Well, it’s over. Let that sink in for a few days. Sulk for a bit and then understand that it’s just a game.
Indiana lost to Syracuse Thursday night in a game that many believed IU should have won. Now, they will watch the final weekend of the tournament from Bloomington, after Syracuse got revenge for the 1987 title game.
The bigger question now revolves around the man dubbed “Big Handsome.” Cody Zeller began his sophomore season at Indiana as one of the nations best players. Will he decide to leave following two Sweet Sixteen appearances?
It’s not really will he decide to leave, as much as can he leave. Throughout the year, Zeller struggled with multiple player control fouls and bigger, physical big men such as Minnesota’s Trevor Mbakwe. He struggled to adjust to defenses keying in and collapsing on him as Syracuse did in their Sweet Sixteen victory.
It wasn’t that Zeller regressed this season, anyone that believes that is fooling themselves. The Hoosiers wouldn’t have been in very many games without the big man’s play, but his defense in the Syracuse game and in other matchups during the year leaves little to the imagination that Zeller can survive in the NBA.
Will he get drafted? Of course he will. But is he NBA ready? That is up for GM’s and scouts to decide and big men are usually drafted on body of work plus potential rather than just potential as many guards are.
Zeller throughout the season went missing for stretches of games and wasn’t as assertive as a quality big man should be. The preseason All-American didn’t have numbers that jump out at you, but he wasn’t asked to be as pick a piece this season as he was last year.
Is he still a lottery pick? I don’t know. I could see that, considering the weakness of this years NBA Draft. Without a doubt, Zeller is a first rounder. But is he ready to be in the NBA? Who knows. Zeller will have to spend some time with his family and brothers and decide ultimately what is best for himself.
Should Zeller return, Indiana would immediately shoot up top 25 projections heading into next season. With a recruiting class coming into Bloomington headlined by Noah Vonleh, the Hoosiers would be just as good as they were this season, especially with a more mature Yogi Ferrell.
If Zeller returns, the Hoosiers could easily be a favorite to repeat as Big Ten regular season champions and should start the year in the top 10, but this is all on body of work, not what the Hoosiers potential says, like say a Kentucky team.
This is what March Madness is about though. Guys like Zeller and Oladipo, guys like Michigan’s Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway and so on and so forth, must decide what is best for themselves and their family as they begin a new journey in life. It’s the only constant in sports, somebody has to lose. For Indiana, unfortunately, it was them.
So it’s back to the drawing board for Tom Crean, after back to back Sweet Sixteen appearances. It’s another Monday night in April, watching at home. It’s back to Cook Hall for another grueling summer of work outs and getting better.
But for Indiana fans, it’d be a much better summer, if they knew the Big Handsome, would be hanging around for one more year.