Fans of basketball in Indiana: enjoy the Crossroads Classic while it lasts.
The annual four-team extravaganza at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis has become a fixture of the early-season slate for Indiana, Purdue, Butler and Notre Dame, but the event’s contract is up after the 2021-22 season, and there’s a possibility it could become a casualty of larger conference schedules.
“With the leagues around America, in particular the ACC and the Big Ten going to 20, I think there has been some real discussion, the Crossroads could be something that is hard to pull off,” Indiana coach Archie Miller said. “In dealing with the games and understanding how special they’ve been and the environment is, it is obviously something that we want to keep ourselves in the picture, especially in Indianapolis and Bankers Life.”
The event is a chance for fans of Indiana’s four major conference college basketball teams to see their squads against an in-state rival before conference play begins in earnest. The 2020 Crossroads Classic takes place today, with Indiana facing Butler and Purdueplaying Notre Dame.
Despite the event’s seemingly tenuous nature, it’s clear that the teams would like to be able to keep it going if scheduling allows. Purdue coach Matt Painter was adamant about the usefulness of the annual in-state matchup against the Irish or Bulldogs.
“Without question,” Painter said. “I think it’s been great. For us, I think we have the worst record (Purdue is 2-7 in the event) in it, but it’s also something that’s helped us, too. Butler and Notre Dame have exposed us in these games. I think sometimes getting exposed by quality teams can make you better. That’s what you want.”
The Boilermakers have beaten Notre Dame only once in four tries in this event. In 2018, the Boilermakers fell 88-80 to the Irish, dropping their record to 6-5. They then went on to win 17 of their next 20 games to capture a Big Ten title.
This season, Purdue, coming off a statement win over No. 20 Ohio State, will play a Notre Dame team that lost to the Buckeyes 90-85. That was just one of three games against ranked opponents already for the Irish, who are 2-3 with a win over Kentucky.
“They’ve been obviously battle-tested, probably more than anybody in the country,” Painter said of the Irish. “They’ve had an unbelievable schedule, and obviously with that … they aren’t going to walk in here and not be ready. These guys are going to be ready. They’ve played some really good people.”
Notre Dame is coming off a 75-65 loss to No. 21 Duke in which 6-6 Irish guard Dane Goodwin scored 25 points.
The early game between Indiana and Butler is a rematch of a classic from 2018 that ended in a 71-68 Hoosiers win when then-freshman Rob Phinisee buried a shot from 30 feet at the buzzer.
Indianapolis native Armaan Franklin remembers that game, played when he was a senior in high school, “like it was yesterday” and he got his own chance to shine in the Crossroads Classic last season, pouring in 17 points in a 62-60 Indiana win over Notre Dame. He later added 13 points against Nebraska when the Hoosiers returned to Bankers Life Fieldhouse for the Big Ten Tournament in March.
“I honestly don’t know what it is about that gym,” Franklin said of his play at Bankers Life. “I didn’t like it in high school. I remember I played there one time and it was a terrible. I don’t know what it is about Bankers Life out there. I just try to play as hard as I can every day. Some games, shots fall.”
That kind of offensive output was rare for Franklin last season but has become more common this year. He is coming off a career-high 19 points and five 3-pointers in a big win over North Alabama on Sunday.
The Hoosiers are taking on a Butler team that has played only two games because of COVID-19 cancellations. The Bulldogs lost to No. 7 Villanova 85-66 in their most recent game. Senior guards Aaron Thompson and Jair Bolden combine to average 34 points, 9.5 rebounds and 6.5 assists.