Purdue rivalry holds extra meaning this season #iubb

This is a rivalry that doesn’t require added subplots.

Indiana and Purdue? That’s usually enough.

But this is one of the few meetings in recent years that has both teams entering play ranked in the top 25. And with the No. 22 Hoosiers and No. 17 Boilermakers aiming to reach their high postseason expectations, there is more on the line for both teams than at any point in the last decade.

A win for IU allows the Hoosiers to keep control of their destiny in the Big Ten title race. With four games remaining in the regular season, Indiana is tied atop the standings with Iowa. Should IU win out, including a key game at Iowa on March, it will claim its second conference championship under coach Tom Crean.

But a stumble against their natural rival would muddle things for the Hoosiers, who also have a trip to Illinois and a home finale against Maryland left on their schedule. Not to mention adding a little salt to the wound of defeat.

“I think we approach it on a very broad scale,” senior point guard Yogi Ferrell said. “We know we want that Big Ten title, but we know it’s gonna take one game at a time. That’s been our focus.”

Purdue, which has lost each of its last two road games, sits only two games out of first place in the Big Ten title hunt, so there’s much to gain for the Boilers within the hostile environment of Assembly Hall.

Despite another expected sell out in Bloomington — fans are being asked to wear red — Purdue hasn’t been rattled during recent trips to Monroe County.

The Boilermakers have won the last three games in the series, and though they’re only 10-31 all-time at Assembly Hall, Matt Painter’s team is 3-2 against the Hoosiers in Purdue’s last five trips to the facility.

“That’s what college basketball is about,” Purdue senior Rapheal Davis told reporters in West Lafayette. “You play good teams day in and day out and you want to beat good teams day in and day out. IU is a good basketball team, and they’ve got good fans, and we’ve got to go down there in a tough environment and pull out a win.”

Today marks the first time since 2008 that both teams enter play ranked in the top 25, and while Crean and his players have downplayed the significance of that fact, it’s a testament to the turnaround for both programs after the competitive balance in the rivalry went askew during the last decade.

Although Indiana hasn’t won a game in this series since 2013, success against its rival has proved to be a consistent checkpoint for big picture success.

Across the 2012 and 2013 seasons, when IU made back-to-back trips to the Sweet 16, the Hoosiers swept the series with the Boilermakers. Over the past two years, they haven’t been as fortunate.

But with so much on the line, the Hoosiers seem ready to lock in and flip the series’ momentum back on their side of the ledger.

“We want to get our 22nd win,” Crean said. “It’s a big game. … You want every win and our guys have been very good at viewing it that way. You want to beat Purdue and they want to beat us.”