On February 19, 2015, the Purdue Boilermakers infiltrated Assembly Hall, winners of six of their last seven, including a 16-point beatdown of the Hoosiers in Mackey Arena, and were looking to keep up momentum on a season that had been resurrected after being left for dead in early January. On the other hand, Indiana was seeking some consistency after a 5-1 conference start had dissolved into alternating victories and losses for weeks. It was remarked, by some of the more intrepid and charming sportswriters of the time, that this game represented a shot in the arm for a rivalry that so desperately needed one. For the first time in years, both teams were at least playing for seeding in the NCAA Tournament, but a juggernaut Wisconsin team ensured the outcome of the game wouldn’t have any impact on the conference title race.
Purdue vs Indiana
Purdue would go on to sweep Indiana with a four-point victory in Bloomington, delivering the first of what would be six losses in Indiana’s final eight games. Neither team would make it through their first game in the Big Dance but if a couple personnel decisions broke their way (AJ Hammons and Yogi Ferrell, in particular) both teams could come back ready to challenge for the conference title in 2016.
Before last night, you wouldn’t have been able to say they both managed to do so. The inability to beat Iowa and an unfortunate hiccup in Champaign slammed the door to the throne room in Purdue’s face, but once Penn State dispatched of the Hawkeyes in one of the more shocking results from the conference season, the door has become improbably, but unmistakably, left ajar for the Boilermakers (and others) to lay claim to the Big Ten throne.
Purdue vs Indiana
Saturday’s tilt between Indiana’s most ferocious rivalry won’t unilaterally decide the Big Ten title, but it’s a must-win for Purdue to remain even in the periphery of contention, and an Indiana loss would likely prevent them from claiming it outright without a lot of far-fetched help. For the first time since 2008, the teams will meet with that all-important little number next to their name, signifying them as among the Top 25 teams in America. They’ve been assigned a primetime slot on a Saturday on ESPN, and the fanbases of every contending Big Ten team will be tuning in with various impact scenarios playing out in their heads. The matchup of Indiana’s lethal offense against Purdue’s suffocating defense will surely be enough to draw plenty of neutral eyes to a rivalry that has finally pulled itself off the mat.