The 2015-16 season beings this Friday, but until then we have another three exhibition games set for today. While exhibition games don't really matter in the grand scheme of things, all three games today have enough of a narrative to at least create some interest for each respective fan base. For Purdue the fans will get their first look at how Painter might try to set his rotation, with nothing really set in stone in the backcourt. As for Illinois, an injury depleted team tries to get things back together for the season while Ohio State will debut their loaded freshmen recruiting class.
Game of the Night: Northwestern Ohio at Purdue (5 PM ET - BTN Plus)
The Boilermakers made a massive improvement last season and are expected to be even better in 2015-16, especially with the addition of Caleb Swanigan and the return of most of last year's roster. Today they'll host Northwestern Ohio in their only exhibition game of the season. Under head coach Matt Painter the Boilermakers have never lost an exhibition game and it's hard to foresee that changing this evening, even if Northwestern Ohio is coming off of an impressive 25-8 season.
As of now, it's still unclear if A.J. Hammons will be playing in today's exhibition after Matt Painter said the senior still has some business to take care of. That shouldn't be a big deal, though, as Hammons is entering his fourth season and Painter pretty much knows what he has in the big man. The same can probably be said about a lot of the roster, though the team still has two things to work on solidifying over the next month or so. First off is the question of who will play the point guard, with senior transfer Johnny Hill being the favorite to earn the starting spot throughout most of the offseason. P.J. Thompson could also work his way into the lineup, especially if Hill struggles, while there's been some talk about Dakota Mathias seeing time at the point.
The other major question is how will Painter split up the rotation. Purdue needs perimeter shooting, especially with a big lineup if Swanigan lands the starting spot. That means there could be two starting spots up for grabs between Rapheal Davis, Vince Edwards, Kendall Stephens and Dakota Mathias. It's hard to not see Davis in the starting lineup, meaning the three spot could be up in the air heading into the season. Nothing that happens today will be definitive for the rotation, but it is something to keep an eye on as Painter will use the non-conference slate as a way to piece things together before the team faces more challenging opposition.
Illinois-Springfield at Illinois (2 PM ET - BTN Plus)
The offseason hasn't been kind for the Illini, with the team suffering a massive amount of injuries, as well as the dismissal of forward Darius Paul. Even now the team will be short handed with Kendrick Nunn and Leron Black both still recovering from injuries, though the team will have touted freshman Jalen Coleman-Lands available today. Regardless of all the turmoil the last several months, John Groce and company will likely be happy to finally head back out onto the court. Their exhibition game today will take place against nearby Illinois-Springfield, the first outing between the two teams. Illinois-Springfield is coming off of a 11-16 season and will likely have their hands full with Illinois, even if Groce's team is dealing with numerous injuries. Today's game will be the beginning of Illinois trying to figure out their rotation and depth, with some serious depth issues in the frontcourt and nothing really set in stone at the point guard position, with the team's two best options both being offensively challenged. Considering the Illini will need consistency on offense to improve this year, that could be a massive problem.
Walsh at Ohio State (4 PM ET - BTN Plus)
The Buckeyes tip things off today against Walsh University in their first exhibition game. It's a bit of an unveiling for Ohio State, as the team will focus heavily on a loaded freshmen class. With the Buckeyes being extremely young this season, there could be growing pains in 2015-16 and it'll be interesting to see how the team comes together in their first outing. Freshman Mickey Mitchell is still ineligible for the season, though, with Ohio State not sure when he'll be cleared for the season.