What it means: Zeller and Watford to return

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.

  • CreanFaithful

    My post seemed more combative than what I intended.  I agree with 90% of what you said.  My beef is with your statement “Make no mistake about it, for IU to be #1 and hang that 6th banner, one or two of these freshmen will have to be great as freshmen (IU finished tied for 13-14-15-16th in the 2012 NCAA Tournament, not 1st).”

    IU returns 5 starters from the tournament that will be upperclassmen with invaluable experience and additional off season improvement.  No other team that finished above us (1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12) will be able to say the same.  That alone means we have a legitimate shot at the banner.

    Also, let’s not pretend that the substantial improvements of Vic, Sheehey and Hulls didn’t impact IU going from 12 wins to 27 this year.  Cody is an absolute stud and filled an obvious hole on our team.  This years freshman will have their work cut out for them to get their minutes (although I believe they are talented enough to earn them).

    The Movement that is arriving next year is just icing on the cake!  I’m not saying there won’t be several of them that are stand out contributors to the team.  I’m simply saying that I think we have a legitimate title shot whether any of our freshman play “great” or not.

    And what the hell… Now you get it!

  • CreanFaithful

    I’ve been rocking it since this years Big 10 season started.  I agree, it’s pretty f’n sweet!  I realize that your avatar is Isaiah, but who’s that guy on the right that looks like he’s gonna choke em?

  • WatchingYogi_atYogis

    Whoever he is, you can tell he is explaining some serious Xs and Os by the look of “yeah I saw that X go over there and that O go over there” understanding on the young Isiah’s face.

    Actually, I had to crop it for the avatar. If you could pan out you’d get a better picture. Off to the left, Isiah is grabbing a cheerleader’s in an inappropriate advance. Off to the right, Coach has his left leg still raised in the air from a snap kick delivered to the teeth of a player sitting on the bench.

  • WatchingYogi_atYogis

    Whoever it is, you can tell they really know their Xs and Os from that look of “yeah I saw that X go over there and that O go over there” total understanding on young Isiah’s face.

    Actually, I had to crop it for the avatar.  If you could pan out, you’d get a better picture.  Off to the left, Isiah is grabbing a cheerleader in an inappropriate advance.  Off to the right, Coach has his left leg still raised in the air from a snap kick delivered to the teeth of a player on the bench.

  • marcusgresham

    The over-sign is what is currently in place–they have 14 players signed for 13 spots. They still have to be in compliance with the NCAA rule of 13 scholarships by the beginning of the school year.

  • marcusgresham

    The over-sign is what is currently in place–they have 14 players signed for 13 spots. They still have to be in compliance with the NCAA rule of 13 scholarships by the beginning of the school year.

  • Outoftheloop

     OK, now I get it. We mostly agree. I say 1 or 2 freshmen must play great (i.e. as well or better than Cody, Christian, Vic, Will or Jordan) for IU to hang the 6th Banner. You say we have a chance to hang a Banner with those “old” starting five and any freshmen contribution. I agree that IU has a chance with last year’s team and some added depth. But only a chance. However, if 1-2 of the freshmen play great, we should win the NCAA Tourney. I want a “should”; you are happy with a “could”.

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