When Indiana beat Kentucky Saturday to eliminate Big Blue from the NCAA Tournament, not only was it a triumph of good over evil, it may put in motion talks to resume a home and home series between two of the most storied basketball programs in America.
Indiana playing Kentucky makes way too much sense not to happen every year, and with Kentucky a loser in the latest NCAA Tournament mandated matchup between the Wildcats and Hoosiers, Kentucky coach John Calipari might be motivated to play Indiana again on a regular basis alternating between Rupp Arena and Assembly Hall.
Here are nine great reasons for the resumption of the home and home series:
9 – The SEC has eroded into virtual basketball irrelevance. Only three teams from the SEC qualified for the NCAA Tournament, and only one remains after a miracle comeback against Northern Iowa. The Big Ten put seven into the field as it usually does, and while only three survived the first weekend, that’s three times as many as the SEC. Kentucky would never be a candidate for an invite to the Big Ten, so they need to play a robust non-conference schedule or risk a negative adjustment in its seed – as happened this year.
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8 – The high school all-star series between Kentucky and Indiana has become monotonous. Two states with a common border and shared love for basketball should find a way to measure the hooping being done in the two respective states. The results of the high school all-star series have become so heavily weighted in favor of Indiana that it hardly bears mention anymore. Kentuckians should demand a resumption of the series to redeem themselves as a basketball state.
7 – Calipari doesn’t want to be branded a coward. Sure, he countered Indiana’s demand to continue the series as a home and home with some ridiculous neutral/home court hybrid. It was an ingenuous effort to dodge the bullet of being perceived as a bad loser after the Christian Watford shot that beat Kentucky in 2011. After beating IU in the 2012 NCAA Tournament, Cal had his trump card. Kentucky was just too good for Indiana. Not after Saturday’s game it isn’t. Now, Cal needs Indiana.
6 – Every Kentucky player deserves a chance to overcome the best home court advantage in college basketball. Assembly Hall is the weirdest basketball arena in the world for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the allotment of 7,800 prime seats for students who show up for games ready to assert themselves into the fray as a serious distraction to opponents – especially a program like Kentucky whose insistence on embracing the wrong way in the pursuit of winning is nauseating north of the Ohio.
5 – At some point scheduling should be fun, not strategic. What’s more fun for players and coaches than a geographic rivalry that stirs emotion and compels serious work? The players at Kentucky are motivated more by a first round selection in the NBA Draft as soon as possible, but maybe a more imminent test would generate a little extra focus.
4 – Kentucky can’t hide behind that 2012 NCAA Tournament win anymore. “Indiana is irrelevant compared to Kentucky. What does Cal have to gain by playing?” That question was annoying after Indiana couldn’t follow up the Christian Watford game-winner with a win the the Sweet Sixteen of the 2012 tourney. Now that the Hoosiers vanquished Kentucky in a game they came close to dominating, Kentucky can’t claim program superiority with a straight face. Calipari has something to prove now.
3 – Students deserve a chance to see some real basketball before the conference season. Playing on a neutral court in a major metropolitan area is good for stroking alums and expanding a recruiting base, but it doesn’t do anything for the constituency to whom the games are most meaningful – the current students. They deserve a chance to see some good basketball as a diversion from studies and parties in both Bloomington and Lexington. That’s what college basketball is – or should be – a diversion.
2 – Indiana fans hate Kentucky fans. There is no group more annoying to Indiana Basketball fans than Kentucky’s Big Blue Nation – a group for whom the ends justify the means. Winning means everything among fans in Lexington. They covet championships regardless of how or with whom they are won. Players who treat UK like a kibbutz where they spend eight months toiling at basketball while preparing for an NBA career are praised as virtuous warriors. Having a chance to validate the cultural virtue of a program that insists on players receiving an bonafide education would give Hoosiers fans a chance to claim both the moral and basketball high ground on an annual basis.
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1 – Economics. Last Saturday’s Indiana vs. Kentucky game was the highest rated of the second round by a full ratings point (6.9 to 5.8), and the highest rated of the season among all college basketball games. Why not satisfy the two most rabid fanbases with an annual treat in December to take the place of yet another game against Lipscomb, Jacksonville, LIU-Brooklyn, or another money grubbing barnstorming program looking for a payday? Give the people what they want.
Kent Sterling hosts the fastest growing sportstalk show in Indianapolis on CBS Sports 1430 every weekday from 3p-6p, and writes about Indiana sports at kentsterling.com.
I found your broadcast about 6 months ago and am embarrassingly addicted to the 3 – 6 time slot you fill. Originally from New Castle, a 1976 grad from IU, your program is wonderful. Thank you for paying attention to the rich history, people and stories behind the stories that mean so much to us.
