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The Purdue preview, part I.

Purdue Boilermakers
Current record: 21-5
Big Ten record: 12-1
Current RPI: 28
Current Sagarin: 30
2006-07 record: 21-11 (9-7) (lost to Florida in second round of NCAA Tournament)
2006-07 RPI: 44
2006-07 Sagarin: 26
Series: Purdue leads 109-81
Last IU win: 1/10/07 (85-58 in Bloomington)
Last Purdue win: 2/15/07 (81-68 in West Lafayette)
Last Purdue win in Bloomington: 2/9/99 (86-81)
TV: 7 pm Tuesday, ESPN

Purdue's computer rankings still are suffering from non-conference losses to Wofford and Iowa State, but since those pre-Christmas losses, the Boilers have been playing as well as anyone in the country. Purdue's only loss since the Iowa State game was a 3-point loss to Michigan State on the road, a game that Purdue led late and played without Robbie Hummel. When the schedule came out, I was disappointed, of course, at the short-sightedness of the Big Ten leadership's failure to introduce protected rivalries to basketball. Particularly now that the Big Ten has returned to an 18 game conference schedule, there's no excuse for not scheduling two IU-Purdue games. In any event, at the beginning of the season, I wished that the schedule were reversed. I figured that this year's IU team would be good enough to win at Mackey but that next year, when Purdue's youngsters would be a year older and IU would be without DJ White and Eric Gordon, homecourt would be more useful. Who could have predicted that this year's game would have significant Big Ten championship implications for both schools?

As is noted above, Purdue leads the all-time series by a substantial margin. The two schools played their first game on March 3, 1901, and Purdue dominated the early years of the rivalry. IU and Purdue played 60 times before the NCAA Tournament era began in 1938-39, and Purdue then held a 51-9 lead. Since then, the rivalry has been fairly evenly matched, with IU leading 72-58 since then but with Purdue retaining a comfortable lead in the overall series.

Purdue now has lost 7 in a row in Bloomington, which is Purdue's longest losing streak at Assembly Hall. The 1999 win was Purdue's third win at Assembly Hall in four years, and the 1996 and 1997 games (Chad Austin I and Chad Austin II) were particularly memorable. This is the first time since 1994 that both teams have entered this game with designs on the conference title. In the 20 years that Knight and Keady coached against each other, IU or Purdue won a share of the conference title in 11 of 20 seasons. Since Purdue's last title in 1996, IU's four-way tie in 2002 is the only conference title won by either school. I thought this year might be a return to the 1980s in that respect, but I thought IU would be doing the winning.
That's all for now: the nuts and bolts of the upcoming match-up will come later.