Tonight is a rarity in the IU-Purdue rivalry

When Indiana and Purdue meet tonight at Mackey Arena, it will be a rare instance in recent years when both teams go into the game with winning conference records. In the Tom Crean era of IU basketball it has only happened one other time.

When Indiana and Purdue meet tonight at 9 p.m. in a key Big Ten basketball game at Mackey Arena, fans for the rivals will find themselves in a bit of a different position.

For a change, both Indiana and Purdue come into the game with winning records in Big Ten play.

For whatever reason that just hasn’t been the case in recent years. Either one program is up while the other one has been down, or in some cases they were both down at the same time.

Here’s a quick little quiz for you: How many times in the Tom Crean era of Indiana basketball have both Indiana and Purdue had winning records going into their conference game?

A little more info: IU and Purdue have met 10 times heading into tonight in the Crean era.

If you guessed three or four that would seem to be a reasonable estimate.

But it’s not the right one. The answer is one time in the last 10 meetings between the two rivals have both the Boilers and the Hoosiers had winning conference records going into this game.

That was the 2012-13 season when IU was 6-1 going into the game and Purdue was 5-3. IU won that first game of two that season, which was at Purdue, 97-60. When the teams met again on Feb. 16 that season in Bloomington, IU was 9-2 in conference and Purdue had slipped to 6-7. IU won easily again.

But that’s it – one time in the last 10 games. That’s remarkable and kind of sad at the same time.

Go back a little more and the trend has continued. Since the 2000 Big Ten campaign, a span of 25 games and 15 years total in the rivalry, how many times do you think the two teams have both had winning conference records going into the game?

The answer is six times out of 25 games. It happened once in the 2007-08 season when the Hoosiers were 10-2 and Purdue was 12-1 going into their only matchup of the season. IU won the game 77-68 in Assembly Hall.

It happen twice in the Mike Davis era of IU basketball but both times the teams had played five games or less at the time. In 2003-04, both teams were 4-1 going into the first matchup. The year before, IU was 4-1 and Purdue was 3-1.

It also happened twice in the 1999-2000 season.

But the point is that it doesn’t happen very often.

That doesn’t make the atmosphere inside Mackey Arena or Assembly Hall any less electric. It’s always going to be high energy when the two teams play.

But this year there’s a lot on the line when the two teams meet for the first time this season tonight. Indiana needs a victory to stay in the conversation as an elite Big Ten team. If the Hoosiers lose, they would slip back to 5-3 in conference play and fall into a tie with Purdue at that record. It would also be IU’s third road victory in five attempts in Big Ten play.

The game is big for Purdue because the Boilermakers are looking for a top 50 RPI win and you don’t want to lose at home in conference play. In this case, especially not to Indiana.

It’s just one more interesting fact heading into what should be a very entertaining Big Ten basketball game tonight in Mackey Arena.

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