The preseason AP All-America team consists of three players from the Big Ten – Indiana’s Cody Zeller, Ohio State’s DeShaun Thomas and Michigan’s Trey Burke. Debates have already begun across every B1G fan forum regarding which players might be overrated or who might not meet their relatively high expectations. Only one player from last season’s preseason list finished the season as an All-American – and it was the Big Ten’s very own Jared Sullinger. Let’s examine which of this year’s elite Big Ten players are most likely to drop off from these lofty expectations that have already been attached to them.
Zeller is the best big man in the country. He is also the best player on the #1 team in the nation, so there’s not much to argue about Zeller’s selection to the preseason team. His numbers will be there (15.6 PPG and 6.6 RPG) unless Indiana completely abandons him during certain stretches of the game. But if the Hoosiers commit to running the offense through the post, Zeller will stuff the stat sheet all season long. During conference play, there are very few forwards who can match up with Zeller’s offensive arsenal. Minnesota’s Trevor Mbakwe has the offensive skills but has yet to show that is committed on the defensive end. Michigan State’s big men – Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne — will play good defense because Tom Izzo demands it, but neither of them have the athleticism to defend Zeller’s post moves. Does Indiana need to win the Big Ten and make the Final Four for Zeller to remain in the national spotlight? Not necessarily. As long as they remain near the top of the league and among the top 10-15 teams nationally, he will get credit for leading IU as a contender. Overall, there is no reason to believe that Zeller might not finish as a first-team All-America selection and he may even finish the season as the National Player of the Year.