Forget Duke-North Carolina. Indiana-Purdue is the best rivalry in college basketball. While that rivalry often has a ton of bandwagon fans all over the country with no connection to either university, Purdue-Indiana is different. It has grown in a basketball-mad state where even high school games have an edge to them because of the schools. The 1991 High School State Championship wasn't about Gary Roosevelt against Brebeuf. It was Purdue's Glenn Robinson against Indiana's Alan Henderson. 1990 was an introduction and coronation for the next great Indiana star in Damon Bailey, just as Chad Austin leading Richmond to a state title in 1992 and Jaraan Cornell taking South Bend Clay to the 1994 title was for Purdue. More recently, the 2007 game was Purdue's E'Twaun Moore leading East Chicago Central to a title over Indiana's Eric Gordon with North Central in 2007.
Indiana-Purdue is also different because of the championship element. North Carolina and Duke each have five championships, putting the schools on pretty much equal footing. Purdue and Indiana are virtually on equal footing in every area except that one, and it probably makes for the biggest point of contention. Indiana fans can always fall back on "Banners" because Purdue does not have a comeback. Purdue has a 22-21 edge in Big Ten championships and a 115-88 edge in the overall series, but nationally, Indiana is better because of 5-0 and there is nothing Purdue can do about it short of going out and winning five titles of its own.
If anything, that makes The Rivalry even better. Purdue fans hate those banners and, no matter how much they try to dismiss them as dusty and irrelevant, they still exist. Indiana fans know this, and hate losing to "inferior" Purdue because many view us as not on the same level as their blue-blood program because of it, yet we are a constant irritant getting int heir way.
It is an excellent rivalry, born of stiff competition and bread into the people of this state from birth. I remember in elementary school, during the height of the Gene vs. Bobby era, that there was no middle ground. You were on one side or the other, and there was no honor in a house divided. Most kids in my class wore Crimson and Cream, but I still proudly was the outsider in Gold and Black.
Hoosier by birth, Boilermaker by the Grace of God, as my dad would say.
Purdue holds such a large lead mostly because it won 33 of the first 38 meetings. Take that away and Indiana has a slight 83-82 edge since the beginning of the 1923 season. Think about that. These teams have played over 160 games in the past 90+ years and they are virtually dead even against each other. Purdue won nine in a row in the late 20s and early 30s, but Indiana won 13 in a row from 1949-1955. Many of these games have been classics, but the Big Ten in its wisdom still can't figure out how to guarantee they play twice every season. The ACC would lose its collective shit if Duke and North Carolina played only once.
This game has the potential to be another classic. It is the first time since 2008 where both teams are ranked in the top 25. That game happened to be Kelvin Sampson's final game before his sanctions torpedoed the program and even then, it was a final shot at Purdue. The loss in Bloomington would eventually cost the Boilers a share of the Big Ten title. It is only the second time since the Gene vs. Bobby era ended in 2000 where both teams are ranked. Hopefully it will be a game that joins some of the great ones.
2/16/1959: #20 Purdue 94, #18 Indiana 89 - This is the first ever time that both teams were ranked at the time of the game and Purdue won in West Lafayette.
1/25/1975: #1 Indiana 104, #20 Purdue 71 - The second double ranked meeting went very well for the Hoosiers, who went on to be the undefeated Big Ten Champion and didn't lose at all until the NCAA semifinals against Kentucky.
3/21/1979: Indiana 53, #15 Purdue 52 - Only 40 teams got into the Big Ten tournament, and Purdue, who shared the Big Ten title with Iowa and Michigan State was left out. You can even watch the entire game now on YouTube broadcast by Marv Albert. Jerry Sichting missed a potential game-winner at the buzzer for Purdue. This was after a season split (and loss in Bloomington) prevented Purdue from winning the Big Ten outright and going to the NCAA Tournament.