So if Kent was homer for Butler, Purdue, ND, would you still listen? Or is it just because it’s an IU show half the time?
I have started to listen to Kent over the last year or more now. Even though he is a fanboy for the Hoosiers, I still enjoy listening to him, his thoughts, point of view and perspective on sports. It’s long overdue for him to have a show of his own.
Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts. I am an IU fan. I spent a lot of time living within a sweet spot drive of Assembly Hall, and view the Hoosiers differently than I do the Pacers, Colts, Bulldogs, or Boilers in that I get a little bit more emotional about them. I try to spend as much time talking to and about Butler and Purdue though. We have had most of the players from both basketball teams on the show as well as Matt Painter and Chris Holtmann numerous times.
As for Crean, whether this switch will remain flipped is a good question. I don’t know, but to not acknowledge the change in tenor and action would be disingenuous and unnecessarily cynical. It will be closely monitored and assessed.
Thanks for listening and reading.
Thanks so much. That’s very nice to read. Hope the show continues to fill your expectations.
I am a Big Ten fan, but I feel the NCAA puts to many teams in from this conference. Why not let some of these smaller conferences whose teams have done more with they’re season and finished 1st in regular season play, but for some unfortunate reason lost the post season tournament and cant get in vs a team like Iowa who went down the toilet the last half of the season?
I agree 100 %. There was no need for MIch to make it over a Monmouth or Valpo, who didn;’t have the opportunity to improve their position with their conf. tournaments. Valpo had a 26-5 regular season record and wins at Oregon St. and 6 point loss at Oregon. IU did NOTHING to earn a bid last year (.500 in conf, no road games non-conf) and got a bid. Meanwhile Monmouth played one home game non conf this year and beats people, yet nothing. But the mighty Big Ten with its #5 rpi ranking got as many teams as anyone. i don’t get it…
I just can’t stop listening to Calipari’s sound off on ESPN after he found our Texas A&M got a 3 seed and Kentucky got a 4 seed. From the interview I quote “Look – all this stuff…I always say this, when you misseed a team, it’s not that team you hurt, it’s the teams they play, that’s who you hurt.” That is just so arrogant.
All UK fans covet is championships? You really don’t understand do you? UK games are an annual gathering of family and friends. Its about spending time with those whom you love the most while enjoying your favorite sport……the game of basketball. And that’s exactly what it is…….a game!
Winning a championship is special, but extremely difficult to do. I see where you tweeted another failed season by Calipari. That lack of respect and just the pure ridiculousness of that statement is astonishing! How can a man go to FOUR final fours and WIN a national championship in 7 years and have someone pen the word FAIL while describing his tenure? If Indiana had that stat line IU would erect statues in front of Assembly Hall!
I always enjoyed playing Indiana but you guys have taken butt hurt to a whole other level. UK’s had all this success while Indiana has basically drowned in irrelevancy . I hated that for Indiana, college basketball is better when IU is in the mix because I know their fans share the same love for the game as I do. However, all the poisonous diatribe coming from the Indiana media and fans is toxic. It’s ruining the rivalry and simply put, it’s beneath your program. You’re Indiana for Gods sake, start acting like it!!!!!!
Calipari canceled the series because of the way you guys acted after the win at Assembly Hall and are still acting to this very day. We’ve lost games to Duke and other traditional powers like North Carolina @ UNC and you don’t see us canceling those series do you? I wonder why? I personally watched your behavior from the upper deck the last time the Hoosiers visited Rupp. A group of IU fans were spitting on UK fans in front of them and starting physical altercations, they had to be escorted out of Rupp Arena by Lexington police officers. I witnessed it with my own eyes brother, their behavior was unbelievable! If you want to know why we don’t play anymore, take a loooooong look in the mirror IU fans.
In summary, I hope you win tomorrow night because maybe, just maybe…..you’ll start acting like Indiana again. Until thats happens I hope we never play you again!
We have finally found the lone rational and logical Kentucky fan. Thanks for joining the discussion. There are wing nuts among every fan base. UK has its share as well.
The spitting is ridiculous, of course, but the joy of the IU fans at Assembly Hall was a bit different. That wasn’t rooted in hatred for Kentucky, but expressed the relief that finally Indiana could compete after the self-immolation of the program under reprobate Kelvin Sampson.
Expressing that Kentucky “failed” is actually high praise reflecting the expectations of Big Blue Nation every year – under Calipari. My twitter feed and the comment section on this site have been filled with invective that would have been funny if not so spiteful.
Glad you chose to share here. You are always welcome.