Indiana and Kentucky produced the game of the year last season when the Hoosiers beat the Wildcats on Christian Watford’s buzzer-beating three pointer. Kentucky returned the favor in the NCAA Tournament, and as it turned out, the December defeat was the Wildcats’ only loss of the year. [Update: I blanked on the Vanderbilt loss in the SEC Tournament].
They won’t have a chance for an encore performance this year, even though both teams are expected to be in the Top 10 in the nation when the season begins. Indiana announced Thursday that it will not be renewing the series.
The issue: Kentucky and John Calipari is insisting that the games be played at neutral sites. Indiana wants them played on campus, and ne’er the twain did they meet.
Gary Parrish recounts how John Calipari hates non-conference road games, including a story how he insisted that Gonzaga play off campus because Memphis did so (for all of their home games) when they played in downtown Memphis.
Agree or disagree, that’s his position.
He’d rather play all his high-profile non-league games on neutral sites in major markets, and he’s so successful — he just won a national title, you know? — that Kentucky fans won’t question him taking an attractive game out of Rupp Arena any more than they’d question him if he sacrificed a baby at halftime of a Tuesday night affair in February.
As noted in this piece in Sports Illustrated, the series has rotated between campus sites and neutral sites at various times since 1969. From 1991 to 2005, it rotated between the Hoosier/RCA Dome in Indianapolis and Freedom Hall in Louisville. It has been played on campus the last six years.
Both parties are acting in their best interests. Kentucky wants neutral courts where they are never at a disadvantage. Indiana is likely to be in the underdog role against Calipari’s perennial future NBA stars, and wants the drama that last year created. In the end, though, college basketball loses. There is no disincentive to actually losing a road game against a quality opponent. It doesn’t sink tournament chances, while the win bolsters them. In the end, the fans are the losers here, because neither proud program could reach an agreement like they have for 43 straight years.
[photo via US Presswire]