Garden Party: Hoosiers Have Great History at Madison Square Garden

Tom Brew

Madison Square Garden has often been referred to as the World's Most Famous Arena, and it's a hard fact to argue. It certainly has history on its side, dating back to 1879, when the first of four Garden arenas was opened.

Indiana returns to MSG Tuesday night to play Connecticut in the Jimmy V Classic, and it will be the 25th time the Hoosiers have played there, the most appearances at an out-of-state neutral court venue of all time. Tuesday's game is the second of a doubleheader in the Jimmy V Classic. No. 1-ranked Louisville and Texas Tech play first.

The Hoosiers have played 25 times in the historic building, all since 1972, the start of the Bob Knight era in Bloomington. A return trip stirs a lot of memories of days gone by, which, for most Indiana people these days, are the best memories.

Here's a list of the games in the Garden:

  • March 18, 1972: Lost to Princeton 68-60 in the NIT tournament 
  • Dec. 26, 1975:  Beat Columbia 106-63 in the Holiday Festival quarterfinals
  • Dec. 27, 1975:  Beat Manhattan 97-61 Holiday Festival semifinals
  • Dec. 28, 1975:  Beat No. 17 St. John's 76-69 in the Holiday Festival final  
  • March 19, 1979 Beat Ohio State 64-55 in the NIT semifinals
  • March 21, 1979 Beat No. 15 Purdue 53-52 in the NIT final 
  • Dec. 28, 1981: Lost to No. 20 Villanova 63-59 in the Holiday Festival semifinals
  • Dec. 29, 1981: Lost to Kansas 71-61 in the Holiday Festival consolation game 
  • March 27, 1985: Beat Tennessee 74-67 in the NIT semifinals
  • March 29, 1985: Lost to UCLA 65-62 in the NIT final
  • Nov. 23, 1988: Lost to No. 6 Syracuse 102-78 in the Preseason NIT semifinals
  • Nov. 25, 1988: Lost to North Carolina 106-92 in the Preseason NIT consolation game.
  • Dec. 21, 1991: Beat No. 10 St. John's 82-77
  • Nov. 25, 1992: Beat No. 7 Florida State 81-78 in the Preseason NIT semifinals
  • Nov. 27, 1992: Beat No. 6 Seton Hall 78-74 in the Preseason NIT final  
  • Nov. 27, 1996: Beat Evansville 74-73 in the Preseason NIT semifinals
  • Nov. 29, 1996: Beat No. 6 Duke 85-69 in the Preseason NIT final
  • Nov. 22, 2000: Lost to No. 25 Temple 69-61 in the Preseason NIT semifinals
  • Nov. 24, 2000: Lost to Texas 70-58 in the Preseason NIT consolation game
  • Dec. 8, 2009: Beat Pittsburgh 74-64 in the Jimmy V Classic 
  • Nov. 21, 2013: Beat Washington 102-84 in the 2KSports semifinals 
  • Nov. 22, 2013: Lost to No. 18 UConn 59-58 in the 2KSports final 
  • Dec. 9, 2014: Lost to No. 4 Louisville 94-74 in the Jimmy V Classic 
  • Dec. 27, 2014: Lost to Georgetown 91-87 in OT in the Indeed Invitational  
  • March 1, 2018: Lost to Rutgers 76-69 in the Big Ten Tournament

My five most memorable Madison Square Garden trips

It's hard to make this sort of list without going back and forth on the order, but here's my list based not only on the moment, but what it meant long-term as well for various Indiana coaches.

The memories will make you smile, I'm sure.

1. IU's great 1992-93 team steamrolls two top-10 foes

Many will argue that the last GREAT team Indiana had was the 1993 version that went 31-4 and could have won a national title. They proved they were ready to contend early that year when they went to Madison Square Garden for the Preseason NIT and won back-to-back games against two top-10 teams.

Indiana beat No. 7 Florida State in the semifinals and No. 6 Seton Hall in the finals. It was a great tournament, played at a very high level considering it was still just late November and the season was just getting cranked up. The Hoosiers were ranked No. 1 for parts of that season and went 17-1 in a loaded Big Ten before losing the Kansas in the NCAA Tournament, playing without Alan Henderson at full strength. That really should have been Banner No. 6.

2. Sport's last unbeaten team rolls through Holiday Festival

The greatest team ever at Indiana, of course, was the unbeaten 1976 national champions. No one has gone unbeaten since — a streak now entering its 44th year — and that season included an early trip to the Garden, where the New York City hype machine was in full force with Bob Knight's loaded team.

That was back in the day when three-games-in-three-night tournaments were still popular. The Hoosiers roared through Columbia and Manhattan, and then beat a very good (No. 17-ranked) St. John's team in the final. That was such a wonderful journey that year, and the November stop at the Garden was a big part of it

3. The first of the postseason rivalry with Purdue

Indiana's intense rivalry with Purdue usually plays out in Bloomington and West Lafayette, but for two years in a row, it spilled over into the postseason, too, and that started in Madison Square Garden.

Indiana and Purdue both were in the NIT field that March in 1979, and both advanced to the finals in the Garden. Ohio State made it too, giving the NIT final four a real Big Ten feel. Indiana beat Purdue in the finals to win the tournament. Purdue got revenge the following year, though, beating Indiana in the NCAA Tournament regional semifinals in Lexington, Ky. It was the only time the two teams have faced off in an NCAA Tournament game.

4. Tom Crean's first memorable win at Indiana

The hardest part about Tom Crean's first year at Indiana was knowing there was practically no chance of ever winning a game in that first 6-25 season. So when the 2009-10 season rolled around, there was modest hope for improvement, but very low expectations.

That changed slightly — well, VERY slightly — when Indiana went to Madison Square Garden and beat Pittsburgh 74-64 in what was Crean's first taste of something that had to be considered memorable. The smile on his face afterward said a lot, because after a year and a half of pure agony after cleaning up the Kelvin Sampson mess, he was able to enjoy a big win on a huge stage at MSG in front of a national TV audience. The Hoosiers only won 10 games that year, but this one really felt good.

5. Bob Knight beats Coach K for the last time 1996

There weren't a lot of great highlights in the final few years of the Bob Knight era at Indiana, but one I'll never forget was when Indiana beat No. 6 Duke in the finals of the Preseason NIT in November of 1996.

Knight and Krzyzewski have a relationship that dates back 50 years now, all the way to their player/coach days at Army in the last 1960s. But by the late 1990s, it got a little frosty at times and Knight relished the opportunities to hand it to his pupil. Indiana crushed them that night, winning 86-69 to win the event. That was a good Duke team, too. The Blue Devils won the ACC that year. 

It would be the last time Knight would beat him.