game I pull for Elston to bounce back, and each week he disapponts.
Just like Watford, next week is another opportunity for him to redeem himself.
The Hoosiers don’t have much time to prepare. On Monday, Zeller and co. will host Howard in Assembly Hall.
On paper, it doesn’t seem to be that tough of a challenge, however anything can happen on any given day (see Kentucky game). I fully expect Tom Crean to share his disappointment with the sloppy play against Notre Dame with his squad leading up to the game, so time will tell how they respond.
Looking at the upcoming schedule, Indiana hosts Howard and UMBC within the next six days. These are two games the Hoosiers should win, no questions asked.
Going undefeated entering conference play is more than anybody could have asked for coming into the season. From there, Indiana kicks off Big Ten play at Michigan State, and then back at home vs. Ohio State and Michigan.
It isn’t unrealistic to go 0-3 here; I’m not saying it’s going to happen, I’m just saying it could. It will be interesting to see how this energetic team reacts if and when they notch that first number in the right column.