DES MOINES — Now that the Kentucky-Indiana rivalry has been forcibly revived by fate and the NCAA tournament selection committee, both teams’ coaches have already spoken at length about the series.
The players? Not so much.
Most of them were in high school four years ago — the last time Kentucky and Indiana squared off on the court — and were not even old enough to be in kindergarten when legendary Hoosiers coach Bob Knight was fired in 2000.
“Was he the guy that threw the chair, right?” Kentucky forward Derek Willis asked Friday. “That’s all I can associate with him. I never really watched a lot of basketball growing up. I was always doing something else.”
Guard Jamal Murray had a similarly uninspiring story.
“You know, growing up I didn’t watch a lot of basketball,” he said. “So I didn’t know about the rivalry and stuff.”
Forward Marcus Lee said it was a “childhood dream” to play in big games, but didn’t specify whether Kentucky-Indiana ever got him excited.
Players on the Hoosiers’ side weren’t jumping up and down about the series, either.
“We don’t get into the rivalries so much,” Indiana guard Yogi Ferrell said. “This is just us versus them now.”
There was a notable exception: Hoosiers forward Collin Hartman, an Indianapolis native who grew up watching several iterations of the Kentucky-Indiana game.
“I think it’s a great rivalry that runs really deep,” he said. “Always has and always will, whenever we meet like we are tomorrow.”
The teams have played 56 times since 1924, with Kentucky winning 32. Both Indiana’s Tom Crean and Kentucky’s John Calipari addressed the future of the series on Friday.
“As a fan of college basketball, somebody that has a lot of respect for their program, I hope that at some point in time we can get something going like that,” Crean said. “I don’t think there is any door closed that couldn’t be opened again.”
Saturday’s game tips off at 5:15 p.m. ET on CBS.