The 6-11 Indiana freshman leads the Hoosiers in scoring at 15.5 points per game and is hitting 67.7 percent (44-for-65) from the field. He also leads the team in rebounding at 7.5 per game, steals (21) and blocked shots (13). His emergence has been one significant reason the Hoosiers have got off to a hot start and have outscored opponents by 24 points per game.
While Indiana has not faced an opponent like North Carolina or Kansas, the Hoosiers do have wins over Butler and North Carolina State. They will also have a raucous crowd waiting for Kentucky Saturday.
"I already told some of the guys it's going to be the toughest environment we play in," Kentucky senior Darius Miller said. "It's going to be loud, the fans are going to be crazy and the team's going to be pumped up. It's going to be a great experience. I think it's going to be fun for all of us. They're going to be ready to go, so we have to too."
The Hoosiers have had four straight losing seasons, but coach Tom Crean has more depth and loads of experience this season. Indiana won its first seven games by double figures and could have a chance to get back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2008.
Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook described Cody Zeller as more "athletic, a better shooter and better at driving to the basket" than his brothers Tyler and Luke, who played at Notre Dame. He's also adept at playing on the perimeter and runs the court well.
"He's a good player. I know plenty about him," Kentucky freshman center Anthony Davis said. "He can do a lot of good things."
Kentucky could try to attack Zeller by lobbing the ball inside to Davis, something it has done most games but had more trouble doing against North Carolina.
"If he steps up and gets position, all you have to do is lob it up," Miller said. "Anthony gets up so high and his wingspan is so long that they can't really block it. We just throw it up where they can't get it."
Indiana is shooting 52.3 percent overall from the field and 44 percent from 3-point range. The Hoosiers are hitting 74 percent at the foul line.
Sophomore guard Victor Oladipo added 15 pounds during the offseason and also improved his ballhandling and shooting. He's averaging 12.3 points per game and hitting 53.7 percent from the field. He's second on the team in steals with 16 and also has 13 assists.
Will Sheehay comes off the bench and is a versatile sophomore perimeter player adding 11.8 points and 1.6 assists per game. Junior Jordan Hulls contributes 11.3 points and 3.5 assists per game in his role as the team's emotional leader. Junior swingman Christian Watford can play inside or outside. He's averaging 10.4 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game. Verdell Jones, a double figure scorer last season, adds 9.3 points and 3.8 rebounds per game.
Miller knows Indiana will likely try to control the pace and won't run with the Cats like North Carolina did. He said he thought the Hoosiers might also play some zone from what he had seen.
"We feel like we have a good shooting team. We have a lot of guys that can knock down a jumper, especially when they get going so we aren't really worried about that," Miller said. "This will be our first road game, so the main thing is to come in and play defense.
"I still think we are trying to figure everything out. We haven't been playing with each other too long.?I know it is going to get better. We kind of struggled with this last year, a little bit the year before. Just with experience it will get better every game we play on offense and defense. That's why you know going to Indiana will be another good learning experience about what it's like in a really hostile place."