The Big Ten is known for a lot of things, but perhaps nothing has been more prevalent during its history than the league’s tradition. Of course, a massive part of that tradition are the rivalries across the conference and their importance to fans.
And no rivalry is bigger on the hardwood for the Big Ten than Indiana and Purdue.
The battles between the Hoosiers and Boilermakers have been epic over the years and with another on its way this week, it’s officially time to breakdown the matchup. So, why is this year’s edition set to be a great game?
Let’s take a look.
Five Reasons That Indiana vs Purdue Will Be Epic:
1. There are Big Ten title implications on the line.
With Wisconsin’s fast start to conference play, many have forgotten about the Big Ten title race. However, with less than a month remaining in the regular season, Purdue is only two games behind the Badgers. Passing Wisconsin will be a tall task, but Purdue still has a chance.
And if Purdue is going to have any chance, it needs to win on Thursday.
Making up two games is difficult, but to do it with only seven games left on the schedule? It’s going to be immensely challenging. If Purdue drops a game, especially one as winnable as the this one, it’s efforts are going to get that much more difficult.
Well, this is a winnable road game and Purdue needs to score a win, or it can probably kiss its Big Ten title chances goodbye.
2. Indiana needs this win for its NCAA Tournament chances.
There’s been a lot of debate about whether the Hoosiers are going to make this year’s NCAA Tournament, but let me make something really clear. Whether fans want to accept it or not, Indiana is a bubble team this year. As such, the next few weeks are crucially important for the team and program.
With that in mind, it’s important to remember where Indiana sits. The team only has seven games remaining with four of those coming on the road. Additionally, Indiana’s remaining home games (excluding Purdue) are both against teams who have already beaten the Hoosiers this season.
In short, Indiana doesn’t have a guaranteed win left on the schedule and most of them will come away from home. This is also the team’s last legitimate shot at a marquee win at home. Indiana can make the NCAA Tournament without beating Purdue on Thursday, but it won’t be easy.
3. There’s some serious star power on both sides.
Indiana and Purdue both have a lot riding on this game as teams, but let’s not forget the kind of individual talent that will be on both sides. The Hoosiers and Boilermakers both have some serious star power and it will be on display on Thursday.
To start, Purdue will bring Caleb Swanigan to Bloomington, who is the frontrunner for Big Ten Player of the Year. He’s also in great position to be an All-American at season’s end and has an outside shot at National Player of the Year.
Additionally, Purdue will also bring in Vincent Edwards and Isaac Haas, who both should get some NBA interest and should make some All-Big Ten noise. Purdue’s roster also boosts a talented freshman in Carsen Edwards and Spike Albrecht, who became a national name after scoring 17 points in the 2013 national championship game.
On the other side, Indiana has Thomas Bryant who will be in line for some form of All-Big Ten honors, a great role player in Robert Johnson, and could be welcoming star guard James Blackmon back to the lineup. The Hoosiers don’t have quite the same star power, but the team still has plenty to go around.
4. What’s going to happen with James Blackmon?
Thursday’s battle between Indiana and Purdue will also have an interesting injury storyline as well. Nobody is quite sure whether Indiana’s James Blackmon will be returning to action. His presence could make a massive difference in the game’s outcome and Indiana’s chances going forward.
Blackmon has missed the last three games for Indiana (the team went 1-2) and considering that he’s averaging 17.6 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game this season, it’s easy to see what he could add for the Hoosiers.
Most importantly, if Blackmon can’t play, it should allow Purdue to play more conservatively on defense. After all, Blackmon is easily Indiana’s best perimeter shooter , so if he’s not able to go, Purdue should be able to focus solely on Bryant.
5- C’mon, it’s Indiana and Purdue!
Does anything else need to be said?