Last season, the Purdue Boilermakers faced a fairly difficult schedule in conference play but only had two chances in the non-conference to score big-time, resume building wins. As it turned out, the Boilermakers fell short in both of those contests, losing to Villanova and Louisville, respectively.
This season, however, Matt Painter and his team will head into their schedule with plenty of chances to prove themselves, both in the early going against teams outside the Big Ten and against familiar foes inside the conference.
Let’s take a look at three things that fans can take away from the Purdue 2017-18 schedule.
1. There will be plenty of road/neutral court tests.
Last season, Purdue faced one big road test against Louisville in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, but ran out of time to complete a late comeback and eventually fell short.
In 2017-18, the team has multiple chances to prove itself away from Mackey. In the Gavitt Games that brought Villanova to West Lafayette last season, the Boilermakers will face the Marquette Golden Eagles in Milwaukee, a true road game that will put Purdue on a national stage against an up-and-coming team from the Big East.
On top of that, they will also travel to the Bahamas to play in the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament in late November. They open that tournament against the Tennessee Volunteers, with a second round game against either Villanova or Western Kentucky. Both of those games should provide the Boilermakers with interesting challenges, and they could also face an Arizona Wildcats team that expects to be in the Top-10 much of the season in the final round of that tournament.
Another neutral court game in an event that always provides an interesting match-up, the Crossroads Classic, will pit the Purdue Boilermakers against former Michigan assistant LaVall Jordan and his Butler Bulldogs.
2. January 9th to January 31st is likely the toughest stretch.
It’s nearly impossible in August to predict what any of these teams across the country will look like in January due to injuries, chemistry issues, etc. However, as it stands on paper right now, the toughest stretch of the season for the Boilers should fall over the dates mentioned, the 9th to 31st of January.
Over this seven-game stretch, the schedule looks like this for Purdue:
- at Michigan
- at Minnesota
- vs Wisconsin
- at Iowa
- vs Michigan
- at Indiana
- vs Maryland
Last season, Michigan absolutely gave Purdue fits with their scheme and stretch fours. Being without Derrick Walton Jr. and D.J. Wilson will certainly have an effect, but Moritz Wagner is a stud and John Beilein is one of the best and most underrated coaches in the country. Facing them twice over this seven game stretch could potentially bring some anxiety to Boilermaker fans.
Minnesota should be one of the top 4 or 5 teams in the conference, with young talent and senior leadership in Nate Mason, and The Barn is always a tough place to play regardless of the team Minnesota has.
Wisconsin is just always going to be a tough team to play because of their toughness, grit and intelligence. Ethan Happ is still one of the top players in the country, but Wisconsin will look to a lot of newer players in the rotation with the losses of Bronson Koenig, Nigel Hayes and Zac Showalter, along with Vitto Brown.
Iowa City is a place that Purdue hasn’t managed to get a win in in, oh say, the last 200 years or so and going there is always a worrisome experience for the fans. Along with that, even after the loss of Peter Jok, Iowa could be a solid middle of the pack Big Ten team.
Purdue then heads home for the second match-up with Michigan before heading to Bloomington to face their biggest rival, the Indiana Hoosiers. Following that ultra-emotional game, they’ll head home to play their second game of the year against the Maryland Terrapins.
3. The Purdue - Indiana protected rivalry cannot come soon enough.
Once again, Big Ten basketball, and college basketball fans in general, are forced to watch another year of conference play where the biggest rivals in the conference will only meet once. Talks have continued on protected rivalries in basketball where certain schools will play twice a year guaranteed, with Purdue and Indiana being among the rivalries mentioned.
This cannot come soon enough. Fewer rivalries all around the country have the same type of emotion, intensity and often impact than this rivalry. It is one of, if not the, best rivalry in college basketball and the fact that it isn’t played twice every year is an absolute travesty. It needs to be changed immediately.