NBA Draft: Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller Are Leaving Indiana Early for the NBA, and Both Made the Right Decision

Victor Oladipo, the Indiana junior who emerged from relative obscurity to become one of the best players in college basketball last season, announced Tuesday he was leaving school early for the NBA. Cody Zeller, his teammate who had a solid-but-not-spectacular sophomore season that ended meekly against Syracuse, is also going pro. Zeller will announce his decision at a press conference today.

Neither move was a surprise. Both are lottery-bound (yes, Zeller is lottery-bound, regardless of how soft you think he is.) In my last mock draft nearly two months ago, I had Oladipo going 9th and Zeller 10th. Both might rise a bit depending on who else declares for the draft in the coming weeks. Don’t buy into the Oladipo-as-D Wade hype, but the guy is unbelievably athletic.

I have seen a handful of folks on twitter saying Zeller is making a “huge” mistake. These people don’t really follow college basketball. They’re judging Zeller on the last game they saw him in (likely the Syracuse debacle) which was probably the 2nd or 3rd time they saw him last season. Here’s the thing – Zeller had a good season. This is what he is – a 7-footer with nice feet, good hands and for a college sophomore, a decent array of interior moves.

His weaknesses are pretty obvious: He’s got a tendency to be soft, he disappears in stretches (some of that can be attributed to Tom Crean’s coaching) and he doesn’t appear to play aggressive all the time. Staying in school isn’t going to improve any of that. Maybe he lifts weights and improves his strength, but he can do that between now and the draft.

The only decision here was to leave early. What, he’s going to return to a team full of freshman? With Watford graduating and Oladipo gone, Zeller would see even more double teams. His stock would plummet even further. Worse yet, the 2014 draft is, at this point, significantly stronger than the Top of the 2013 draft. I’d guess there was a 33% chance he fell out of the lottery if he stuck around another year (see Sullinger, Jared … yes, I know he had back issues).

Indiana fans – well, the unrealistic ones – thought maybe Oladipo and Zeller would want to return to complete some unfinished business, but that was never going to happen. So Tom Crean and Indiana rebuild anew. My far-too-early Big Ten rankings for the 2013-2014 season, subject to change, of course:

1. Ohio State
2. Michigan State
3. Indiana
4. Michigan
5. Wisconsin

I’d have Iowa 6th. If McGary stays, I’ll have the Wolverines third, and up to 2nd if Harris or Payne leave MSU early.

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