Just another game? Biggest game of the year?
It depends on who you ask.
While they don’t agree on much, IU and Purdue fans generally agree that their basketball series is kind of a big deal.
When it comes to the players, there has always been a little more nuance. Some of the players are not from Indiana, and other members of the rival teams are actually friends (Gasp!).
Purdue All-American guard Carsen Edwards gave an interview on the Big Ten Network yesterday with host Mike Hall. During their discussion, Hall asked the Texas native about what he expected from the crowd at Saturday’s game against Indiana.
“It’ll probably be pretty loud. It’s a big deal for people around here. It will probably be a little louder I guess.”
The interesting line from that quote is “for people around here.” That remark and his subsequent statements below reflect an interesting dichotomy that has almost always existed in this more than 100 year old series.
While the game has generally held substantial meaning to in-state players like Jordan Hulls and Robbie Hummel, there has always been a question as to whether out-of-state players like Edwards and Juwan Morgan have the same appreciation and enthusiasm for the rivalry.
While it ebbs and flows with the composition of the rosters from year to year, the passion behind this series is as much, if not more about the fans as the players.
IU has more in-state players on their roster than they’ve had in recent years with seven native Hoosiers out of the seventeen on the team. Purdue has five.
So with the rosters taking on a more local flavor, is the rivalry making a comeback for the players too? At least for some of them, it is.
Unlike Edwards, Carmel, Indiana native Zach McRoberts grew up with the rivalry. He told reporters today that the rivalry game is bigger for both the fans and the players.
“Yeah, obviously it’s important to not only us but our fans. People around the state, it’s a huge game, and it’s not just your average game. It’s the IU – Purdue game, a big rivalry game. Just trying to instill that into guys, having them be ready, that’s a big thing.”
While McRoberts tries to instill the rivalry into the younger players, Edwards has taken a different approach — not letting it become so big that it is a distraction.
Hall quizzed Edwards on what it is like to play against IU.
“It’s cool. I enjoy it. It’s just another opportunity to compete and play the game I love. That’s the way I look at it. I feel like everyone outside of it really enjoys. I just look at is another game to compete against high level players.”
Seemingly surprised by Edwards’ lack of enthusiasm for the rivalry, Hall suggested that Edwards might be downplaying it.
“I’m not trying to downplay it. I just feel like once you try recognize all that stuff you lose focus on what you’re there for. I just look at it as another game to compete and help my team win.”
There Edwards highlights another important facet of this more than 200 game series. The players actually have to play the game, which means focusing on their assignments and fundamentals. If they lose that focus and become too caught up in things out of their control, it could end up being a detriment.
This time around, the Hoosiers will have the added burden of playing in front of a raucous crowd that would like nothing better than to distract IU from their core mission. McRoberts acknowledged the role that the Mackey Arena crowd will play on Saturday —
“Yeah, I think that’s something once we get there, people kind of adjust to, but obviously the crowd is going to be a huge factor. Obviously every environment in the Big Ten is a little hostile, but there’s just something special about Purdue.”
Upon further reflection about the added juice that the fans bring to the rivalry, McRoberts found something else that Indiana and Purdue fans can agree on.
“They don’t like us very much up there.”
You can watch the full interviews with McRoberts and Edwards below:
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