Challenge game has familiar feel for Cody Zeller, Hoosiers
By Andy Proffet Post-Tribune correspondent November 27, 2012 6:36PM
Updated: November 27, 2012 11:24PM
BLOOMINGTON — Cody Zeller is 1-0 against his brothers’ college teams. He’s looking to make it 2-0 on Tuesday night when No. 1 Indiana hosts No. 14 North Carolina.
Last season, in IU’s first game as a ranked team in more than three years, Zeller had 21 points and eight rebounds in the Hoosiers’ win over Notre Dame in the inaugural Crossroads Classic. His oldest brother, Luke, played for the Irish from 2005 through 2009.
Tyler Zeller ended his career with the Tar Heels as last season’s ACC Player of the Year. And North Carolina was one of the last schools Cody was considering before he chose Indiana.
“I have a lot of respect for everything they do, and their coaching staff was great,” Cody said on Monday. “Tyler enjoyed his time there, but at the end of the day, I just thought that IU was the best place for me, and I have no regrets.”
Even if the Hoosiers weren’t at the top of the college basketball mountain when he chose IU.
“I had confidence in what Coach Crean was doing with the guys who were already here when Remy (Abell) and Austin (Etherington) and I were coming in,” Zeller said. “I knew that everyone was working hard and everyone was improving constantly; it just hadn’t quite started rolling yet.”
The Hoosiers are rolling now, but Zeller conceded there’s still room for improvement.
“Playing those two games in New York City (in the Progressive Legends Classic) brought out some things that we really need to improve on, so we just have to keep getting better,” Zeller said.
In some ways, the buildup to the IU-UNC game has mirrored that of the Hoosiers’ regular-season showdown with Kentucky last season, with the notable difference that IU is the hunted rather than the hunter this time.
Still, “Even though we weren’t favored against Kentucky, I think all of us expected to win,” Zeller said. “We go into every game planning on winning, so for us, our mentality isn’t going to be a whole lot different.”
That’s an important lesson for IU’s freshmen, starting point guard Yogi Ferrell and backup forward Jeremy Hollowell.
“I’m just going to tell them to go out there and have fun, play hard, and keep your composure,” Abell said. “It’s going to be an intense game and there’s going to be a lot of emotions, but you just have to trust in your teammates and play your game.”
Even if the game is a little later than normal, with an 8:30 p.m. CT tipoff.
“We’re college kids, so we’re up that late anyway,” Zeller said. “I don’t think it will affect us too much.”