But first, a few post mortem of the most recent drubbing.
Over the weekend, Indiana destroyed Kentucky in their two-game home and home series. The scores – 97-64 and 120-74 – represent how lopsided this series has become over the years. The 39 1/2 average point differential embarrassed Kentucky, and will make next year’s event an even tougher sell south of the Ohio River.
Kentucky’s lack of ability to field a competitive team has driven interest to such a shallow level that Kentucky’s home game is hosted at Bellarmine University where the gym seats 2,196. From where I’m writing in Indianapolis, I’m less than 15 minutes from at least six high school gyms that seat more than that.
In Indiana, the game is held at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Granted, the seats are not filled for the event at the Pacers home arena, but who wants to watch Indiana disembowel the Blue Grass State every year? Well, I do, but I’m a sadist who enjoys watching Kentuckians writhe in pain.
How lopsided is the talent gap between Indiana and Kentucky? Indiana has had at least one McDonald’s All-Americans on each of the last 10 teams, and a total of 18 McD AAs during that time. Kentucky has had two – Chase Behanan of Bowling Green (2011) and D’Angelo Russell (2014 – from Louisville, but went to Montverde Academy) during that same decade.
The time has finally come for the powers that be in Indiana to change opponents to resuscitate the energy for the final high school game Indiana’s best will ever play, and there are plenty of options.
In fact, there are so many options, we shouldn’t limit this event to one opponent. The high school basketball in the other three states that neighbor Indiana is excellent – far better than Kentucky.
A four-team single elimination two-game festival that brings the best from Illinois, Michigan, and Ohio to Indianapolis would be a wonderful celebration of competition, fun, and education. Semifinals would be played as a doubleheader on Friday, followed by a third place game and championship Saturday.
Tradition is the only reason Kentucky “competes” against Indiana, and that adherence to tradition may kill the entire event. Embracing the new format will be the defibrillator necessary to shock fans’ attention back to what should be a unique celebration of all that is good about high school basketball.