Indiana announced this morning that center Cody Zeller and forward Christian Watford will return next season. Zeller was not expected to leave after his freshman season, but Watford tested the waters and appeared to be on his way out immediately after the season ended.
With both players coming back, the Hoosiers could realistically be the favorite to win the national title next season. Yahoo! Sports, CNNSI.com, NBC Sports, ESPN.com, and USA Today have already slotted Indiana in as their preseason No. 1 team. All five Indiana starters will return, along with a highly-touted recruiting class that includes Yogi Ferrell, Jeremy Hollowell and Hanner Perea.
Watford’s decision is significant because it gives guys like Hollowell and Perea time to develop before being forced to play major minutes. If Watford had forgone his senior season and entered the NBA Draft, the Hoosiers would have to go small (Ferrell, Jordan Hulls, Victor Oladipo, Will Sheehey, Zeller) or start either Derek Elston, Hollowell or Perea to begin next season.
Zeller’s announcement was less surprising because leaving after one season never seemed like a realistic possibility. Despite being considered a lock to be selected in the NBA Draft lottery, Zeller talked openly about next season immediately following IU’s loss to Kentucky in the Sweet 16. His return means that the Hoosiers will have arguably the nation’s most well-rounded post player next season and one of the favoriters for Big Ten and national player of the year.
The Hoosiers remain oversigned by one with Zeller and Watford coming back. The NCAA scholarship limit is 13. Here’s a link to our updated scholarship numbers page.