|11/25/14||N||Arizona / Missouri|
|12/02/14||H||North Carolina State|
The Maui Invitational
The Maui Invitational is an extremely tough draw for the Boilermakers, drawing a familiar face in Bruce Weber and a Kansas State team coming off of a NCAA bid in the opener. While they could draw Missouri on the second day, they'll most likely draw a dangerous Arizona team for what could easily turn into two quick losses. The third game will be against either Pittsburgh, BYU, San Diego State or Chaminade, with three of those teams coming off of NCAA Tournament appearances. The ultimate reality is this will be a tough draw for Purdue and there's a strong possibility they won't win a game until the third day of the invitational. Regardless, it should be some strong competition that could benefit the team down the stretch, but this trip to Hawaii could be relatively problematic.
ACC/Big Ten Challenge
North Carolina State has seen quite a bit of success since Mark Gottfried took over for Sidney Lowe, winning 70 games the last three seasons. Last year's team got bounced early in the NCAA Tournament but still had won 22 games. Luckily for the Boilermakers they get this matchup at home and the Wolfpack will be without star T.J. Warren, who left early via the NBA Draft. Regardless of non-conference struggles the last few seasons the Boilermakers still are riding a five game winning streak in the challenge, the longest of any team. If they can knock off North Carolina State it'd be a solid game to build off of, especially if the team can't capitalize in Maui.
Purdue has never won a game in the Crossroads classic since it's formation in 2011, losing to Butler twice and Notre Dame once. This year they'll draw the Fighting Irish, coming off of a disappointing 15-17 season. While Notre Dame didn't have the most promising season last year, a win here would be a solid win on a neutral court and would look pretty nice on the resume, especially if Notre Dame bounces back from last years disappointing season.
The Rest of the Bunch
The rest of the bunch is basically Vanderbilt, a team that finished 15-16 last season and had an RPI of 114th. While that's not impressive, the game is a road game and isn't far removed from the recent West Virginia series. Win here and it'll be a road win versus a SEC team. Lose? Well that'll definitely be a shot to the non-conference resume, especially considering some of the teams scheduled this year.
And who else is on that schedule?
How about Samford, IUPUI, Grambling State, North Florida, IPFW, Arkansas State and Gardner-Webb. Each of those teams respective RPI at the end of last season: 317, 323, 350, 194, 128, 188 and 244. Ouch. The ultimate reality is this year's schedule is ultimately filled with plenty of cupcakes to pick up wins to pad the resume. It does increase the pressure to actually win some of the tougher non-conference outings this year though.
When it comes to the Big Ten, if you can win around 19-20 games and hit 9 wins in the conference you should be able to work your way into NCAA Tournament consideration. The Boilermakers luckily have a handful of cupcakes to pad the resume and will only play one true road game, but the neutral slate is very difficult for Painter and company. Games versus the likes of Samford and North Florida should get the team to at least seven wins, but there's a definite need for at least two more wins.
There are some winnable games here thanks to the games against North Carolina State, Notre Dame and Vanderbilt. Purdue could benefit heavily here as the Wolfpack no longer have T.J. Warren, the Vanderbilt game could essentially be a road win versus a so-so SEC team and a win versus Notre Dame would be another nice win for the eye test, though it might mean less when approached from a critical viewpoint.
The Maui Invitational, though, is going to be brutally tough and it could be a 1-2 affair with the lone win being over Chaminade. Regardless, there are still enough winnable games here for Purdue, but there's little margin for error this year and the cupcakes could hurt the overall RPI even if they allow Purdue to add wins to their season total.
Or in other words, Purdue needs to avoid upsets and letdowns. Something they haven't done the last two seasons.