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The Journal Gazette

Tuesday, August 01, 2017 1:00 am

Commentary

Time to protect IU-Purdue basketball rivalry

Pete DiPrimio | For The Journal Gazette

Once again the Big Ten does Indiana and Purdue no basketball favors.

In this case, it's the Boilers who will pay the price.

They don't get the Hoosiers in Mackey Arena next Big Ten season.

That's a shame, which leads to the obvious question:

Won't somebody fix this?

On Monday morning the conference office released details of next season's home and away conference games, and the IU-Purdue basketball rivalry was not protected.

Again.

The teams will play just once – at Assembly Hall. The specific date and time will come later.

If ever there was a Big Ten basketball series that demands home-and-home scheduling, it's Indiana and Purdue.

It offers compelling drama, in the past as much for the intriguing participants (can you say Gene Keady and Bob Knight?) as for the national stakes and high-quality play.

The teams have combined for 45 Big Ten regular season titles.

Purdue leads with 23, including this past season. IU is next at 22, with two in the last five seasons.

After a two-year glitch, coach Matt Painter has the Boilers on a top-25 roll with three straight NCAA tourneys and last spring's Sweet 16 berth.

CBSsports.com's Jerry Palm lists Purdue as a No. 4 NCAA tourney seed next season. The Boilers will play in August's World University Games in Taipei, Taiwan.

IU is determined to return to national title-winning form under new coach Archie Miller.

Meanwhile, fan enthusiasm is, shall we say, colorful.

Every Mackey Arena home game finds the Paint Crew, Purdue's student section, shouting a reminder that IU, well, stinks.

The Hoosiers won't get a chance to prove they are tough enough to handle that passion.

That, too, is a shame.

This is not the rivalry's first one-and-done Big Ten situation. It has happened five times since 2007, which is five times too many.

Repeat as necessary.

Yes, it's caused as much by the complexity of fitting 18 Big Ten games with 14 conference schools as by league officials' refusal to protect key basketball rivalries (each team has five home-and-home series and eight single-play opponents), but let's do the common sense thing with Purdue and Indiana.

Please.

League officials protect major rivalries in football, which is why you'll never see a season without a Purdue-IU or Michigan-Ohio State matchup.

This might change for basketball if the conference goes to 20 league games, which is under consideration. Painter is a big fan of that idea.

That would give each team one more home conference game, and you'd like to think the Big Ten would do the right thing.

You'd like to think.

IU and Purdue could make up for the missing game with a nonconference contest, although it's almost certainly too late to do that now.

That did happen for the 2002-03 season. The teams were set to play just once – in January 2003 in Mackey Arena. They decided to also meet in Indianapolis in December 2002. IU won that game, 66-63, then lost a month later in West Lafayette, 69-47.

As for upcoming season specifics, IU will play home-and-away games against Iowa, Illinois, Michigan State, Minnesota and Ohio State. It will play road games only against Michigan, Wisconsin, Nebraska and Rutgers. Home games only are against Purdue, Maryland, Penn State and Northwestern.

Purdue's schedule has home-and-away series with Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Rutgers and Wisconsin. It will host Nebraska, Ohio State, Northwestern and Penn State. It will play at IU, Illinois, Iowa and Michigan State.

More and more, Big Ten champs are won by scheduling luck as by quality of play.

In this Boilermakers-Hoosiers case, let's limit the luck and get it right.

Let IU and Purdue play two.