3/13/1980: #20 Purdue 76, # 7 Indiana 69 - A year later Purdue got its revenge. With the field expanded to 64 teams both advanced to the NCAA Tournament. In the only meeting in the NCAAs between them, Purdue won in Lexington 76-69, upsetting the 2 seed Hoosiers. Purdue went on to the Final Four by beating Duke in its next game. Unfortunately, because Purdue split the season series with Indiana the Hoosiers won the Big Ten at 13-5 and Purdue was 11-7, so a third Purdue win would have meant a shared crown between Indiana, Purdue, and Ohio State.
1/15/1983 #4 Indiana 81, Purdue 78
3/3/1983 #11 Indiana 64, #10 Purdue 41 - Indiana won the Big Ten crown that year at 13-5, while Purdue was 11-7. Had one result been reversed, say the three point loss in West Lafayette, it would have been a shared title.
2/29/1984 Indiana 78, #11 Purdue 59 - Leap Day 1984 was not a good one. After winning in Bloomington by 8 Purdue needed to hold serve at home in order to hold a one game lead over Illinois (who Purdue had beaten 4 days earlier) in the Big Ten. Indiana spoiled the fun, and Purdue eventually shared the Big Ten title.
2/23/1986 Purdue 85, #15 Indiana 68 - It was time for Purdue to play the spoiler. Though Michigan defeated Indiana on the final day of the season to win the Big Ten outright by a game, Purdue's defeat made sure Indiana couldn't later claim a share of the title.
1/31/1987 #4 Indiana 88, #4 Purdue 77
2/26/1987 #6 Purdue 75, #3 Indiana 64 - This had to be the greatest year for The Rivalry. Both teams won by 11 on their respective home floors while each was ranked in the top 6. The teams shared the Big Ten at 15-3. Purdue's annual choke in the NCAAs (an 85-66 loss to Florida in the Second Round) prevented what could have been an epic rubber match in the NCAA title game.
1/30/1988 Indiana 82, #2 Purdue 79 - In one of the most painful defeats in Purdue history Indiana knocks off the Boilers in Bloomington. In my mind this was Purdue's best ever team. It went 16-2 and won the Big Ten by three games, but it couldn't win in Bloomington. The game likely cost Purdue its first ever No. 1 ranking nationally too.
3/15/1992 Purdue 61, #4 Indiana 59 - Purdue went 18-15 overall and just 8-10 in the Big Ten, but a victory on the final day of the regular season in Mackey Arena denied the Hoosiers a share of the Big Ten championship with Ohio State.
1/18/1994 #12 Purdue 83, # 8 Indiana 76 (OT) - Purdue would later lose in Bloomington by 2, but the Boilers won the Big Ten outright at 14-4 while Indiana went 12-6, so had Indiana won in overtime it would have meant a three-way tie for the B1G between Indiana, Purdue, and Michigan.
1/18/1998 Indiana 94, #9 Purdue 88 - The loss in Bloomington proved to be critical, as Illinois and Michigan State shared the Big Ten title, but Purdue finished a game back at 12-4.
2/29/2000 #14 Indiana 79, #14 Purdue 65 - Another painful Leap Day game. The final Gene vs. Bobby game went to Indiana on the final day of the regular season and denied Purdue a share of the Big Ten title with Michigan State and Ohio State. They went 13-3 while Purdue went 12-4.
2/19/2008 #15 Indiana 77, #14 Purdue 68 - As mentioned above, Indiana costs Purdue a share of the Big Ten title by winning the only game in Bloomington. Wisconsin won the Big Ten at 16-2, losing twice to Purdue, while the Baby Boilers would go 15-3. This loss, an overtime loss at Ohio State, and a 3-point loss at Michigan State sans Robbie Hummel (flu) were all that stopped Purdue from a surprise B1G crown.
So, if you're keeping score at home, Indiana denied Purdue either an outright or share of the Big Ten title in 1979, 1980, 1983, 1984, 1987, 1998, 2000, and 2008. Purdue turned the favor in 1986, 1987, 1992, and 1994. With Purdue likely out of the race at 9-5 and Indiana sitting a game behind Iowa at 10-3 going into tonight it looks like it could be Purdue's turn to play spoiler. We owe them.