Indiana Hoosiers: Could Cody Zeller Be Best Hoosier Ever?

Eric SmithCorrespondent IIIOctober 24, 2012

ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 23:  Cody Zeller #40 of the Indiana Hoosiers looks on against the Kentucky Wildcats during the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball South Regional Semifinal game at the Georgia Dome on March 23, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

It may be too early to be having this kind of talk, but it's a legit question.

Is Cody Zeller going to go down as the best player to ever put on an Indiana Hoosiers uniform?

Many will point to legends like Steve Alford, Calbert Cheaney, Damon Bailey, Scott May, Kent Benson, or Isiah Thomas as all-time greats. After this season, Zeller may join the conversation and actually pass them.

All of those players were fantastic. I'm not going to dispute that. It's a coin toss to who the best Hoosier player ever was. You can make a strong argument for any of these guys. Zeller, though, is a special player, and if the Hoosiers are hoisting the National Championship trophy on the Georgia Dome's floor in April, he could be No. 1.

Zeller had a freshman season arguably better than any Hoosier out there. He averaged a fantastic 15.6 points per game in 28.5 minutes per contest. I believe those numbers will actually go up a little bit this season.

The reason why is that he didn't get as many touches as Hoosier fans would have liked. When he did touch the ball, he was nearly automatic. He shot 62.3 percent from the field and an even better 75.5 percent from the line. He's the most improved player from last year's team and he's even grown another inch to become a seven-footer.

Indiana recognizes he's their main guy. His touches are sure to go up with a legit point guard in Bloomington now as Yogi Ferrell and Zeller have a great history of playing with each other. Zeller has improved his jump shot even more; he won the shooting contest on Saturday night in Hoosier Hysteria.

He was nearly automatic from three-point range, and that will be detrimental to his opponents.

Think about it: Zeller is going to be drawing guys his size, if not smaller and less athletic. No one could stop him in the post last year, and he's gotten stronger and better in the offseason. That means it's going to be even tougher to defend him down there this year.

Add a new element of an outside game and he's unguardable.

There's no way a center can guard Zeller outside of the lane. Zeller can drive past them with ease or even get good looks as they won't want to get up in him. That can help pick and rolls or pick and spots tremendously. If you don't help on Zeller, Ferrell will punish teams. If you do slide over and hedge Ferrell, he's talented enough to find Zeller in a spot or roll to the basket.

Good luck to those teams.

Zeller is going to be the most dominant player on the floor in nearly every game. He can beat opponents in ever fashion. If he's this improved and only a sophomore, what's he going to be next year if he comes back?

He's the sole reason why Indiana is back to relevance. If Zeller doesn't commit, neither does the rest of the movement. I'll give them maybe a couple to end up in Bloomington, but not this whole all-star cast. Zeller is going to make them all better and is the glue to this team. His presence makes teams have to not help as much on other Hoosier players.

That makes it so difficult.

After this season, Zeller could run for governor of Indiana and he'd win in a landslide. Imagine if he comes back for more. Imagine if Indiana wins the national title in April (they're the clear favorite) and Zeller comes back. He could do something that no other Hoosier has ever done: win two national titles.

He could be bigger than Peyton Manning and Reggie Miller combined if he can help Indiana accomplish that feat.