NCAA Basketball Tournament - Indiana  v Kentucky

The latest on the Kentucky-Indiana rivalry


If you thought the saga of the “Lost Rivalry” ended last month when Kentucky officially declined Indiana’s invitation to play games on campus, you were wrong.

According to Dustin Dopirak of the Bloomington Herald Times, who obtained letters sent between Indiana athletic director Fred Glass and Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart, Indiana reopened negotiations with Kentucky on May 10th.

The offer?

Two games in Lucas Oil Stadium, followed by a game at Rupp and THEN a game at Assembly Hall. In 2015-2016:

In the letter, Glass detailed all of the negotiations in the attempt to revive the series since it was publicly declared dead on May 3. Glass said that Indiana had indicated that it would be willing to play at Lucas Oil Stadium in December of 2012 and 2013, “persistent with Coach (John) Calipari’s previous offer to do so.” The series would then be moved to Rupp Arena for the 2014 game and Assembly Hall for the 2015 game. Glass said that was acceptable to Indiana because it would allow the freshman class that arrives next year to see at least one game on campus in their four-year careers.

My first reaction to the news: why are they trying to work this out by sending letters? Is it 1954 again?

My second reaction: this surprises you? UK wasn’t playing this series unless it was going to be held at Lucas Oil Stadium annually. And since Coach Cal knew that Indiana wasn’t going to agree to that, it’s not difficult to deduce that he simply had no interest in continuing the rivalry. He’s the head coach at Kentucky. It is his job to run that program as he sees fit, and as I’ve written about 10,000 times by now, there is actual, legitimate justification to his thought process.

It sucks, don’t get me wrong.

If I had my druthers, this game would get played on campus every single season because we all saw just how awesome the game was last season. With Kentucky and Indiana looking like the nation’s two best teams, it can only get more awesome. I’m a college basketball fan first and foremost, and as a fan, it sucks that we won’t be able to see this game.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

No. 1 Kentucky survives without Tyler Ulis in lineup

Tyler Ulis
AP Photo/Chuck Burton
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Less than a week after giving No. 2 Maryland all they could handle, Illinois State went into Lexington and gave No. 1 Kentucky fits.

The Redbirds never really threatened UK in the second half, but they went into the break tied and were within single digits down the stretch, eventually losing 75-63.

Kentucky was flustered. They turned the ball over 15 times compared to just eight assists, they shot 2-for-12 from three and just 29-for-46 (63 percent) from the charity stripe. They simply did not handle Illinois State’s pressure all that well.

And there was a reason for that.

Tyler Ulis didn’t play.

Sometimes it’s difficult to appreciate just what a player brings to a team until that player is not in the lineup, and that was precisely the case with Ulis on Monday night. It was crystal clear what he provides Kentucky. Beyond leadership and the ability to break a press without throwing the ball to the other team, he’s a calming presence. He doesn’t get rattled when a defender is harassing him and he doesn’t get overwhelmed by a situation like a mid-major threatening the No. 1 team in the country in their own gym.

He’s everything you look for in a pure point guard, and for as good as Jamal Murray and Isaiah Briscoe have looked at times this season, it should be crystal clear who the most important player on this Kentucky team is.

LSU loses to Charleston, eliminates at-large bid margin for error

Ben Simmons
AP Photo/Kathy Willens
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Ben Simmons scored 15 points and grabbed 18 rebounds, the second time in his six-game career that the LSU freshman has collected that many caroms, but that wasn’t enough for the Tigers to avoid dropping a game on the road to the College of Charleston, 70-58. It was the third straight loss for Simmons’ crew, as they fell to Marquette and N.C. State at the Legends Classic last week.

But here’s the thing: LSU didn’t just lose.

The game really wasn’t close.

LSU was down by as many as 23 points. It was 39-17 at the half, and that was after Charleston had a shot at the buzzer called off upon review. They made a bit of a run in the second half but never got closer than seven. When LSU would cut into the lead, the Cougars would respond with a run of their own, killing LSU’s spirit while keeping them at arm’s length.

[RELATED: Ben Simmons’ one college year a waste?]

Now, there are quite a few things here to discuss. For starters, LSU’s effort was, at best, apathetic, and, at worst, regular old pathetic. The team has a serious lack of leadership that was plainly evident on Monday night; would Fred VanVleet let his team fold against a program picked to finish at the bottom of the SoCon? Would Tyler Ulis? For that matter, would Tom Izzo or Mike Krzyzewski or John Calipari?

Perhaps more importantly, does any of that change when Keith Hornsby and Craig Victor get back?

Simmons did show off his potential — 18 boards, four assists, he even made his first three of the year — but he also showed precisely why there are scouts that are trying to curtail the LeBron James comparisons. Simmons was 4-for-15 from the floor with seven turnovers against a mediocre mid-major team. There are so many things that Simmons does well, but scoring efficiently — particularly in half court setting — and shooting the ball consistently are not on that list.

But here’s the biggest issue: LSU may have put themselves in a situation where they aren’t a tournament team. As of today, they’re 3-3 on the season with losses to a pair of teams that, at best, seem destined to be in the bubble conversation on Selection Sunday in addition to this loss to Charleston. The rest of their non-conference schedule is ugly. The only game worth noting is at home against No. 6 Oklahoma at the end of January.

The NCAA factors in non-conference schedule strength when determining at-large teams. You need to at least try, and LSU didn’t try; they have one of the worst non-conference schedules in the country.

The great thing about being in the SEC — as opposed to, say, the Missouri Valley — is that the Tigers will have plenty of chances to earn marquee wins. Six, by my court: Kentucky twice, Texas A&M twice, Vanderbilt on the road and Oklahoma at home. They probably need to win at least two or three of those games to have a real chance, and that’s assuming they can avoid anymore horrid losses in the process.

The season isn’t over six games in, not by any stretch of the imagination.

But LSU has done a hell of a job eliminating their margin for error.