Rivalry

Purdue and IU meeting in basketball often brings nostalgic talk from the older fans of the days of more competitive teams being helmed by Gene Keady and Bobby Knight. And sure, there were some great games back then.

However, since those two have shuffled along, the rivalry has lost a little bit of its zing, at least to the mainstream media. I remember being a Purdue student and Dick Vitale actually saying that Purdue-IU was as good as Duke-UNC. Now, think about that for a second -- we all know how much Dick loves to slobber on Duke, so that's pretty high praise. But you don't hear that too much anymore.

The reason, of course, is that Purdue got pretty bad for a while there as IU was remaining competitive or better, reaching the title game in 2002 and then climbing the rankings under Kelvin Sampson.

Around this time, Matt Painter had righted the ship and Purdue was now competitive again. The Baby Boilers were growing up, while IU was being viewed as a legit Final Four contender. Remember, these two things only coincided for a brief stretch in about '07-'08. And those games were pretty intense. And, in fact, IU's last win in the rivalry was Sampson's last game at IU.

So it's been three years this month since IU beat Purdue. However, this was also in the middle of those couple seasons where Purdue and IU only played once a year. So there has only been one of these games at IU since the Sampson era. Hard to believe, right?

Rivalries come to a boil for lots of reasons, but among the most critical ingredients are both teams being good and frequency of meetings. Purdue and IU basketball haven't had those ingredients, but for a couple of games, in more than a decade.

I've made this comment on our podcast before and I think it bears repeating. I think we have a current generation of Purdue students and fans who are actually used to IU being terrible. They're comfortable with it because it's enjoyable to have a nearby rival to kick around. And it remains enjoyable because no matter what, they chirp about their 20 to 50 year old titles. I also think that these younger Purdue loyalists don't want IU to get better because, well, the thought of finishing behind IU is simply too hard to handle.

But some of us remember living through the eras where IU was either as good or better than Purdue. And let me tell you something... winning games in those days was incredible to experience. There was a different pitch to the screaming at Mackey in the '90s when IU came to town. It's one of the few times I used to lose my voice. As anyone who goes to games with me knows, I'm not much of a screamer most of the time. (That's what she said.)

However, these days, Purdue is in a true lose-lose situation. You're expected to beat IU and beat them badly. Purdue only winning by three last year in Bloomington was almost seen as a victory about some Hoosier faithful, or that they were close to busting down the door. If Purdue wins, it's because they're supposed to; if Purdue loses, well, they must suck. Never mind that it makes no sense -- most things the Hoosiers say do not.

What I'm getting at is that as much fun as it is to see IU flounder, I almost want them to get back to respectability. I want wins over them to matter in more than just the beating up and taking lunch money sense. I want them to think they're going to win the conference and have that taken from them. I want Purdue-IU to be a showcase game on a national sense.

Until then, though, I'll wish for multiple Purdue domination each year. That's fun, too.

Ho-Hum...Boilers Beat Who-Who-Hoosiers 67-53.

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