Indiana and Purdue have been playing each other in basketball since March 2, 1901.

That’s 3 years to the day before the birth of Dr. Seuss.

A month before the invention of the license plate.

Basketball itself had only existed for a decade.

In other words, the Hoosiers and Boilermakers have pretty much been doing this forever.

Yet very few of those 215 prior meetings have had as much significance as Saturday’s, which marks the 1st time Purdue has faced its oldest rival as the No. 1 team in America.

It’s the 1st time either team has been ranked No. 1 in this rivalry game since 2013, and the 1st time the road team was ranked No. 1 since Indiana visited Mackey Arena in 1976.

There’s little disputing the biggest Indiana-Purdue game ever. The 6th-seeded Boilers upset the 2nd-seeded Hoosiers in the 1980 Sweet 16 in the only NCAA Tournament game between the programs. Significantly, it was part of Purdue’s most recent Final 4 run.

The year prior, the Hoosiers beat the Boilers 53-52 in the NIT championship game. This was still a time when the NIT meant something — Purdue tied Michigan State and Iowa for the Big Ten title but somehow still got snubbed from the NCAA Tournament. It’s probably little coincidence the field expanded from 40 to 48 teams in 1980.

But as far as regular-season meetings go, this is as special as it gets.

For the 1st time since 1993, you can argue the top 2 players in the Big Ten will be on the floor. Zach Edey and Trayce Jackson-Davis bring the most talent to a head-to-head duel of Hoosiers and Boilers since Glenn Robinson and Calbert Cheaney.

In 1987, both teams were ranked in the top 10 for both of their meetings.

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That’s the whole list. At most, there have been 5 regular-season Indiana-Purdue games carrying this much weight. Out of 215 all-time meetings.

But that’s not the only thing that makes Saturday’s game special.

Indiana’s shot at No. 1

Once every decade or so, the Hoosiers find themselves with a shot at making a lifetime of memories against the nation’s top-ranked team.

No one in Bloomington has forgotten the last time a hated rival came to Assembly Hall ranked 1st in the country.

Thanks in part to Indiana’s lack of postseason success in the ensuing decade, Christian Watford’s buzzer-beater over top-ranked Kentucky remains the most iconic moment of recent Hoosier basketball history.

“The Wat Shot” marked Indiana’s 1st win over a No. 1 team since upsetting Duke on Kentucky’s home floor in the 2002 Sweet 16. And it was the 1st win over a No. 1 team at Assembly Hall since Kirk Haston’s buzzer-beater against Michigan State in 2001.

All 3 of those wins still hold a high place in Indiana lore. The Watford and Haston shots likely mark the highest decibel levels at Assembly Hall in the 21st century. Both were certainly worthy of the rare storming of Branch McCracken Court.

To beat a top-ranked Purdue team in similar fashion would surpass all of them. Whoever sinks the game-winning shot is guaranteed a photo on the wall at Nick’s for eternity.

That’s the opportunity awaiting the Hoosiers. Legend status.

The same can be said for the Boilermakers.

Purdue’s march into the record books

Since 1975, there have been no fewer than 16 games on the Big Ten conference schedule.

A team has only run through that gauntlet with 1 or fewer conference losses 6 times:

  • 2007 Ohio State: 15-1
  • 2005 Illinois: 15-1
  • 1999 Michigan State: 15-1
  • 1993 Indiana: 17-1
  • 1976 Indiana: 18-0
  • 1975 Indiana: 18-0

Purdue (22-1, 11-1 Big Ten) is vying to become the 1st team to ever finish 19-1 in Big Ten play. And, of course, the 1st to get through a schedule of 18 games or more with a single loss since the ’93 Hoosiers.

After Saturday, road trips to Maryland and Northwestern could mark the only games Purdue is in danger of losing for the remainder of the regular season. Winning at Assembly Hall is an important next step in pushing the 2023 Boilermakers toward immortality.

Every argument between Indiana and Purdue fans boils down to 1 thing. Well, actually 5 things: national championship banners.

Even though they’re getting pretty dusty, Indiana’s title banners are the albatross for which Purdue has no rebuttal. Any Boiler who brings up the 1932 Helms Foundation title, which was actually awarded in 1944, is begging to be made fun of.

If the Boilermakers end their title drought with 1 of the great seasons in college basketball history, their Hoosier haters could be silenced. That possibility remains on the table with a win at No. 21 Indiana (15-7, 6-5).

Every national champ since the ’76 Hoosiers has at least 2 losses. A win keeps Purdue chasing a unique place in history.

A loss?

Well, if Boilers thought IU fans were insufferable before, they’ve seen nothing yet. Losing to the Hoosiers while ranked No. 1 opens a trap door to plenty of smack talk.

If we’re lucky, this will be the 1st of 3 or more meaningful showdowns between the Hoosiers and Boilermakers this season. This rivalry deserves an even bigger stage than it’s getting Saturday.

And that’s saying something.

Because this is the biggest stage Indiana and Purdue have seen in years.