He spent last year a rookie learning the college game, pushing himself toward the top of the Big Ten and helping to lead a resurgence in candy stripes.
Now, Cody Zeller is the top player on the top team in the country and the Indiana sophomore forward is also something else: the preseason pick player of the year in the ESPN.com college basketball POY straw poll.
Zeller picked up 40 of 55 first-place votes from those polled anonymously. As always, to ensure honesty in the poll, we promise our pollsters anonymity and all we ask is that they are voters for one of the four major college basketball Player of the Year awards -- the Associated Press, Naismith, Robertson (USBWA) or Wooden Awards.
The fifth year of the poll offers two new wrinkles. This is the first time in the history of the poll we have had our anonymous pollsters give us their preseason Player of the Year picks. We have also added a regional breakdown so you can get an idea of where particular candidates end up having the most support.
The poll has correctly predicted the winner of the four major awards the past four seasons over three different homes -- the Fort Wayne (Ind.) Journal Gazette in 2009, AnnArbor.com in 2010 and 2011, and last season right here at ESPN.com.
Simply, the poll breaks down like this. Each pollster is asked for their top three in order. A player is given three points for a first-place vote, two points for a second-place vote and one point for a third-place vote.
As a refresher for how the poll was started, it began when I covered Notre Dame for the Journal Gazette. In trying to find out the chances of Luke Harangody winning any of the awards in 2009, I realized there were no polls to chart the progress of candidates. There were also no consensus polls since, unlike in college football with the Heisman Trophy, there are four major POY awards.
So without any further delay, here are the results of the preseason poll. This exercise will next return in January once conference play gets started.
Quick poll analysis:
-- No player appeared on all 55 ballots and the closest was Zeller, who was on 54 of 55 ballots.
-- Only one player from last season’s final Player of the Year straw poll made our preseason poll list this time: McDermott.
-- Zeller won every region but two. He tied with McDermott in the Far West and finished second to McDermott in the Southwest.
-- The 18 players in the preseason poll come from 11 conferences: Big Ten 3, Big 12 2, Big East 2, Mountain West 2, Pac-12 2, SEC 2, ACC 1, Missouri Valley 1, Ohio Valley 1, Patriot 1, Sun Belt 1.
-- Only one team had multiple players represented: Louisville.
-- Unlike last season, when only forwards were in the final poll of the season, this edition was more spread out, with eight forwards, one true swingman, one center and eight guards.