Former Indiana basketball coach Dan Dakich said on the radio today that a Kentucky loss to IU at Assembly Hall Saturday would not be an upset. While he gave little reason as to why he thought that and offered no breakdown of the game Saturday, he would not be surprised if the Hoosiers got a big W over the top ranked team in the country.
Both teams have gotten off to great starts to their respective seasons. The Hoosiers are undefeated at 8-0 with significant wins over NC State and Butler. That’s all well and good, and kudos to Indiana for beating teams that they should win, but NC State is a young team still learning to play at the college level, and Butler just does not have the talent that they’ve had in the last two seasons. Granted, the NC State game was on the road and the Butler game is a huge rivalry, those are both two games that the Hoosiers should win.
Kentucky, also undefeated, has wins over ranked teams like fourth ranked North Carolina, and 13th ranked Kansas, as well as dismantling St. John’s. In other words, Kentucky is battle tested.
At the same time, this is clearly the best team that Tom Crean has had since taking over at the helm at Indiana, and there is more help on the way next season. This year, Cody Zeller is manning the post for the Hoosiers, averaging just over 14 points per game, and he has four other teammates averaging over ten points per game. They are an experienced team with some upper-classmen. Most of them have played in this game once. It’s a huge game for them and their program every season. For Kentucky, this game has lost a lot of its luster since Kelvin Sampson ran the IU program into the ground.
Crean and the 2011-12 Hoosiers are trying to change that.
For a program that has had few marquee wins over the last few season, there would be no better way to put them back on the map than to knock off the top ranked team in the country, and one of their biggest rivals, Kentucky.
Indiana has everything to gain with this win, while Kentucky has a considerable amount to lose. It could easily be a trap game for a young, and slightly inexperienced Kentucky team who doesn’t understand the history of the rivalry. But believe that this Indiana team and fan base do. While Indiana fans claim to hate everything that is Kentucky, they clearly respect the Kentucky program. This is the biggest game of their season. They have been camping out in anticipation. It’s a big game because Kentucky means something. Indiana is trying to get back to that point. The coach and players wearing crimson know this. It’s unclear if the ones in blue will understand.
Regardless, Kentucky is far more talented than this Hoosier squad. Kentucky will do what they have done all season. This will be their first true road game of the year and their only true road game of the non-conference schedule. It’s important for this Kentucky team to learn how to win on the road, so that when they go to Vanderbilt, Florida, Tennessee, and the other SEC venues, they will know how to take down another team on their home turf. It will be a great learning experience, regardless, for that fact alone.
Indiana picking up their ninth win of the season on Saturday would be an upset. It would be a huge upset. There are no two ways around it. Rivalry or not, Kentucky is the top ranked team in the country, and Indiana is unranked. For any team to beat the number one team in the country, it is always an upset by definition. For Indiana to be the best, they have to beat the best, and they will certainly be looking to do so this weekend. However, a good record and some promise can only do so much when you are facing the best team in the country.
Could it happen? Yes. Will it? Probably not. But either way, both teams can gain a lot from this game, even though the rivalry has lost some of it’s hype. But the hype will be palpable in Bloomington on Saturday evening, and with a strong showing from the Hoosiers, a rivalry may be renewed for years to come.
This article originally appeared on Strait Pinkie.
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