Last year, college basketball’s best rivalry got its brightest spotlight ever.

Duke and North Carolina met for the first time in the NCAA Tournament, and did so in the Final Four. Riveting stuff. Couldn’t be scripted any better.

Perhaps those stakes will never be reached by the Big Ten’s best basketball rivals. But it is beginning to look like Indiana and Purdue are on a must-see collision course this season. And not just in the usual “this game means more” way.

The Hoosiers and Boilermakers are steaming down the tracks toward “this is special” territory. As in Knight vs. Keady. Big Dog and Cuonzo vs. Cheaney and Henderson.

For the first time since 1993, 2 of the top 3 players in the Big Ten are a Boilermaker and a Hoosier.

Back then, it was Glenn Robinson and Calbert Cheaney dueling each other and Chris Webber for player of the year honors. Cheaney ultimately won.

Exactly 30 years later, Zach Edey and Trayce Jackson-Davis have ascended into that rare air. Perhaps even higher. And the fact Edey and Jackson-Davis play the same position makes their pending matchups all the more tantalizing.

Feb. 4 and Feb. 25 are setting up as the best dates on this year’s Big Ten schedule, because that is when Edey and Jackson-Davis will duke it out.

Purdue needs a challenge. Indiana will provide it

Purdue is 19-1 for the first time in program history. The lone defeat is a 1-point loss to Rutgers. Like Edey himself, the Boilers stand head and shoulders above their peers at the moment.

Rutgers, Michigan and Wisconsin are all 2 games back in the loss column. The Scarlet Knights will maintain their edge in the tiebreaker since the teams don’t play each other again. But Rutgers has a very difficult path to navigate with road games at Iowa, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin.

In the regular season, at least, Purdue looks unlikely to be caught. But the Boilers are also unlikely to match their current 19-1 record with the same mark in Big Ten play.

Nobody has done it since the Big Ten expanded to 20 conference games. Ohio State was the last team to get through conference play with 1 loss, going 15-1 in 2007. Indiana was the last time to do it in an 18-game conference season, finishing 17-1 in 1993.

Funny how we keep coming back to that year. And this version of the Hoosiers has the ability to keep its forebears without much company in the record books.

A couple of weeks ago, such a statement would have been ludicrous. Nearly everyone had written off the Hoosiers after a 1-4 start in the B1G — present company included.

Indiana has looked nothing like that struggling, lifeless team during its current 3-game winning streak. Jackson-Davis won’t allow it.

Jackson-Davis’ 31-point performance against Michigan State Sunday was his 2nd straight 30-point game and 3rd in the past 6. His stat line against the Spartans — 31 points, 16 rebounds, 5 blocks, 4 assists — was just the second 30-15-5-4 game in the past 15 years.

It’s been 20 years since a player has had back-to-back games like Jackson-Davis did against Michigan State and Illinois.

Jackson-Davis would be the favorite for player of the year in any conference that Edey wasn’t playing in. And if he can continue this scorching pace, Jackson-Davis will close the gap on Edey in the race for both Big Ten and national player of the year.

That’s what makes those matchups so compelling. If either player dominates the other twice, you can pretty much hand him the Wooden and Naismith Awards on the spot. More likely, it will be a pair of 50/50 battles between true peers in the post.

And it might even carry some weight in the standings.

The Hoosiers have worked themselves off the mat. If Indiana beats Minnesota, Ohio State and Maryland, it’ll be on a 6-game winning streak when Purdue visits on Feb. 4.

The Boilers might arrive in Bloomington even hotter. If Purdue beats Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State — only the Wolverines are on the road — it’ll be riding a 9-game winning streak.

Both tasks are a lot to ask of any team in this year’s Big Ten. There’s a reason only 5 teams have a winning record in league play right now.

But if that’s how it happens, Assembly Hall could be at its most raucous since Kentucky showed up in 2011 and got too scared to ever come back. And 3 weeks after that, fans at Mackey Arena will be determined to prove they can do it even better.

This is the spotlight that the Big Ten’s best basketball rivalry deserves. The passion has always been there. Now both teams have players special enough to elevate it.

With any luck, these won’t be the only 2 meetings between Purdue and Indiana. Somewhat improbably, they haven’t met in the Big Ten Tournament since its first year. This seems like an ideal year to snap that streak, even if the setting is Chicago rather than Indianapolis.

Rutgers, which has beaten both teams, probably has some thoughts on preventing such a matchup. And there’s no telling which other B1G team might do like the Hoosiers and get hot seemingly out of nowhere. It’s a long way to March.

Heck, there’s even a little time to go before February. But once we get there, Edey and Jackson-Davis will be ready to put on a show.