Forget Michigan, Indiana is Ohio State’s basketball rival

Jan 29, 2018
  • By Marcus Hartman
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
5 Mar 1998: Coach Bobby Knight of the Indiana Hoosiers talks to his guard Michael Lewis during a Big 10 Tournament game against the Ohio State Buckeyes at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. Indiana defeated Ohio State 78-71. Mandatory Credit: Jonat

January 30 is: 

  1. A Tuesday 
  2. An Ohio State basketball game night
  3. The next installment of the Ohio State-Indiana basketball rivalry 

A few months ago, most of us probably would have only agreed on the first one. 

The second was technically true since the schedule came out, but a lot more people are bound to be aware of it now than they were in November or December. 

The third? Well, it might be wishful thinking – but hopefully not for long now that the Buckeyes (Chris Holtmann) and Hoosiers (former UD mentor Archie Miller) are under new management. 

And that would be awesome. 

Confused? Well, maybe you’re a little young. That’s OK. Life at Value City Arena did begin before (Indiana natives) Mike Conley Jr. and Greg Oden arrived. 

Ohio State-Indiana was once the game to end all games every winter in the Midwest, at least if you were from Ohio. 

As a child of the 1990s, I still wince every time I see a television promo billing an Ohio State-Michigan basketball game as a rivalry renewing contest. It’s really nothing of the sort. 

Do Buckeye fans want to beat the Wolverines in everything? Of course. 

Have there been some memorable matchups between the schools over the years? Sure. 

The Michigan State game (or games) generally will be circled on the calendar, too, but that’s more a function of the Spartans, you know, usually being pretty good – sort of like how I assume Wisconsin football fans look at Ohio State

Speaking of the Badgers, their basketball team has been a thorn in the side of some good OSU squads, too, but none of those teams I mentioned ever got the blood boiling as consistently as the one that wears crimson and cream did for a good 20 years or so. 

READ MORE in Marcus Hartman’s “Cus Words Blog.”

Of course, that was predominantly because of one man – Bobby Knight. 

The General won 11 Big Ten championships and three national titles between 1971 and 2000, and he did so with a snarling, swaggering (as much as one can swagger in plaid, anyway) style that made him easy to hate, too. 

Knight was the big, bad bully coaching the conference’s best team just a few hours to the west. 

And what’s worse? Just like the man who brought Michigan football back in the 1970s (Bo Schembechler), Knight was an Ohio boy. Unlike Shembechler (Miami University, ‘51), he even played for the Buckeyes during the program’s proudest days. 

How could a member of Ohio State’s only national championship team so consistently torment his alma mater for three decades? 

It just felt so unnatural -- not to mention unfair (that was before I knew life isn’t fair; forgive me). 

Remember how you felt seeing Bo Ryan scowl and carry on the sidelines? Knight was in Bloomington twice as long (and he actually won the big one multiple times), and his eruptions far more spectacular. 

Can’t stand Tom Izzo’s constant whining even while his team gets all the calls? OK, it was kind of like that if you turn the intimidation factor up about 10 times. 

But those guys are products of their states. Who else were they going to coach, anyway? 

(When he returned to Columbus as the coach at Texas Tech he claimed Ohio State fans already disliked Indiana before he got there, but I have my doubts.) 

Of course, the vitriol between Ohio State and Indiana during the Knight years is barely imaginable now.

Knight has done a reverse-heel turn since being fired by Indiana, turning into more of a favorite uncle over the past decade. He’s practically an Ohio State folk hero now, even appearing on pregame hype videos and being inducted into the school’s athletics hall of fame while stiff-arming Indiana at every turn. 

Knight’s alma mater never managed to find him a proper foil after his mentor, Fred Taylor, retired in 1976. The Buckeyes had plenty of talented teams, but they went wanting for a Big Ten title until 1991, a 19-year drought. 

They swept the Hoosiers that season, including an unforgettable double-overtime win at St. John Arena called by Keith Jackson and Dick Vitale on ABC. 

If you have a couple of hours to kill, you can find that whole game broadcast on YouTube. It’s amazing for any number of reasons, not the least of which being Jackson’s signature voice and Vitale correctly predicting Jimmy Jackson would get the call on the final play. 

“ONE ON ONE FOR MR. JACKSON!” resonates more than 25 years later as the Buckeyes and Hoosiers get set to meet for the first time this season with new coaches on the sideline. 

So far, things are going a lot better for Holtmann’s Buckeyes than Miller’s Hoosiers. 

Ohio State enters the game Tuesday night 18-5 with a 9-1 conference mark, trailing Purdue by a game in the Big Ten race. 

The Buckeyes are 15th in KenPom ratings while Indiana is 89th. 

TOM ARCHDEACON: Behind the scenes on Archie Miller’s road to Indiana

The Hoosiers had a chance to knock off the Boilermakers on Sunday but couldn’t finish the job, falling to 5-5 in the Big Ten and just 12-10 overall. 

We can’t say throw out the records yet on this one, but it has the potential to be fun – tonight and into the future. 

Ohio State has done more winning since the turn of the century, and Indiana’s trouble finding consistency since Knight’s exit probably played no small role in Thad Matta’s success with the Buckeyes. 

But now it’s a new era. 

While Indiana hired the bigger name, Ohio State just might have ended up with the better coach

Only time will tell. 

RELATED: How Archie Miller’s Dayton recruiting compares to similar programs

Miller got the first win off the court when he signed Jerome Hunter, a four-star prospect from Pickerington North, in November. 

Holtmann has a chance to get the first triumph between the lines Tuesday night. 

Think anyone will throw a chair?