Why the best years of the Purdue-IU rivalry are in the years to come.
A rivalry once looked upon as one of the top in the country and featured two of college basketball's icons in Bob Knight and Gene Keady, the Purdue-Indiana rivalry has taken a step back as of late. The games have featured the "Chair Thrown Round the World" and the ever so pleasing comb over has recently been known for meaningless games between one team that has dominated the other. The Purdue Boilermakers have dominated the Indiana Hoosiers in their yearly rivalry the past few years. Purdue, led by the likes of Robbie Hummel, JaJuan Johnson, and E'Twaun Moore have galvanized a Boilermaker fan base with a string of success that hasn't been seen in over a decade, a run that has included a Big Ten title, two runner-up finishes, and two Sweet 16 bids. Indiana, on the other hand, has seen the exact opposite. A total dumping of the Kelvin Sampson era left the cabinet very bare for coach Tom Crean, and the result hasn't been pretty, as the Hoosiers have endured a period of losing not known since before Bob Knight came to Bloomington. Indiana has finished last in the Big Ten the past two years, dethroning Penn State as the biggest pushover in the Big Ten. This is after the Hoosiers dominated the series earlier in the decade after the departure of Gene Keady.
Though the period has recently been dominated by the Boilermakers, the Hoosiers have in 2011, a Top 5 nationally rated recruiting class headlined by 6'11" sensation Cody Zeller and in 2012, an ultra-athletic PF Hanner Parea, PG Yogi Ferrel, and SF Jeremy Hollowell. This influx of talent, and the continued success of the Boilermakers should make this rivalry one of the best to watch in the country, renewing a tradition that has taken the past 10 years off.
Being a heavily biased Boilermaker fan, I can sit here and poke fun at Indiana's lack of success the past few years, but I know the post Keady years were less than desirable for us. And I also know how a good recruiting class led by some of the top players in the country can bring a program back to national prominence. It's too early to tell how the players will gel with each other, but if the recruits play to their national ranking, Indiana will definitely be a top 25 team by year's end. Purdue will be a top club again as they welcome Robbie Hummel back into the lineup after a string of ACL tears, and return starting point guard Lewis Jackson, starting shooting guard Ryne Smith, and promising sophomore combo guard Terone Johnson. The departure of E'twaun Moore will hurt, but the loss of JaJuan Johnson hurts even more, as he scored more than 22 points in every contest but two last season. This leaves Sandi Marcius and Travis Carrol to pick up the slack. This presents a match-up problem, as Marcius and Carrol do not have the skill set to combat Zeller. This coming year's game will be a big indicator for the direction of the rivalry for years to come.As transition period for Crean ends, and he brings in a Top-5 recruiting class, he enters win now mode. Matt Painter looks to maintain the success of one of the top programs in the country with aspirations of a Big Ten title and an eventual national title. Stay tuned everybody, college basketball is hotter than ever in Indiana and this historic rivalry is only going to get better in the years to come