Zeller's transition game sparks Hoosiers

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Cody Zeller and the Hoosiers have had a lot to celebrate this season.

Cody Zeller, the preseason favorite for the Wooden Award, was “on the cusp” of the top-five players last week according to Jason King’s Wooden ballot and has been overshadowed recently by the highlight-worthy play of Victor Oladipo.

But don’t count Zeller out of the POY race yet. He really improved his stock the past two weeks with a huge double-double against No. 1 Michigan, and then a dominating 24-point performance on the road against 10th-ranked Ohio State.

He is playing his best basketball of the season now, averaging 18.4 points and 8.6 rebounds on 60 percent shooting from the floor over his past five games.

How important is Zeller to Indiana? He leads all Division I players with a Plus-Minus of +395, according to Statsheet.com.

Zeller is the only player this season from the six major conferences to average at least 16 points and eight rebounds with a free throw percentage of at least 70 percent.

If he can keep up this pace, he would join Larry Johnson in the 1990-91 season as the only Wooden Award winners to average 16 points and eight rebounds per game while shooting 59 percent or better from the floor and at least 71 percent from the free throw line.

Zeller’s Impact on Offense

Zeller is one of the best transition players in the nation, and runs the floor arguably better than any center in the country.

Cody Zeller Transition Offense

Ranks This Season

One reason he is so dangerous scoring on the break is because of his ability to create contact near the rim, drawing a shooting foul on more than one-third of his transition plays.

Zeller has also excelled as the roll man in the pick-and-roll, ranking second in the Big Ten in field goal percentage and fourth in points per play.

In the Hoosiers' win against the Wolverines, Indiana opened the game on a 26-11 run. The scoring was highlighted by two transition buckets from Zeller, and two well-executed ball-screens with Oladipo and Jordan Hulls finding Zeller for easy baskets in the lane.

Zeller’s Impact on Defense

Zeller has really improved his defense in the post this seaon compared to his freshman season. After allowing the most points on post-up plays in the Big Ten last season, he is holding his opponent to 29 percent shooting on post-ups this season, which ranks second in the league (min. 25 plays).

Cody Zeller Post-Up Defense

Last 2 Seasons

He is part of a Hoosiers defense that is one of the most improved in the country.

Last season Indiana allowed 98 points per 100 possessions, ranking sixth in the Big Ten and 147th in Division I. This year Indiana’s defensive efficiency of 89 leads the Big Ten and ranks among the top 25 teams in the country.