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Rake's Take

Boiler hoops will be battle tested

 

Successful teams have a formula to get to that point. That includes on how you determine your non-conference opposition to get ready for league play.

And with Purdue's announcement of their full schedule, both non-league and Big Ten play on Thursday, the Boilermaker schedule appears to be...formulaic.

There's the litany of non-conference softballs that get thrown to the major conference schools looking to pad wins, the trip to play a high level of competition someplace warmer than your campus, a pair of regularly scheduled high-profile events, and a road game to make sure you have a true one of those before league play gets underway.

Give Purdue check marks all across the board on this front.

Purdue should rack up wins against the likes of Samford, Grambling, North Florida, Arkansas State, Gardner-Webb, IPFW, and IUPUI (I'll be rooting for my Jags, but do acknowledge that should be a W for the Boilers). I'm sure tickets should be available for all of these home games.

The warm destination of choice this year is Maui. While the field isn't as loaded as some years, it's still a great barometer for a team trying to claw its way back into the NCAA tournament picture. The Boilers will open with Kansas State, meaning a reunion between Bruce Weber and Matt Painter. The Wildcats made the big dance a year ago, losing to Kentucky in their first game.

Speaking of reunions, Purdue could see Missouri in its next game. The Tigers see what might have been, having thought that Painter was headed their way a few years back to replace Mike Anderson. There's a new Anderson in charge of the Tigers now. Kim Anderson, who is a former Mizzou assistant, replaced Frank Haith at the end of last season. For the last 12 years, he was the head coach at D2 Central Missouri, leading the Mules to last year's national title.

If it's not Missouri, then Purdue would get Arizona in its second game of the tournament. In the other side of the bracket, BYU, San Diego State, Pittsburgh, and host school Chaminade are all possibilities for the Boilers for the third and final game in Maui.

Those high-profile games alluded to earlier are the annual pair of the Big Ten/ACC challenge and Crossroads Classic. In this year's rotation, both will be played against ACC competition, and in this state. The Boilers will host NC State upon returning from Hawaii on December 2nd, and will play Notre Dame at Bankers Life on December 20th.

The game before the tilt against the Irish, Purdue will play its only true road game of the non-conference season at Vanderbilt. Yet again, it's reunion time as another former Boiler in Kevin Stallings is in his 16th season patrolling the baselines in Nashville.

The new dates and opponents in the mix were announced yesterday as Big Ten schedules were fully announced across the league. Purdue opens on at home with Minnesota on New Year's Eve, and then gets another home game against Michigan following that. The road opener is at Wisconsin, with Maryland making its first league apperance at Mackey on January 10th.

The other debut squad in conference play will be Rutgers, and Purdue will head to the RAC on February 12th.

And after just one meeting between Purdue and Indiana a season ago, each team gets a home game this go around. The Boilers get the first home game on January 28th, with the return date in Bloomington on February 19th.

There's no homestand or road-trip longer that two games for Purdue in league action. They'll wind up the regular season at Mackey as well when they host Illinois on March 7th.

There are plenty of question marks surrounding this Purdue season. Just how much of an immediate contribution can the five-man freshman class make, knowing that several if not most will have to play big minutes? With the offense revolving around AJ Hammons, will he be an every night type of player for this team? He really has to be.

And if this is another season without a trip to the NCAA tournament, does that spell the end for Matt Painter in West Lafeyette?

But one thing you cannot question is Purdue's strength of schedule. There will be at least five non-league games against power competition before an arduous league schedule.

The schedule is tough. That might be only certainty around the Boilermaker basketball program at this point.

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