As the non-conference schedules come together, we have a pretty good idea at what Purdue will be facing this fall. While a lot of the mid-major outings haven't been officially announced, most of the marquee games are already set and it's quite apparent that Purdue will have a difficult and exciting non-conference schedule this season. That last sentence is probably an understatement when you realize Purdue will host the defending national champions, travel to Louisville, head to Cancun in late November, square off against Arizona State in Madison Square Garden and then face Notre Dame in the Crossroads Classic.
While some Big Ten teams (we see you Northwestern) catch quite a bit of criticism for their underwhelming non-conference schedules, Purdue will be set for an exciting ride the first two months. Also, it was announced recently that Purdue will play in a controlled scrimmage against West Virginia, with the intent behind that being the fact that West Virginia is one of the best pressing teams in the nation. If you remember from last season, Purdue struggled mightily at the end of games going up against the press.
11/14 vs. Villanova (Gavitt Games)
The gem of the non-conference schedule, the Boilermakers will host the defending national champions as part of the 2016 Gavitt Games. This will be Purdue's first time participating in the games and this will likely be one of the most hyped games of the first month of the season. It's also a rare opportunity for Purdue host a non-conference, defending national champion:
#BoilerNotes— Chris Forman (@ChrisForman12) May 3, 2016
It's even more rare to have a defending non-conf. National Champion to visit Mackey Arena.#Purdue pic.twitter.com/ELIkwRIBZq
While the Wildcats will lose key players Ryan Arcidiacono (the NCAA Tournament's most outstanding player) and Daniel Ochefu, the team will return quite a bit of talent, including Josh Hart (15.5 points per game) and Kris Jenkins, who happens to be the forward that nailed last season's game winning three in the title game.
With Caleb Swanigan and Vince Edwards back for next season, Purdue could be one of the top teams in the Big Ten once again and if they can manage to land an upset here inside of Mackey, which will be electric on this night, that would immediately launch Purdue into national prominence and get the hype train fully rolling. Even if Purdue can't land a win here, this is a huge challenge and will provide plenty for Purdue to build from heading towards conference play in the winter. As of now ESPN has the Wildcats ranked second in their top 25, behind only the Duke Blue Devils.
11/22 vs. Utah State (Cancun Challenge)
11/23 vs. Auburn or Texas Tech (Cancun Challenge)
The Big Ten has had a team participate in the Cancun Challenge every season since 2011, with Maryland the most recent team to head to Mexico. Like in the past, the field will consist of two divisions (one involving more marquee programs and another involving mid-majors), with the Riviera Division being the one Purdue will play in. It was announced this spring that the Boilers would draw Utah State in the opener, with the Aggies coming off of a 16-15 season in the Mountain West.
That should set Purdue up for a second game against Texas Tech, assuming the Red Raiders can knock off a sub par Auburn team. Tech had a break through season last year, going 19-13 and making their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2007. Of course the Red Raiders lost head coach Tubby Smith, though Purdue should be awfully familiar with their new coach Chris Beard, considering he was previously at Little Rock. The Red Raiders are set to return a good majority of their roster, including Aaron Ross and Zach Smith, so this could be a decent challenge for Purdue, though it should remain a fairly winnable game.
If for some reason Auburn upsets Texas Tech, that would (most likely) create a minor hit on Purdue's non-conference SOS, though that shouldn't matter too much with Villanova, Louisville and Notre Dame all scheduled. It would also create an interesting enough narrative since Ronnie Johnson is now at Auburn after transferring for a second time.
11/30 at Louisville (ACC / Big Ten Challenge)
Louisville didn't participate in the NCAA Tournament last season due to self-imposed sanctions and has been mired in controversy, but the Cardinals have still consistently been one of the top teams in the nation as of late. Even with the loss of Chinanu Onuaku, who is heading to the NBA, the Cardinals are one of the most talented teams in the nation and the fact that this game is on the road makes it one of the most challenging games Purdue will play all season. The biggest knock on Louisville right now is their recent off-the-court transgressions, but regardless of any additional sanctions or implications, that shouldn't negatively impact Louisville in the first month of the season. It'll be a bit under the radar as Purdue fans focus on Nova, but this would be a huge win for Purdue if they can continue their seven game winning streak in the ACC / Big Ten Challenge.
12/06 vs. Arizona State (Jimmy V Classic)
Participating in the Jimmy V Classic, Purdue will get a date with Pac-12 opponent Arizona State, who finished 15-17 in their first season under new hire Bobby Hurley. Purdue's match against the Sun Devils will likely play second fiddle to the other game in the Classic, with Duke and Florida set to square off, but this will provide Purdue with an opportunity for a notable non-conference win against a power conference opponent if they can secure the win. Arizona State wasn't great last season, partially due to the fact that they gave up 74 points per game (234th), but the neutral court and conference affiliation should create some interest in what is a decent enough game for the Boilers.
12/17 vs. Notre Dame (Crossroads Classic)
The Crossroads Classic has not been kind to Purdue since it's inauguration in 2011, with Purdue going 0-3 against Butler and 0-2 against Notre Dame so far. This year the Boilers will take on a Notre Dame team that has beaten the Boilermakers by 13 and 31 points in the two prior contests. This year's contest will once again provide a challenge as Notre Dame is once again likely to be pretty good, coming off of an Elite Eight appearance in last year's NCAA Tournament.
12/19 vs. Western Illinois
12/21 vs. Norfolk State
TBD vs. NJIT
Also announced so far for the upcoming season is a trio of mid-majors that typically fill up the remainder of the schedule. The highlight here is probably the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), if only because a lot of people still remember their improbable upset over Michigan. The Highlanders have come a long way since they started playing basketball in 2005, with the team winning a total of 14 games in their first four seasons and not landing any conference stability (the Great West Conference doesn't count) until they landed in the Atlantic Sun last season. That being said, the Highlanders might be a recognizable name, but they were a so-so mid-major at best last season and while the story lines will likely mention that upset over the Wolverines, it has little relevance here.
The other two games announced so far include a pair of home games before winter break, with the Boilers taking on Western Illinois and Norfolk State. While the former did upset Wisconsin in the opener last season, the Leathernecks collapsed down the stretch with a 3-15 run to end the season. Norfolk State wasn't much better, going 17-17 and getting blown out by Columbia in the CIT.
It should be noted that it was originally announced earlier in the spring that Purdue would host SIU-Edwardsville in the opener, but that game has apparently been delayed until next season due to a scheduling conflict.