It’s March and on the last two days of the regular season I don’t have a dog in the fight. I.U. was the first to be eliminated. Their season is mercifully over. Purdue was beaten a few days ago by Ohio State. The undefeated Zags easily won their tournament a few days ago so they aren’t playing this weekend. The Beavers beat the Ducks in basketball, while the Ducks prevailed in baseball, a rare flip-flop of program strengths. My four most hated teams are battling it out for the BIG bracket title, a tournament that I.U. has never won since inception. Not much to look forward to over the next few days except the tourney draw.
When I get to Indianapolis next weekend, I will struggle with allegiance. The Ducks and Boilers will get another chance for post season glory, while the Zags should cruise through their first two games. Oregon State will only get in, despite three straight Pac12 wins, if they beat Colorado today, a team they’ve lost to twice. The number 12 has been added to their jerseys as a reminder that they were picked to finish last in the conference by the pre-season pollsters. They could win the Pac12 tourney for the first time in program history. Now that’s a fighting Dog!
The Hoosiers were the worst kind of dog, finishing with six straight conference losses, rather than peaking for a March Madness run. They face an off-season of uncertainty as Archie Miller’s fate is determined. Trayce Jackson-Davis will not be back though I don’t see much of a future for him in the NBA. He certainly got to the free throw line frequently but the rim doesn’t favor his short game and he can’t shoot well from the charity stripe. He could be a star if he stayed in college two more years, but Archie is not a teaching coach. The G-League is his certain destiny. The only guy that did hit free throws this year, Al Durham, could come back for another year – but probably won’t. I’m not at all looking forward to next year without the shooters, big bodies, or innovative coaching that can effectively compete in the BIG. Unless there is change, my hapless Hoosiers are nothing but a barkless dog without a fight!
It’s depressing irony that four Indiana basketball schools will probably be playing in Dallas or done for the year while the NCAA tournament takes place in their back yard. Only Purdue will represent what was once the greatest basketball state in the nation. Indiana, Butler, Ball State, and Notre Dame will all end the regular season with losing records. Will the NIT even have them? Indiana will probably finish 10th in the BIG with the first nine likely going to the Big Dance. Notre Dame is looking at 11th in the ACC, just behind Duke that still has a slim chance of making the field. Butler sits at 10th in the Big East and Ball State 8th in the MAC. It was also a bad year for Valparaiso (10-18) and Evansville (9-16). Indiana State topped both of them in the Missouri Valley conference at 15-10 but tourney winner Loyola and runner-up Drake will probably get the nod. Could Dallas also be a destination for the Sycamores?
The #4 seed Boilermakers got a March Madness double-bye in the BIG battle and have a chance at favorable NCAA placement in their home state if they win on Friday. I will support them once I.U. has officially been eliminated, which will probably be sooner than later. Purdue will sadly be the sole state representative once the Big Dance starts next week. I hope to see them in person, fully vaccinated, when I travel to Indy on the 19th. Boiler Up and Go Ducks!
#10 seed I.U. plays #7 Rutgers tonight in the BIG tournament, facing the possibility of going 0-3 this year against the Scarlet Knights. If the Hoosiers can pull of the upset, they would face Illinois on Friday, who also swept them in the regular season. As poorly as the Hoosiers have played this year, two big upset wins could get them in with a 14-14 overall record, although they’d have to win at least one more to assure a .500 season. The conference games are in Indianapolis, after all, and maybe the rims will be kind for once. Fat Chance!
It’s a New Year with hopes of an I.U. Outback Bowl victory. Last year, they fell short against Tennessee with a late game letdown. With last night’s Ohio State Sugar Bowl domination of Clemson, this Hoosier team is even stronger than I thought. We came so close against the Buckeyes, plus Northwestern throttled Auburn, so the BIG 10 has proven to be a very formidable league, especially against the highly touted SEC. Indiana can add to the 3-0 conference bowl record today with a victory over Old Miss in Tampa. This would set the stage for more respect when next year’s postseason slate is determined.
