Kentucky is a month removed from its eighth national championship. Indiana is seven months away from beginning next season as perhaps the nation's top-ranked team. And the two rivals split a pair of fiercely contested games a year ago.
Yes, everything is in place for the two regional rivals to play one of the more anticipated regular season games of the season next year except for one problem: The coaches cannot come to an agreement on where to hold the game.
Kentucky coach John Calipari wants the games be played at a neutral site in either Louisville or Indianapolis as was custom between 1991 and 2005. Indiana coach Tom Crean prefers the matchup rotate between the two campus sites as it has since 2006.
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Unless the two coaches can solve the impasse or a third party steps in and solves it for them, there's an increasing chance the Wildcats and Hoosiers won't play next season for the first time since 1968.
"The Kentucky game is still being talked about worked on, but it's not set in stone because, as many of you know, Kentucky doesn't want to play on our campus anymore and that's certainly not our first choice," Crean told the Associated Press on Friday. "Keeping it on campus is without a doubt our first choice and always has been since I've been here."
There's no denying the big event atmosphere a Kentucky-Indiana game would have if played at a neutral site in front of a half-red, half-blue crowd, but it's also hard to believe that's Calipari's only motivation in pushing for the end of true home games in the series.
Is it a coincidence Kentucky no longer wants to go to Bloomington the year after Crean's Hoosiers upset the Wildcats in front of maybe the most raucous crowd in all of college basketball last season? With Indiana back among the elite again, it certainly won't be as easy for Kentucky to continue its recent dominance in the series if it has to play in that charged-up atmosphere once every two years.
On the other hand, Crean's motivation is likely no less selfish. Indiana won 18 of 19 games at Assembly Hall last season including upsets against top-five Kentucky and Ohio State, so having the series be home-and-home helps level the playing field with the Wildcats in case there are years when the Hoosiers are at a talent disadvantage again.
Which side blinks first may come down to who needs the other more, and unfortunately a case can be made that both programs can survive just fine without the game.
Next season alone, Kentucky plays Duke and Maryland on neutral courts in addition to annual games against North Carolina and Louisville. Indiana gets Butler on a neutral court, likely UCLA and Georgetown in a preseason tournament, a marquee game in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge and potentially even a matchup with Kansas.
Regardless of the fact that neither program needs the other one, however, it would be an unbelievably shortsighted decision by either side not to find a way to make this series continue.
At a time when historic rivalries are dying in college basketball as a result of conference realignment, Indiana-Kentucky is a series that has a chance to flourish right now and help fill the void. Hopefully a petty disagreement won't stand in the way.
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