by Kent Sterling
Indiana vs. Purdue used to be something else. Streets in Indiana emptied. Kids were allowed to stay up past bedtime. Gene Keady and Bob Knight matched wits and wills. Knight brought a donkey onto the set of his TV as a replacement for the Purdue AD, and Keady profanely threatened campers who might dare to wear an Indiana shirt during workouts.
From 1981-2000, Purdue won 21 and Indiana 20. Both captured six Big Ten titles, and the state was divided down the middle by allegiance.
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Knight was fired due to a misguided attempt by IU president Myles Brand to de-fang him, and Keady gracefully slipped into a forced retirement. Both programs occasionally showed their previous pedigree. Indiana went to the Final Four in 2002, and enjoyed some ill-gotten success in 2008 with Eric Gordon and a band of rogues. Purdue roared back from 2008-2011 with a serious recruiting class that included Robbie Hummel, E’Twaun Moore, and JaJuan Johnson.
Indiana got hot with Cody Zeller, Victor Oladipo, and others in 2012 and 2013. The sporadic swords of solid play never crossed until this season.
A.J. Hammons, Jon Octues, and Rapheal Davis have spearheaded a resurgence in West Lafayette, and the five-man backcourt of the Hoosiers are on the precipice of a return to national prominence.
And so tonight for the first time in more than 20 years, both the Boilers and the Hoosiers have a tall stack of chips in front of them while sitting at the same table this late in the season.
If Matt Painter’s Purdue team can become the second to post a win in Bloomington this season (Eastern Washington was the first and only), they will run their conference record to 10-4, and virtually assure themselves of a ticket to the Big Dance.
Indiana is 8-5 right now, and in need of a couple of more wins to ensure a return after sitting quietly at Cook Hall while the cool kids got to party last March.
Because of losses to Vanderbilt, North Florida, and Gardner-Webb, Purdue may need as many as 12 Big Ten wins to earn the respect of the selection committee. Never in the history of the expanded NCAA Tournament has a Big Ten team with 11 wins been ignored, but this year is a strange one. With four games remaining after tonight – vs. Rutgers, @ Ohio State, @ Michigan State, and a season finale at Mackey against Illinois – needs to get busy to hit the magic number.
Conversely, Indiana beat nationally ranked teams like Butler and SMU in the preseason to craft a little breathing room, but not much. The last four games for the Hoosiers are @ Rutgers, @ Northwestern, and at home against Iowa and Michigan State. Rutgers might offer little resistance, but Northwestern has won two in a row as Chris Collins young team has figured out recently how to finish games a little bit better. Iowa is a cornered animal right now, and Michigan State has won five of six.
The short version of that paragraph is that the Hoosiers have work to do, and it needs to start tonight.
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Assembly Hall will be filled and loud as usual, but with the shared stakes this high, there will be a little extra tension in the building that saw so much contentiousness and greatness between these teams for so long.
Painter vs. Crean isn’t Keady vs. Knight – as least not yet, but the echoes of those 41 days and nights still so fresh in our memories will be awakened tonight at 7p as young men not yet born when this game mattered so much the last time square off and fight for 40 minutes.
To the winners go the spoils, and the spoils are serious this time around.
seriously, do these players play for crean or in spite of him? I know the answer isn’t black and white. but rank the player loyalty of the following knight davis Sampson crean. each coach obviously interacts with players in different ways. where does crean succeed and where does he need work? assuming crean has a “good plan” that falters and he is stuck with two guys on scholarship with none to give then what? I mean regardless of what the “plan” was lets say nobody goes pro, nobody transfers and nobody quits, where do those scholarships come from? has that situation arisen during crean’s tenure? what happened? to whom?
I ask these questions out of genuine curiosity. this is not simple rhetoric. there is no sarcasm in my voice. I am in no way trying to expose or exalt tom crean.
steve alford won 58% of his games at iowa. he made the tournament only 4 out of 8 years. people seem to think he would get Indiana kids to go top iu. I doubt it. its been to long. Indiana has barely been a blip on the radar nationally since the early 90s. alford could get a certain type of kid to go to iu. he would win some games. but alford isn’t that good of a coach. he can inspire a certain type of kid to play better than he is but at this level those kids will power isn’t enough.
what about Gregg marshall? could he do it? could he recruit at this level.
what about shaka smart? lots of iu people would renounce their iuism. but the guy does put a defensive product on the court.
what about that stevens guy?
I realize tome crean saved his job for now. I still believe he is only prolonging the mediocrity and ultimately he will be fired.
everyone has a cool head now. nobody is screaming for creans termination. who would you hire if tom crean resigned today?
Risking scorn from some, I would offer the job (if it was vacant) to Dan Dakich. Dakich knows more about basketball than anyone I have met (other than Bob Knight). He demonstrates his knowledge all the time on ESPN moreso than any other commentator. When I spent a year with IU’s program, Dakich did all the teaching and the coaching in practice.
Also, Dakich is well known nationally because of ESPN and knows Indiana very well because he has lived here almost his whole life. He is a sports figure in Indianapolis on the radio in addition to his national popularity. I think this would enable him to recruit VERY effectively.
You can argue that he didn’t do well when he was interim coach at IU, but that was a complete mess at the time. He had no chance. My only question is whether he would take the job at this point. Kent may have have insight on that, but I sure don’t.
Dan did a great job as the interim coach. There were problems he solved that allowed the program to start mostly fresh. A total mutiny was averted because of Dan. He would do a great job regardless of where he would go. Hard for me to fathom that he would ever choose to return to coaching. His professional life today is mostly stress free and fun. Why invite the insanity of coaching back into his life?
I don’t know; coaching gets in your blood and he never had a real opportunity in a major program, You may be right, though. He might have permanently moved on.
This is a character game for IU. Sure, they have jumped up and beat some quality teams proving they CAN play at a quality level. However, I am ready to see them play for something when it something more than a W/L is on the line. This is that game! Last time they played Purdue, they were humiliated. If they can’t avenge that, then their problems are far worse than not having a legitimate 5.
And they failed that test. They aren’t a team that can make plays when they need to make them in a game that means something. Is that Crean’s fault, possibly, but it is what it is.
yeah but dakich is a doofus. he says really dumb things all the time. dakich does know basketball without question. I watched someof the ucla asu game the other night. if I classify dakich as a doofus I have to put bill Walton in the absolute fool category. the best part was the guy he was working with was seething disdain and ire at bill andbill just kept going.
A couple months ago I stumbled upon a game Bill Walton was doing. I don’t think his neurons are firing properly. The other commentator was clearly annoyed with him. Like watching a slow motion car wreck, totally overshadowed the game.