BLOOMINGTON -- For one night, Indiana coach Kelvin Sampson's problems may take a back seat to old-fashioned college rivalry.
More than just bragging rights are at stake when No. 14 Purdue faces 15th-ranked Indiana on Tuesday night in Assembly Hall. The Big Ten standings are in play.
If the Hoosiers defeat league-leading Purdue, they'll pull even in the Big Ten loss column. A win for the Boilermakers would give them a 2 1/2-game lead on IU with four to play in the conference.
A win could also affect each team's standing in The Associated Press Top 25. Purdue leapfrogged Indiana this week, moving up from 19th to 14th while the Hoosiers dropped from 13th to 15th.
So D.J. White's sprained left knee could be a bigger issue for IU fans Tuesday night than the NCAA allegations against Sampson. White injured the knee when he landed awkwardly on his left leg and rolled out of bounds during the first half of Saturday's 80-61 win over Michigan State. An MRI Sunday detected the sprain, and it was uncertain if he would be able to play against Purdue.
Boilermakers coach Matt Painter, however, warns that the Hoosiers remain potent even without White. "Saturday night, you saw how good Indiana really is," Painter said. "When D.J. went down, they actually played one of their best halves all season."
And of course, even without White, there's still Eric Gordon, the Big Ten's top scorer, who scored 28 points Saturday and broke Mike Woodson's school scoring record for freshmen.
"Sometimes when you guard guys that score, if you take one thing away, they struggle," said Painter. "With Eric, that's not the case. If you take one thing away, it opens up another aspect of his game. You have to stay with him."
Purdue sophomore Chris Kramer, who will be assigned to guard Gordon, is counting on both Gordon and White to play.
"We have to do everything we can to stop their big two," Kramer said. "We have to rebound. D.J. can get 20 if he wants to, but his status is up in the air with that knee. We have to plan as if he is going to be there."
The other wild card is an intangible -- the Assembly Hall attitude.
Results are expected by the end of the week from a new IU investigation into NCAA accusations that Sampson committed five major rules violations, allegations that have led many fans to boo the coach and call for his firing.
But whatever Sampson's future, Indiana fans are bound to be fired up for the showdown with Purdue -- the only regularly scheduled matchup between the two teams this season.
"People are going to be extra pumped up for it," said Purdue's Robbie Hummel. "The rivalry is getting back to where it was. Its going to be a game like that. The fans will be ready."
Kramer, however, notes that one thing is different from last year's showdown at Assembly Hall, which Purdue lost.
"Last year, we weren't supposed to be good. Now, we're at the top of the Big Ten. It's going to be crazy. It's going to be hopping. We have to play our game. They can feed off the crowd only so much," he said.