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Indiana v. Purdue, round 2: historical notes.

Indiana and Purdue played each other in basketball for the first time on March 1, 1901 (yes--112 years ago today; it was a 23-19 Purdue win in Bloomington), and Sunday's game will be the 198th meeting between the two schools. After losing five in a row to Purdue over the previous three seasons, the Hoosiers, thanks to their big win in West Lafayette a month ago, find themselves in a position to sweep the season series for the first time since 2006. For a team that entered the season without any player who had ever defeated Purdue, this would be a very nice accomplishment. How would it measure up historically?

Perhaps the biggest surprise to me is that of the 196 meetings between the two schools before this season, close to half (96 games) have been part of a two game sweep by one team or the other (to be clear, I am counting only seasons in which the teams played a standard home-and-home, not seasons in which there was only one meeting). If IU wins on Sunday, then IU will have swept the regular season series 19 times. Given Purdue's comfortable lead in the overall series, it's no surprise that Purdue has 30 sweeps compared to IU's 18. A few notes:

  • IU's sweeps have occurred in 1940, 1947, 1949, 1950, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1963, 1975, 1976, 1983, 1989, 1991, 1993, 2001, 2005, and 2006.
  • Purdue has swept the series in 1901, 1902, 1902, 1904, 1909, 1910, 1911, 1912, 1913, 1915, 1917, 1920, 1921, 1922, 1929, 1931, 1932, 1934, 1937, 1938, 1948, 1968, 1969, 1977, 1985, 1990, 1996, 1997, 2010, and 2011.
  • Much like in the overall series, Purdue's success is seriously front-loaded. Purdue recorded 20 of its two-game sweeps before IU got its first in 1940, on the way to IU's first NCAA championship. From 1940 to present, IU has swept the series 18 times compared to Purdue's 10. Incidentally, that 1940 sweep was, aside from being a milestone in and of itself, a crucial moment in IU's basketball history. Although Purdue won the Big Ten outright that year, IU was selected to represent the midwest in the 1940 Tournament (in the era before automatic bids) on the strength of its 17-3 overall record and the sweep of Purdue.
  • The IU coach with the most success against Purdue was Branch McCracken. McCracken swept Purdue 9 times, including in six seasons in a row from 1949 to 1954 (IU's 13-game winning streak over Purdue in that era remains the longest run in the history of the series for either team). Bob Knight swept Purdue 6 times, but was swept 5 times. Thanks in large part to the demise of Purdue's program in the late Keady era, Mike Davis swept Purdue three times and never was swept by the Boilers.
As I mentioned last week, both here and on Twitter, it was somewhat surprising that IU's win at Minnesota was the first time since 1986 that IU had lost a Big Ten home game and then avenged the loss by beating the same team on the road in the same season. Purdue, of course, did the same thing last weekend. The Boilers avenged an earlier home loss to Michigan by upsetting the Wolverines in Ann Arbor. Accordingly, Purdue will be going for its second "reverse split," as I like to call it, in as many weeks. The reverse split has been extremely rare in the IU-Purdue series. In my review of the series records, I could find only three occurrences. In 1922-23, IU won in West Lafayette on New Year's Eve, but lost in Bloomington on March 15. In 1984, Purdue won comfortably in Bloomington (84-76), but IU got some big-time revenge with a 78-59 win in West Lafayette on February 29. In 1999, IU won 87-76 in West Lafayette on January 16, but Purdue got revenge on February 9 in Bloomington, 86-81.

One note about the two modern era reverse splits: in each case, the reversal of fortunes was a good NCAA Tournament omen for the team that won the second game. In 1984, the Hoosiers weren't among Bob Knight's best IU teams, but they shocked Michael Jordan and top-ranked North Carolina in the Sweet 16 before losing the regional final to Virginia. In 1999, Purdue probably needed that win at Assembly Hall to eke into the Tournament as a 10 seed with a 7-9 Big Ten record. Once there, however, Purdue upset 7 seed Texas and 2 seed Miami. Those games, in Gene Keady's 19th season, were his first-ever NCAA Tournament wins over teams with a higher seed.

Well, there you have it. Whether IU defends its home court or Purdue pulls the upset, someone will be making history on Sunday night.