It started, or ended if your prefer, with a shot that signaled the revival of a program, immediately followed by a court storm that effectively put a series on pause.
Now it is the question that, unlike the Indiana-Kentucky basketball series, is seemingly playing on repeat.
On Thursday it was Mike Woodson’s turn to answer the question that college basketball fans have been asking since Christian Watford brought more than 17,000 fans out of their seats and scurrying towards the Branch McCracken Court, where they may or may not have trampled Kentucky coach John Calipari’s spine.
WISH-TV sports director Anthony Calhoun reported on his Twitter account that he asked Woodson whether he would like to revive Indiana’s nearly century old series with Kentucky. Although Woodson has only been on the job for six weeks, the topic has been broached with IU’s rival.
“Calipari and I have hinted at it,” Woodson said according to Calhoun. “But I would love to see it cause Indiana fans would love it. I would love to see it back if we can make it happen.”
Like Tom Crean and Archie Miller before him, Woodson will have to find a way to overcome Kentucky’s main sticking point.
Calipari’s insistence on not playing games on campus has been the primary reason why the series has gone dormant since 2011. But his reservations about playing on the road seem mostly confined to Indiana. The Wildcats have recently signed agreements that will have them travel to Michigan and Notre Dame. Calipari told Mark Cuban last spring he would only play in Bloomington if there were no fans at the game, signaling he was still saltier than a certain Kentucky band member’s tears about that 2011 court storm.
When Fred Glass was the AD at IU, Indiana was willing to play a four game rotating series, with two meetings on campus and two on neutral sites. But Calipari rejected any deal longer than two years, and any games played on campus.
Indiana vs. Kentucky is a series that dates back to 1924. The programs have met 57 times since then, including every year from 1969 through 2011. Calipari’s idea to play off campus does have precedence. From 1992 to 2006 the teams played at neutral sites with the crowd split 50/50.
Indiana won the most recent regular season meeting in 2011 when Watford’s buzzer beating shot stunned the No. 1 Wildcats in Bloomington and sent the home crowd into a frenzy. Since then the programs have only met in the postseason — a 2012 NCAA Tournament game won by Kentucky, and the last matchup, a 2016 NCAA Tournament game won by IU.
Woodson faced Kentucky four times as an Indiana player, finishing with a 1-3 record in the games that were all played on the school’s respective campuses.
Perhaps with new AD Scott Dolson in place along with Woodson, there is an opportunity for fresh thinking on the series, or perhaps Indiana will acquiesce and revert to the 1992-2006 format, something that was popular for both fan bases.
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