The only bad thing about being tabbed the No. 1 team or National Player of the Year in the preseason is that folks start to wonder what's wrong if you ever lose that label for any reason or amount of time. For proof consider that I was asked in different radio interviews this week to explain the issues with Indiana and Cody Zeller, and both times I said I didn't really think there were any real issues.
Indiana had won all but two games, I explained.
Zeller was averaging more points and rebounds than last season, I highlighted.
My point was that I thought Indiana and Zeller were doing OK, for the most part. And if some people didn't agree then, well, they kinda have to agree now, don't they? Because the Hoosiers just spent Saturday night beating No. 1 Michigan 81-73 inside Assembly Hall behind 19 points and 10 rebounds from Zeller, and they'll likely return to No. 1 on Monday when the Associated Press voters' ballots are tabulated.
"We never trailed in the game," Indiana coach Tom Crean said during a televised postgame interview, and he was right thanks to an unbelievable start that pushed his Hoosers to a 26-11 advantage not even nine minutes in. Yes, Michigan battled back and tied the score because Trey Burke, the National Player of the Year favorite who finished with 25 points, eight assists and five rebounds, is awesome on lots of levels. But the Wolverines never did take the lead, never did quiet the crowd, never did make that run that would've allowed them to remain No. 1 for the second consecutive week.
So Michigan dropped to 20-2 overall, 7-2 in the Big Ten while Indiana moved to 20-2 overall, 8-1 in the Big Ten. That means the Hoosiers are alone atop the league standings for the first time since February 2008 heading into Thursday night's game at Illinois. That also means there's no reason to ask what's wrong with them or their most heralded player because, best I can tell, both are doing just fine.