Zeller is the centerpiece of the turnaround. He’s the most complete big man in the freshman Class of 2011, and the most efficient player in the Hoosiers’ rotation, averaging 14.2 points per game on 64.3 percent shooting, for an offensive rating of 128.7. IU’s offense has opened up around him, as the team is shooting 44.7 percent on threes, up from 34.6 percent last season. Part of it is Zeller drawing in defenses, but Crean also says that his two main marksmen — juniors Christian Watford (50.0 percent, including the game-winner against UK) and Jordan Hulls (54.4 percent, including a wrong-handed make against Howard) — dedicated themselves to becoming better shooters in the offseason, and the team has a better understanding of how to intelligently move the ball. Miraculously, they’ve improved from the 11th most efficient offense in the Big Ten last season, to No. 1 in ’11-12.
North Carolina’s staff regarded Zeller’s older brother Tyler as the Tar Heels’ most sound defender last season, and it seems that defensive acumen runs in the family. Crean said that Cody Zeller leads IU in deflections, which is the coach’s preferred method of measuring defensive effort. Zeller is also the only player taller than 6-9 whose steal percentage (3.9) appears on kenpom.com’s top 100 list. “I’ve been really surprised at how active Cody is,” Crean said. “He has quick feet, quick hands, and a quick mind.”