Indiana and Louisville schedule three-year series beginning in 2016

Two of the top programs in the sport have a three-year series set. A great thing. (USATSI)

Two basketball bluebloods have bargained to battle each other for the next three seasons.

Indiana and Lousiville jointly announced on Friday that their men’s basketball teams will square off in 2016, 2017 and 2018. The first game of the series will be on New Year’s Eve of 2016 at Indianapolis’ Bankers Life Arena, home of the Indiana Pacers. Yes: a neutral-court game.

“The Louisville series will be a great challenge for us,” Indiana coach Tom Crean said. “The preparation and execution needed to compete against Rick Pitino and his team is extraordinary. We are excited about the opportunity to face them on a consistent basis and the chance for both schools’ fan bases to watch this series take off again is exciting. That first game on New Year’s Eve next year should be special.”

Even better: the following two tilts will be home-and-home. Louisville hosts in 2017, on Dec. 9 of that year, and Indiana gets the third game at Assembly Hall on Dec. 8, 2018.

Louisville coach Rick Pitino called the arrangement a “natural rivalry.”

What’s more, IU and U of L’s football teams have also agreed to a three-year series, but they will meet much further down the road. (That’s just how college football scheduling works.) Gridiron games between the Cards and Hoosiers will play out in 2023, 2024 and 2025.

In hoops, Indiana has won 10 of the 17 all-time meetings between the programs. The last game between them was last year, in fact. Louisville took out Indiana handily, 97-74, at Madison Square Garden. That game was the first between the two in 11 seasons. I was there, and the fan support was clearly noticeable enough that it sparked the coaches and programs to plan more for the future.

It’s a superb thing to see elite programs schedule each other.

“I’ve felt for a long time that these series were a natural for fans from both universities and I’m thrilled to see it come to fruition,” Louisville AD Tom Jurich said. “We appreciate the efforts of Fred Glass and his staff in helping to pull this together. We have played each other in most sports and it has been a very friendly rivalry. There are a lot of fans in Southern Indiana that support both schools who I know will particularly enjoy the competition.”

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