Right now the two best teams in the country have the two best big men in the country. Those teams are Indiana, with Cody Zeller and Duke with Mason Plumlee. There is actually a lot in common between the two big men. Both are from successful basketball families. Plumlee has a younger brother, Marshall at Duke, and an older brother, Miles in the NBA. Zeller has two older brothers, Tyler and Luke, both in the NBA. Plumlee and Zeller are both Naismith award candidates. Each lead their teams, and could be on a collision course for a Final Four matchup. So, let’s see who has the edge right now.
Right now, Plumlee is playing the best ball of his career. As a senior, it seems as though he is finally putting it all together. When you watch a Duke game you can’t help but feel Plumlee is dominating the game. He controls the paint, like he didn’t do before and like very few big men do in the country. The numbers back up his great play, with an average of 20 points and 11 rebounds a game. Every year of Plumlee’s career he has improved in scoring, rebounding and field goal percentage. He has finally reached his collegiate apex as a senior. As much as I detest Duke coach Mike Kryzewski, Plumlee is a great product of his system. He went from the shadows of his older brothers, to a player with great potential, finally to one of the best players in the country.
Zeller, on the other hand, skipped the first two steps. He was an instant sensation from the moment he hit campus. As a true freshman, Zeller led a fun, exciting Indiana team to a terrific season. He had 16 points, 7 rebounds and over one block and steal per game as a freshman. He even ran up NBA Draft boards, in some cases past his brother. But he chose to stay in school, returning to the consensus best team in the country.
This year, honestly, there has not been much improvement to Zeller statistically. All of his numbers are more or less the same. There was so much hype surrounding Zeller, coming in to the season, that maybe it was a little too much. Don’t get me wrong, he is still the best player on the best team in the country; however, he is not setting the world on fire like Plumlee is. Much of this could easily be attributed to Indiana’s tremendous depth. They have eight players averaging over five points per game, five in double figures. That is immense scoring depth. Indiana has not needed Zeller to shoulder a huge amount of the scoring load. They have been in many blowouts. Also, in their biggest game yet, against North Carolina, Zeller scored 20 points and dominated James Michael MacAdoo leading to an impressive 83-59 win.
Both players have played just eight games so far; therefore, it is difficult to pick who is going to have a better season. So far, though, Plumlee has been more impressive. I can only dream that these two fantastic big men will play each other in March, likely in the Final Four. It is very likely that dream will become a reality, and that would make the whole basketball world so, so happy.
Follow Alex on Twitter at @alexdaleCBB