DES MOINES, Iowa — Thanks to the NCAA Selection Committee, Kentucky and Indiana will renew their storied “blue blood border war” in an East Regional second-round game Saturday at Wells Fargo Arena.
The last meeting also was arranged by the NCAA in 2012, when the Wildcats scored an exciting 102-90 win in the Sweet 16 on their way to the national title.
The last time the two actually scheduled a regular-season game was in December 2011, when Indiana’s Christian Watford made a buzzer-beating three-pointer to give the Hoosiers a 73-72 upset of the No. 1 team in the country. After losing records in his first three seasons, that was the turning point that allowed Indiana coach Tom Crean to survive and return the program to prominence as Big Ten regular-season champs this year.
Crean has fond memories of the Watford shot. “There’s pictures all over the homes of people that love Indiana,” he said Friday. “It was a dramatic shot when our program needed a real shot in the arm.”
Although fans have clamored for the series to resume, Crean and Kentucky coach John Calipari, who were assistants together at Pittsburgh and remain friends, have not been able to reach an agreement.
“I said, ‘Let’s play it every year in Indianapolis in [Lucas Oil] football stadium,” Calipari said. “We will get 75,000 or 80,000 people there, and it will be a crazy game. I understand they need home games.”
There will be no home-and-home series in the foreseeable future, but they have this moment Saturday. It’s hard to know how much the rivalry resonates with the current players because none has experienced it. A reporter asked Kentucky’s Derek Willis what comes to mind when he thinks of Indiana, and he recalled a former Hoosiers coach. “I guess I think of Bob Knight,” he said. “He’s the guy that threw the chair, right?”
Uh, yes, Knight once sent a chair sliding across a court to protest a call. Saturday’s game more likely will revolve around Kentucky point guard Tyler Ulis and his Indiana counterpart, Yogi Ferrell. Ulis expressed respect for Ferrell but said he isn’t into any one-on-one matchups.
Ferrell took note of the NCAA Tournament-record 15 blocks Kentucky had in a first-round win over Stony Brook and said, “You especially can’t go in there and drive on those bigs.”
As for the rivalry, it’s like ancient history to Ferrell, who said, “We’re not into rivalries so much. This is just us versus them now.”