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College basketball debate: Oladipo or Zeller?


Indiana has a problem most teams would love to have.

Hoosiers fans could start a lively debate trying to pick IU’s most valuable player in 2012-13. On the one hand, Cody Zeller was the nation’s pick for preseason player of the year. He’s having perhaps a better season than he did a year ago, but he has some competition on his own roster for national and Big Ten honors.

Victor Oladipo is perhaps the nation’s most improved player. Though he’s taking the same amount of shots per game as a year ago, he’s averaging better than three points per game more than he did as a sophomore. That’s thanks to the guard shooting 63.4 percent from the field. He’s also been a defensive dynamo.

Both players are critical to one of the nation’s most efficient offensive teams and one of the most dangerous in transition.

But who is the most valuable?

Athlon Sports asked editorial staff and three reporters who cover the Hoosiers on a regular basis.

Victor Oladipo or Cody Zeller: Who is Indiana’s Most Valuable Player?


Alex Bozich, Inside the HallFollow @insidethehall
The pick: Oladipo
There's not a clearcut choice for team MVP, but Oladipo affects the game in more ways than Zeller, so he's more valuable in my eyes for that reason. Zeller was the missing piece that Indiana needed to take a major step up in the college basketball landscape last season, but it's been Oladipo's improvement this year that's elevated the team to another level. He's arguably the best defender in the Big Ten, leads the conference in field goal percentage and steals and when Indiana needed someone to make plays in a tough spot at Michigan State, Oladipo was the guy.

Rick Bozich, WDRB, LouisvilleFollow @rickbozich
The pick: Zeller
I put that question to Oladipo last week. He did not hesitate: "Cody Zeller." I agree. Zeller makes it go for Indiana, especially on offense. His presence demands double-teams, creating open threes and driving lanes. Defensively, he's first on the team in blocks, second in steals. There's a short list of big men with his skill set.

Tom Dienhart, BTN.comFollow @BTNTomDienhart
The pick: Zeller
For Indiana's MVP, I have to go with Zeller. When the Hoosiers are really rolling and playing well, the offense runs through the 7-footer. He can make a move on the block or kick it out to a shooter. For the most part, when Indiana has struggled, it has been when Zeller hasn't been a big part of the offense. Want more? He also has become a standout defender. He's a unique weapon and talent that few other teams possess. Zeller is special -- and Indiana's MVP.

Related: Who is the nation's top point guard?

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David Fox, Athlon Sports  Follow @DavidFox615
The pick: Oladipo
That’s a loaded question, isn’t it? I suppose Zeller is the Hoosiers’ “best player.” The NBA Draft experts and advanced statistics seem to agree. But I can’t overlook the leap Oladipo has taken this season. He’d be my vote for most valuable. Indiana wouldn’t be the same team without the impact he’s made on both ends of the court. He’s the most efficient offensive player on the nation’s most efficient offense. He’s the game-turning, dynamic playmaker on one of the best up-tempo, dynamic offenses in the country, and he’ll be among the top vote-getters for National Defensive Player of the Year by leading the Big Ten in steals.

Related: Key stats of the week

Mitch Light, Athlon Sports Follow @athlonmitch
The pick: Zeller
Oladipo is perhaps the most improved player in the country and no doubt one of the most exciting talents in college basketball, but I still maintain Zeller is Indiana’s best player. The big man leads the team in both scoring (16.5 ppg) and rebounding (8.1 rpg) and provides the Hoosiers with a scoring threat on the low block. Zeller is shooting a solid 57.3 percent from the floor and is among the Big Ten leaders in both free throws made and attempted. And while he isn’t an elite shot-blocker, he does provide a defensive presence around the basket. Zeller, with his ability to affect the game from such an important position, is the best player on the best team in the nation.

Mark Ross, Athlon Sports
The pick: Zeller
As impressive as Oladipo's all-around play has been this season, Indiana would not be one of the nation's top-ranked teams and a Final Four contender if not for the Hoosiers' big man, Zeller. There's a reason this sophomore was the popular pick for preseason national player of the year, and it's not like he's had a disappointing season. He's leading the team in both scoring and rebounds, categories in which he ranks third and second, respectively, in the Big Ten, widely considered the nation's toughest conference this season. He's doing all of this while receiving the lion's share of his opponents' attention on the court and dealing with all of the added responsibilities and distractions off of it associated with being in the national spotlight. Zeller, and not Oladipo, is the Hoosier who has had the bull's-eye on his back all season long, and he's the primary reason why Indiana is back among the nation's elite in the first place.

Nathan Rush, Athlon Sports
The pick: Zeller
Zeller may not have a high-flying highlight reel like Victor Oladipo, but the 7-foot sophomore from Washington, Ind., is the Hoosiers’ best player this season. In fact, Zeller is one of the more important players ever to wear candy-striped warm-up pants in IU’s rich basketball history. When the 5-star Zeller signed with Indiana — instead of his brother’s alma mater, North Carolina, or in-state upstart Butler — it signaled the beginning of a new era and the return of national championship expectations in Bloomington. Since then, Zeller has delivered, carrying the Hoosiers to a No. 1 ranking. He has been so good and so consistent during his two seasons that his talents are now being taken for granted. But make no mistake, Zeller is the foundation piece on which Tom Crean’s team is built.