Why Indiana struggles to get Cody Zeller the ball in the post
Despite having the 48th highest offensive rating in the nation before the Notre Dame game at 1.29 points per possession, Cody Zeller was taking only 20.6% of the team’s shots while on the floor, 5th on the team of Indiana players using at least 20% of possessions. A major reason for the lack of shots by Zeller is the inability to get him the ball in the post. Despite what Dick Vitale has been screaming at you, it is not entirely the fault of the guards and I would argue that Zeller deserves the majority of the blame by not making himself open enough and demanding the ball.
When Zeller posts up, he often is not assertive enough when he is on the block and does not give the passer a large enough target to make the pass into him. That can be seen in the first frame below as Zeller has Davis pinned behind him but he needs to do a better job of backing him down to gain better position and making himself wider to give a target for the entry pass.
Of course, some of the blame must be assigned to the guards for not being able to make the entry pass. With no Indiana player in the corner, the ball handler should take a dribble or two to his right and he would be in perfect position to make the entry. However, he remains still and does not have a great angle to make the pass.
Here is another example of Zeller not doing enough to make himself available in the post. Again, he has great position in the post and the guard could have done a little more to get him the ball, but Zeller needs to do a better job of holding his defender off and creating a passing lane. By standing straight up, Zeller cannot use his lower body to hold off his defender and Jack Cooley is able to put his hand in the passing lane. When Zeller is standing upright, he cannot create enough space for the entry pass.
While Zeller can do a better job of holding his defender off and creating pass lanes, he needs to be much more assertive in the post and demand the ball. When he has good position, he needs to call for the ball and look like he wants the ball in the post. The more assertive he is and the more he demands the ball, the more likely it is that the guards will give him the ball.
When Zeller does get the ball on the block, he shows very refined moves for a freshman. Good things happen for the offense when he has the ball on the block, whether Zeller goes one on one with the defender or finds a cutter for a layup. There are very few differences between Zeller when he does get the ball, seen below, and the plays above where he doesn’t get the ball.
The main difference is how much more room Zeller gives to the passer by holding his defender off and creating a passing lane. It is demonstrated best in the last play of the video, although it is somewhat difficult to see since Zeller is posting up on the far block. Zeller holds off Cooley with his off hand, gets low by bending his knees to hold his position and demands the ball with his right hand. This makes it very easy for the entry to be made.
When Zeller makes a commitment to getting open, he is able to create a passing lane for his teammate and obtain good position on the block. This allows him to go at his defender and he has shown he is excellent at scoring in these situations.
The issue for Zeller right now is that he most of the times he is on the block with position, he is content to stand up straight and half-heartedly call for the ball. Even though the ball handlers could do a better job of putting themselves in a spot to make the entry pass, Zeller needs to do a much better job of making him a better target. This will make the guards less hesitant to make the entry pass, as they are confident about not turning the ball over.
So while some of the blame lies with the passers not doing their job, Zeller deserves much of the blame for why he does not get the ball in the post even when he has position. He needs to work harder at being assertive in the post and demanding the ball while creating space by holding off his defender and creating a wide target. If he does this, he will find himself with the ball on the block more, where he is a very good scorer.