Like all series things can get uneven at times and that's been the case over the past 13 years. Back in the height of the Gene Keady-Bob Knight rivalry winning streaks were hard to come by as were road victories.
From February of 2000 to January 2007 IU posted 11 wins in 13 tries. Prior to last year when Purdue lost both games the Boilermakers had won 6 of 7.
So what happens this week? First off Purdue has the home court but will it be that big of an advantage? The Boilermakers have lost three times at home and the only rated team in that group Ohio State had little trouble. Indiana and the Buckeyes are similar but I would give the slight edge to the Hoosiers. Indiana's team is made up of the same players that came into Mackey Arena last year and won going away 78-61, albeit it was a close game for 38 minutes.
This may sound obvious but IU is better this year, Purdue not as good. So logic says IU should be able to prevail and most likely do it easily. But wait we all know things don't always work out the way they should and if there ever has been a year for non- ranked teams to beat ranked ones this has been the year.
Purdue has done a good job since the Big Ten has started to win the games they must, if the post season is their goal. However, to be realistic the Boilermakers are going to have to upset some of these top echelon teams if they expect any chance at the NCAA. In fact they most likely would have to win four of those games. I know that appears to be a tall order but I think that's reality.
So how can the Boilers negotiate an upset this week? First off they have to believe they can do it. I always refer to the 1992 season when Purdue was beaten by 41 points in Bloomington but finished the season with a 61-59 victory at Mackey. Ironically IU was rated 4th in the country at the time and headed to a number one seed in Indianapolis. Purdue finished the season 18-15 losing to Florida in the third round of the NIT. But that loss sent Bob Knight into a tizzy and sent the Hoosiers out West so it did turn out to be quite satisfying despite the difference in the overall talent of the two teams. Matt Painter was a member of that team, so he certainly has a good reference point.
So it starts with a belief system and then a whole lot of things have to go right. Keep the game close and the crowd becomes a factor. How the game is officiated factors in as well. You probably want the game to be physical but not a foul fest, IU has too many good free throw shooters. IU is a terrific fast break team and loves to push the tempo we don't want to get into that game. And Purdue has to play at what Coach Keady referred to as the magic level to have a chance. That means hitting some threes, playing aggressive defense, and not turning the ball over.
Does this sound like a lot of things have to go well? Sure, that's how upsets happen. Let's be honest Indiana has a very good team, but has not shown at any time in recent seasons to be a dominant team on the road. Very few teams are in our conference. If Purdue does the things it practices, and gets some breaks it can win. However this isn't a typical year when the home team should win, IU will be a significant favorite.
One other note, win or lose against IU Purdue must recover quickly and perform well at Northwestern Saturday. Purdue annually labors in Evanston including last year when the Boilermakers prevailed 58-56.
First Things first though, let's get ready to rumble Wednesday night in Mackey!