The defining moment of the 2011-2012 college basketball season was undoubtedly Kentucky winning the national title.
It was the validation on Coach Cal’s career, the proof that the program he had developed in Lexington was simply a manufacturer of first round picks, but also a system that was capable of taking home a title. It was a landmark moment in Coach Cal’s ascent to the head of what has the potential to become the Evil Empire of college hoops.
And while it may not be the defining moment of the season, Christian Watford’s game-winning three to beat Kentucky may be the most memorable. It’s more than the simple fact that Watford hit a three in front of the most raucous crowd of the season to beat the No. 1 team and future national champion in a nationally televised game. What made that moment so memorable is that it put Indiana back on the map as a basketball powerhouse against one of their hated rivals.
Next season, the Hoosiers will undoubtedly regain their perch as basketball royalty, as they are one of the few teams considered a legitimate national title contender and headline the majority of the preseason top 25 polls. With the recruiting class they have coming in, the Wildcats will also be back in the mix, meaning that a game pitting these two programs could very well be a matchup between the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the country.
Except that the rivalry may not continue next season.
It’s simple, really: John Calipari wants to move the series back to a neutral courts game, alternating between Indianapolis and Louisville. That’s how the rivalry was played from 1991-2006. Tom Crean wants to keep it on home courts in Bloomington and Lexington. That’s how it’s been since 2006 and how it was prior to 1991.
It seems relatively minor, but it’s a big enough issue that both Crean and Calipari seem to be ready to cut ties on the rivalry.
And if I could give both of these coaches one piece of advice, it’s this: DO NOT LET THIS RIVALRY DIE!!!
Indiana and Kentucky have the two most diehard fanbases in the country. They are passionate, they are vocal, they travel to games and they are all proudly insane. College basketball is better when these two programs are relevant and it’s at its best when they are playing each other. The atmosphere for the game in Assembly Hall last season? That will be an annual occurrence, regardless of locale.
We are already losing great rivalries — Kansas-Missouri, Georgetown-Syracuse, Pitt-West Virgina — because of the money and greed involved with realignment.
Don’t take away Indiana-Kentucky as well.
Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.