Tuesday night at 7:00 p.m. Mackey Arena will be host to one of the best rivalries in college basketball. The Indiana Hoosiers will take on the Purdue Boilermakers in a game that could mean more than some may think. IU, who still has one more tune up game Saturday against Iowa, is trying to bolster their resume to make a NIT birth. Meanwhile, Purdue is in a virtual must win situation 3 games behind Ohio State with only 8 to play.
The Rivalry started back in 1901 and Purdue holds a commanding series lead at 110-84. Both schools have dominated the Big 10. Purdue has a Big 10 most 22 conference championships while IU is in second place with 20. IU has brought home 5 National Championships while Purdue has only had one in 1932. Any IU fan will be quick to note that in 1932 there was no NCAA Champion and the national champion was voted on.
IU comes into this game hot, winning two of their last three, two in a row against ranked opponents. Purdue, on the other hand, skids into the match up losing 4 of their last 7 games.
The last two years, the games have not been as meaningful for the teams as in the past but that is soon to change. The Hoosiers are playing better basketball right now than any team Tom Crean has courted in his time at IU and any smart fan should know that records can be thrown out the window when these two teams battle. Until Crean came to IU, Coach Matt Painter virtually had the state of Indiana, a recruit hotbed, to himself. From 2007-2009, Painter has only recruited two kids not from the state of Indiana. Some think the only way to win championships is to recruit nationally but(before the injury to Rob Hummel) Purdue showed that they could be a top 5 team with almost all in-state talent. The 2009 Indiana All-Star game featured 3 Boilermakers and no Hoosiers and Coach Tom Crean began to catch some flak for not recruiting the state hard enough. He quickly silenced those who doubted him. In 2011 IU has 2 Indiana All-Stars and, the probable, Mr. Basketball in Cody Zeller. In 2012 Matt Painter has a top 15 recruiting class nationally but is getting no recognition because of the job that Tom Crean has done for that class. Crean boasts the #1 recruiting class nationally for 2012 with four players committed,(three from Indiana) one more soon coming. Most thought that with Crean bringing in the 2012 recruits, Painter would get the upper hand in the class of 2013, but that isn’t the case right now. Crean has landed two players from Indianapolis that are top 50 recruits in the nation. Painter is close behind with one commit who is also a top 50 national recruit. Coach Crean has also landed verbal commits from the class of 2014 from Indiana kids who are the #1 and #7 ranked players in the nation in their age division.
It will be interesting to see where this rivalry goes when IU gets back on their feet. With two young, fiery coaches, this rivalry could go down in history with the likes of those like, dare I say, Bob Knight and Gene Keady.
Although some may say it is just another hard nosed Big 10 game, both Purdue and Indiana know it’s more than that. The game will mean bragging rights for a few weeks(until PU visits IU on Feb. 23) for the fans. It will be for Indiana to show that they are on the road back to greatness. It will be for Purdue to show that they still own the state. It will be for those in attendance to show why Mackey Arena is one of the hardest places to play in the Big 10. It could also be the drop of water that could tip the cup toward one school over another for a recruit.
As much as Purdue fans love to kick Indiana while they are down, both schools need this rivalry to mean something again. The state of Indiana needs this rivalry mean something again. The Big 10 needs this rivalry to be good again. In a few years, this game could determine the outcome of the Big 10.
Regardless of the outcome, Tuesday will be a night for the state of Indiana to enjoy. Both teams will show grit and toughness that is bred from playing basketball in the state of Indiana. If somebody from another state questions why we care so much about nights like this, there is nothing else to say to them but…
It’s an Indiana thing
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