The Hoosiers take on North Carolina Friday night for their first matchup since November 2012, and their first NCAA Tournament game since 1984. Despite the blue-blood tradition of both schools, which each have won 5 national titles, the Hoosiers and Tar Heels have only matched up 12 times during their storied history. In these games, Indiana holds an 8-4 advantage, and the games seem to be divided evenly over three time periods.
Part 1: Dean Smith vs. Branch McCracken
Indiana never faced off against UNC until Dean Smith became the coach in Chapel Hill in 1961. For the first four years of Smith's tenure, the two teams played annually, with two games in Bloomington and two neutral-site games. One neutral game was held at War Memorial Coliseum in Fort Wayne, while the other was held at the Coliseum in Charlotte. Overall, the Hoosiers had a successful run in these four games, going 3-1 against Smith's early Heels teams with the only loss coming in Charlotte in the 1963-64 season.
Part 2: Smith, Knight, Isiah, and MJ
During the 1980s, the Hoosiers and Tar Heels were two of the most successful programs, as legendary coaches Bob Knight and Dean Smith led the teams. The 1980-81 season marked the first time the Hoosiers traveled to Chapel Hill, losing 65-56. However, the two teams would play again that season, but in the national title game. And like tomorrow's meeting, this game took place in Philadelphia. The title game - which had initially been postponed due to an assassination attempt on President Reagan - was a one-point game at halftime, but the Hoosiers pulled away in the second half, winning 63-50 behind Isiah Thomas's 23 points. Three years later, the two teams met again in the tournament, this time in a Sweet 16 game in Atlanta. The Hoosiers won narrowly, 72-68, thanks in part to a strong defensive effort that limited Michael Jordan to only 13 points. The two teams would meet once more in the 80s during a preseason NIT game in the 1988-89 season. The Heels won that game, but much like this season, the Hoosiers would rebound from that loss as well as other early-season troubles to finish 15-3 in the Big Ten and win the conference title.
Part 3: The ACC/Big Ten Challenge era
In Bob Knight's last season, the Hoosiers and Tar Heels matched up at Madison Square Garden for the Jimmy V Classic, with Indiana the victors. However, most of the more recent matchups between Indiana and UNC have come during the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. I've already stated my case for why ESPN's coverage of college basketball is frustrating for fans of the sport. However, this event, always held on the week after Thanksgiving, is one of the better promotions of college hoops that the network does, since it matches up teams from the ACC and B1G, and unlike many made-for-TV college basketball events, which are held at neutral sites, this one conducts the games on home courts. The Hoosiers and Heels have matched up three times during this event. The first was at Chapel Hill during the 2001-02 season (during an 8-20 season for UNC), which Indiana won handily. The next time the teams met was a homecoming game for UNC standout Sean May during the 2004-05 season. May, whose dad was on the 1976 title team and grew up in Bloomington, led the Heels to a 70-63 victory in Assembly Hall, en route to a title for UNC that season.
Finally, the two teams last met in November 2012, again in Assembly Hall. Indiana destroyed the Heels in this game, 83-59, thanks in part to standout performances by Cody Zeller, Victor Oladipo, and Will Sheehey, who all had at least 19 points in the game. Interestingly enough, three current UNC starters - Brice Johnson, Marcus Paige, and Joel James - all logged minutes in that game as freshmen. Yogi Ferrell also played in this one, going 0-6 from the floor and finishing with only two points. Needless to say, the Hoosiers will need more from him tomorrow night if they want to come out on top.