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Cody Zeller and Christian Watford are Returning to Indiana, and the Hoosiers Are No. 1

Indiana was No. 1 in our super-duper early Top 25 for the 2012-2013 college basketball season, and now that its top two players – junior Christian Watford and freshman Cody Zeller – have decided to return next season, the Hoosiers remain the team to beat. You’ll see plenty of love for Louisville elsewhere – understandable, as the Cardinals return three starters and have a solid 7-man rotation – and perhaps even Kentucky if the Wildcats are able to lock down a top recruit or two in the next 48 hours.

While I don’t see the Hoosiers being nearly as dominant as the 2011 Kentucky Wildcats, I do think Indiana (and Louisville) will clearly have the most talent – despite not having any future NBA Hall of Famers – in the country. After recruits make decisions and transfers pick a school, we may be able to toss Kentucky and UNC into that discussion.

Zeller’s decision also mucks up the Top 10 of the NBA draft. He was a Top 10 lock. I suppose this helps other forward like Jared Sullinger or Perry Jones, but I think Zeller is already much more polished than these guys. So is Zeller costing himself money?

I don’t think so. His brother, Tyler Zeller, could have left UNC early and been a first round pick but he stuck around … and will still be a first round pick. Yes, players who pass on the NBA often find their game picked apart – see Jones, Sullinger and Harrison Barnes. Unlike that trio, Zeller doesn’t take the most shots on the team, and Indiana has a balanced attack so there’s little pressure on him to dominate. But yes, if he has a 4-point, 3-rebound game (as he did against Michigan State) or a 7-point, 3-rebound game (as he did against Wisconsin), everyone’s going to wonder if he’s costing himself money with rough nights.

The other reason I don’t think Zeller will fall out of the Top 10 next year is that it isn’t nearly as strong of a draft. There are a couple potentially-elite high school studs (Muhammad, Noel), a couple 7-footers (Len, Adams), and North Carolina’s James Michael McAddo. Barring injury, it’s tough to see Cody Zeller falling out of the Top 5 next year.

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