Most communities are pretty united when it comes to the college and pro-sports teams they root for. But in this area? The Hoosier/Boiler divide runs deep. And even though each fan base enjoys the demise of the other, things are simply a lot more fun when both teams are good.
This season, we started to get a glimpse of what that could look like again.
Indiana and Purdue both found themselves in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2016 (thanks to IU’s long tourney drought.) And while both teams had solid seasons, they both ended the year disappointed and each expected a little more.
So what’s next for these rival programs? And what are the chances they can make next season even more memorable?
For the Boilers, a season that was so promising ended in familiar fashion. Purdue lost to a low-seeded team for the second straight year, and Head Coach Matt Painter fell to just 1-5 in Sweet 16 games. The Painter hot-takes were out in full force before everyone shifted to Will Smith hot-takes. Did this team underachieve? Yes. At the same time, it’s not easy winning 29 games and finishing 3rd in the Big Ten. It’s not easy making it to the second weekend of the tournament six different times. Indiana fans can only hope their program gets back to the place where Sweet 16 losses are considered a disappointment.
Purdue is expected to lose a lot of talent. Jaden Ivey is expected to head to the NBA (and could be a fit for the Pacers). Senior standouts Trevion Williams and Sasha Stefanovic are expected to graduate and not return, while Eric Hunter Jr. is undecided at the moment.
Junior Isaiah Thompson (4.2 PPG) has entered the transfer portal, which continues to change the landscape of college basketball.
Despite all of that, the Boilers have a chance to have a strong team the next time they take the court. They currently have a decent freshman class (25th in the Nation) headed to West Lafayette. They have Edey, Gillis, Newman, and Furst. And because of the aforementioned transfer portal, they always have the ability to add impact players within the next few months. They’ve established a winning culture, and should remain competitive in the Big Ten. Is that enough to appease the fan base? That remains to be seen.
I think every Hoosiers fan wanted two things to be accomplished this season: Beat Purdue, and get back into the NCAA Tournament. Mike Woodson and company accomplished both of those things, and there finally seems to be a little momentum in the program. Being competitive in the Big Ten Tournament was also a huge step for Indiana- something we almost never see. At the same time, things felt incomplete at times this season. Large scoring droughts, poor shooting nights, and close losses that plagued the Archie Miller era were still hanging around this team. And despite the ridiculous travel schedule they had to deal with in the NCAA Tournament, they still laid a major egg when they finally got their chance to dance against St. Mary’s.
And now? An incredibly important off-season has begun. Will this season simply be year one of major progress? Or will the Hoosiers lose too many key players and be similar or worse next season?
For starters: All eyes are on Trayce Jackson-Davis. The IU star had said “one last ride in the candy-stripes” before last season. But even the most generous of ratings have TJD as a mid to late 2nd round NBA draft pick. He still doesn’t have a jump-shot, and he’s undersized to be a post-only player at the next level. His decision will be major when it comes to Indiana’s chances next season.
The Hoosiers have a strong freshman class (15th in the nation) headed their way, led by #21 ranked Jalen Hood-Schifino, and 4-star forward Kaleb Banks. Several current players are still undecided on their future, but early indications would lead you to believe Xavier Johnson, Jordan Geronimo, Tamar Bates, and Trey Galloway will be returning. Indiana is also hot on the trail of several key players in the transfer portal. There’s a lot to be determined here, but this team at least has a chance of accomplishing Mike Woodson’s goal next season, of “getting back into the upper echelon of college basketball.”
Keep a close eye on what decisions/additions are made for each program over the next month or so. The rivalry has returned, in a sense, this season. Let’s keep it going.
Tyler Smith covers the Indiana Pacers and Indiana Hoosier basketball for Indy Sports Legends. Smith is also the youth pastor at New Hope Christian Church, and the varsity girls’ basketball coach at Crawfordsville High School.
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