The Hoosiers should have played in the top tier Citrus Bowl instead of Northwestern but fell in the final rankings to #11 despite a convincing win over Wisconsin, the other BIG bowl representative. Clearly politics played a role, just as Notre Dame was awarded a playoff spot despite the Clemson blow-out loss. Coach Tom Allen has vaulted the I.U. program into the upper echelon of a powerful conference. They can prove their worth today! My other team, #25 Oregon, plays #10 Iowa State later today in the Fiesta Bowl.
Meanwhile, basketball continues to struggle, but did manage to pull-off an OT win over Penn State. Another W against Maryland next week and they can even their BIG record after an 0-2 start. Basketball used to be the big sport on campus in Bloomington, but surprisingly football has proven to be more successful in recent years. In the Bob Knight era it was “The Magic of 60.” If the Hoosiers got to 60 before their opponent victory was eminent. However, with the addition of the 3-point shot, 70 is now coach Archie Miller’s defining number. With his leadership, in conference play (including the B1G tourney) the Hoosiers are 18-7 when scoring 70 or more points and 10-30 when scoring below 70 points. 70 is the new 60 going forward.
Purdue basketball is off to a 7-4 start, but 2-2 in the conference. They play #15 Illinois this afternoon, after losing to #14 Rutgers. It would be nice to see a ranked Purdue or Indiana program. Unfortunately, both rivals will be in the lower half of the BIG since the league is loaded with 7 nationally ranked teams. Here on the West coast, the undefeated Zags are still the #1 team in the country while the Oregon Ducks (6-1) stand at #21.
On the baseball front, the Cubs continue to clean house with the trade of Yu Darvish and Victor Caratini to the Padres. Yu has been the pitching leader for the last two years, with Cy Young consideration. There’s also talk of dealing my favorite and IU alum, Kyle Schwarber. Rizzo and Bryant will soon become free agents, so the World Series Champions of 2016 are seeing their winning foundation deteriorate. Today, however, my concern is football the Indiana Hoosiers in the Outback Bowl.
There is no Bucket or Border War to win today. Both rivalries have succumb to Covid. The teams were already three weeks behind schedule as both conference seasons were delayed and shortened by the dreaded virus. Dead. Games today will decide who plays who next, although it has already been determined that #4 Ohio State will play #14 Northwestern for the BIG10 title, #1 Alabama will face #6 Florida for the SEC crown, and #2 Notre Dame will meet #3 Clemson in a rematch for ACC bragging rights. I’m waiting to see what BIG10 team #8 Indiana plays next Saturday and whether the Oregon Ducks will get to compete for PAC12 honors or if the Huskies will automatically get the nod?
1942 was the first Old Oaken Bucket game where Indiana or Purdue entered the contest with a national rating. That year the #18 Hoosiers won 20-0. The following year #3 Purdue got revenge 7-0. In 1945, it was #4 I.U. prevailing 26-0. It wasn’t until 1960 that ratings once again became a bucket factor as #13 Purdue won in West Lafayette 35-6. 1967 went to #4 Indiana, while the 1968 #12 Boilers took home the bucket, and added another P-link in 1969 as the #17 team in the country. 1978 and 1979 also went to ranked Purdue, and it wasn’t until 1987 when the ratings tide changed as #20 Indiana won 35-14, followed by similar success by the #21 Hoosiers in 1993. After that it was all Purdue with nationally recognized teams in 1997 (#23), 1999 (#19), 2000 (#17), and 2003 (#16). Following this stretch, both programs had been in a serious ratings draught until the 2020 #8 Indiana Hoosiers took the field.
It was the Joe Tiller era from 1996-2008 when the dominant Black & Gold went 10-2 against the bucket deprived Cream & Crimson. Going back a little further, the rivalry’s biggest upset was in 1989 when Bill Mallory coached I.U. was a 15.5 favorite, but underdog Purdue led by Fred Akers pulled off a 15-14 victory. It was their only Big Ten win that year and proof that anything can happen in a rivalry game. With the death of the bucket this year, we’ll never know if lightening could have possibly struck twice?