Indiana’s Cody Zeller entered the 2012-13 season with loads of expectations heaped upon his broad shoulders. Along with being the leader of the top-ranked Hoosiers, Zeller also had been pegged as a potential No. 1 pick in the 2013 NBA draft -- and, as the national preseason player of the year, the favorite to win the Wooden Award.
Mainly because he plays for such a balanced team, Zeller’s numbers weren’t always gaudy in November and December. He had a few single-digit scoring games and only cracked the 20-point barrier three times in his first 14 contests. As a result, Zeller fell below the "top five" line in my weekly Wooden Award ballot.
Now he’s back.
Zeller averaged 20 points and 9.5 rebounds in his past two games, shooting 72.7 percent from the field. For the season, he’s averaging 16.6 points and 8.1 rebounds. No one can deny Zeller is one of the top players in the country.
Here’s this week’s ballot:
Mason Plumlee, Duke - The senior forward had his lowest scoring output of the season when he had just 10 points in Wednesday’s victory over Davidson. Before that, Plumlee had never scored fewer than 16. Still, his lead in this race is a commanding one.
Doug McDermott, Creighton - McDermott opened Missouri Valley Conference play with a 29-point effort in Saturday’s win over Evansville but was limited to 15 points in Wednesday’s victory at Illinois State. The junior forward is averaging 22.9 points and 7.1 rebounds.
Russ Smith, Louisville - College basketball fans across the country are falling in love with Smith, who scored 23 points in Wednesday's win over Providence, his third straight game with 20 or more points. Smith was 8-of-14 from the field and made all but one of his five 3-point attempts.
Trey Burke, Michigan - The point guard averages 17.8 points and 7.4 assists for one of the nation’s four remaining undefeated teams. Michigan’s first three Big Ten games are against Northwestern, Iowa and Nebraska, which means the Wolverines likely will be 16-0 when they face Ohio State in Columbus on Jan. 13.
Cody Zeller, Indiana - Zeller and the Hoosiers won’t be in action again until Monday, when they face Penn State on the road. The more intriguing game is a Jan. 12 showdown against No. 9 Minnesota in Bloomington. It will be interesting to see how Zeller fares against Gophers forwards Trevor Mbakwe and Rodney Williams.
On the cusp (listed alphabetically):
Anthony Bennett, UNLV - The freshman had 15 points and 13 rebounds in a loss at North Carolina that snapped the Runnin’ Rebels’ 10-game winning streak. The return of forward Mike Moser will take some pressure off of Bennett.
Laurence Bowers, Missouri - The Tigers’ leading scorer (16.9 points) had 17 points, 9 rebounds and 2 blocks in an overtime loss at UCLA on Friday. Bowers is shooting 57.3 percent from the field and 52 percent from 3-point range.
Michael Carter-Williams, Syracuse - A sophomore, Carter-Williams continues to lead the nation in assists with 10.1 per game. It will be interesting to see if he can maintain those figures as competition heats up in the Big East.
Sean Kilpatrick, Cincinnati - The 13-1 Bearcats keep rolling along thanks to Kilpatrick, who averages 18.6 points per game. Cincinnati takes on St. John’s Saturday before hosting No. 21 Notre Dame in a huge "Big Monday" game.
C.J. McCollum, Lehigh - The nation’s scoring leader at 25.7 points per game had a season-high 36 points against Bryant Saturday. It marked the fourth time this season that McCollum has scored 30 or more points.
Ben McLemore, Kansas - McLemore isn’t just one of the nation’s top freshmen. He’s one of the main players in the nation. McLemore leads KU in scoring with 15.8 points per game and is shooting 41.2 percent from 3-point range.
Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA - The freshman and future NBA lottery pick appears to have lost about 15 pounds -- and it’s paying huge dividends on the court. He’s averaging a team-high 19.6 points this season and 25 points in his past four games.
Kelly Olynyk, Gonzaga - Last year’s redshirt season did wonders for the 7-foot Olynk, who averages a team-high 15.7 points, along with 6.5 rebounds. All of Olynyk’s 21 points in Monday’s win at Oklahoma State came in the second half.
Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State - Thomas had 22 points in Wednesday’s Big Ten opener against Nebraska and is averaging 19.9 points this season. Ohio State has a huge game Saturday at Illinois.
Jeff Withey, Kansas - The 7-foot Withey averages 13.8 points and a team-high 7.9 rebounds for the Jayhawks, who wrap up nonconference play at home Saturday against Temple. Withey’s 4.9 blocks per game rank second in the country.