Finally, it is out!
Purdue enters an open Big Ten race as one of many contenders to knock off Wisconsin for the conference basketball crown, and today the path to the title was announced. We have known the 13 non-conference games for months, but here are the dates for the 18 conference games. The times and TV networks will be announced later.
December 29 at Wisconsin - If you want to be the champs you have to beat the champs, and Purdue gets one of its toughest road games out of the way early. Fortunately, Purdue is one of the very few teams that has held its own in Madison since Bo Ryan came to town. Can coach Painter get a 4th win up there?
January 2 vs. Iowa - The first home game of the year comes against Iowa, and we must be prepared for Adam Woodbury. Goggles, everyone!
January 7 vs. Michigan - Michigan is expected to be tough with Caris LeVert returning, but this is a home game Purdue needs to win.
January 10 at Illinois - Is Groce on the hot seat already? A young Illini team could get beaten up in a tough Big Ten.
January 13 vs. Penn State - Big Ten Championship teams don't lose to Penn State at home.
January 18 at Rutgers - Big Ten championship teams don't lose to Rutgers. Period. (Yes, I know Rutgers beat Wisconsin last year. No, I have no idea how it happened.)
January 21 vs. Ohio State - This is the team Painter has struggled the most against, but he finally got off the schneid last year with a hard-earned win at home. It won't be easy, but three straight easier games before it help.
January 24 at Iowa - Break out the goggles again!
January 27 at Minnesota - The Gophers should be one of the bottom half teams in the league, but we cannot forget the Demon Wood of Xibalba. Also, I think Purdue and Minnesota have played dead even in their last four games, splitting both, winning each at home, and even adding three overtimes.
January 30 vs. Nebraska - This should be another relatively easy home game.
February 6 at Maryland - Here is your toughest game on the schedule, as Purdue's first ever trip to College Park comes against the likely preseason No. 1 team. Given the relatively light schedule to this point first place could be on the line.
February 9 vs. Michigan State - This could be a huge home game, as Michigan State is always tough. How will Caleb Swanigan play against them?
February 13 at Michigan - Another rough road game, but it is winnable. Purdue should have a major size advantage, but Michigan teams can always shoot.
February 16 vs. Northwestern - Thank goodness we don't go to Evanston. The Wildcats are going to be dangerous.
February 20 at Indiana - Purdue has won three in a row over the hated Hoosiers and this is the only definite meeting in 20015-16. Will IU have any players not arrested by then?
February 27 vs. Maryland - When was the last time Mackey Arena hosted the country's top ranked team? This could be a huge game and Maryland was the only Big Ten team wo win in West Lafayette last season. We have a week to prepare for it, too.
March 1 at Nebraska - Thanks for the late bye game!
March 5 or 6 vs. Wisconsin - I think the Badgers have only won twice in Mackey Arena in the last 40 years, so this could be a fun Senior Day for Rapheal Davis, Johnny Hill, and A.J. Hammons.
So that's it! You couldn't ask for a much better schedule. Getting bottom-feeders Nebraska twice and road games as single plays against Rutgers, Illinois, and a home and home against Minnesota is great for stacking wins in the standings. The only overwhelming game is at Maryland, and we have a chance for a split at home. Getting Ohio State and Northwestern at home is a huge bonus. Going to Indiana is tough, but I have serious doubts about the Hoosiers that one post player is suddenly going to make them defensive masters and non-streaky shooters.
This is a schedule where Purdue can contend, and that is exactly what is expected. If it can get to 14 wins in what should be a brutal Big Ten the Boilers will be right there. Michigan State, Indiana, Wisconsin, Maryland, and Ohio State are all going to be tough though with Northwestern, Michigan, Iowa, and maybe Minnesota being tournament-worthy teams.