With many of the way-too-early top 25 lists coming out showing that Purdue is a top 25 team yet again we can start renewed hope that the 2016-17 season will be a redemption tour for What Happened In Denver. As long as Caleb Swanigan and Vince Edwards return, Purdue should have a strong team. If Kendall Stephens comes back too, it will be even better. If Stephens is gone the 2016-17 season could be a setup for a monster 2017-18 season when everyone returns, Purdue has four seniors leaders in Smotherman, Edwards, Haas, and Thompson, Painter brings in a big 2017 recruiting class, and... holy shit!
But enough about that dream for now. We're starting to look ahead just one year, not too. As usual, there will be 18 conference games and 13 non-conference games. Purdue is playing in an exempt tournament worth four games of those 13 non-conference games, and two more games will be at neutral sites. So let's nail down what we know:
November 11: Southern Illinois-Edwardsville
Thanks to this article from the Indy Star a week ago we now know a handful of other games. Purdue has played the Cougars, relative newcomers to Division I, before. They were 12-16 last season and 8-8 in the Ohio Valley Conference. This will officially be the season opener.
Gavitt Tipoff Games
This debuted last season with eight games between Big Ten and Big East opponents as sort of an unofficial Big Ten/Big East Challenge. They occurred after the opening weekend flurry with Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday games. Purdue was not a part of it, but yesterday Gold and black confirmed Purdue would participate. It was also stated that it would likely be a home game at Mackey Arena.
As for who Purdue is playing, it is up for debate. Last season Xavier, Georgetown, DePaul, and Creighton went on the road from the Big East, so they are probably out. Purdue's relationship with Butler and the Crossroads Classic likely knocks them out as well. Villanova, Providence, St. John's, and Marquette hosted games last season, while Seton Hall and Butler did not participate.
If Steve Lavin were still at St. John's I would almost bet they would come to Mackey. I would say Providence or Seton Hall are strong possibilities, with an outside chance of defending national champ Villanova coming to Purdue.
Purdue will play two games at home in this tournament and two games in Cancun as part of the Riviera Division. The Boilers are paired with Utah State, Texas Tech, and Auburn for the Mexican part of the event, and will play two of them on November 22 and 23. It is a strong possibility that the two campus games will be the opening weekend of the season on November 11 and 13. Expect opponents of a similar caliber to North Carolina A&T and Vermont, who Purdue played last season in the Hall of Fame Tipoff.
ACC/Big Ten Challenge
As the lynchpin of the Big Ten's seven year run of not losing this thing, the ACC wants some revenge on the Boilers. No, seriously. Purdue has won their game in each of the last seven years and the Big Ten has either tied or won the event as a result. The longest active streak from either conference (other than Purdue's 7 straight) is, surprisingly, Minnesota, who has won five challenge games in a row.
Because Purdue is likely at home for the Gavitt Games it will probably go on the road at the beginning of December for the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Yes, it played at Pittsburgh last season, but consecutive home games or road games is not unprecedented. Purdue played at home in 2013 and 2014 as well as 2008 and 2009. During this seven game run the Boilers have only gone to Clemson, Pittsburgh, and Virginia Tech, while beating Wake Forest, Boston College, Miami, and NC State at home. All-time, Purdue is 6-2 at home and 3-4 on the road in this event, so it is due another road game.
ESPN likes to pair comparable teams together here, so expect a tough game at a top 4 ACC opponent. Louisville and Miami both finished in the top four last season AND played on the road in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Virginia was also on the road. We do know it will not be Notre Dame, however.
Jimmy V Classic vs. Arizona State
Our first 100% confirmed opponent is Arizona State, which could occur right after the ACC/Big Ten Challenge and make for some difficult travel for the team. Purdue may have to go to Mexico, an ACC Opponent, and New York City for consecutive games due to the Jimmy V Classic, which was on December 8th last year. I am guessing there will be a midweek home game between the ACC/Big Ten Challenge and the Jimmy V Classic at minimum.
December 17: Crossroads Classic vs. Notre Dame
Purdue puts it atrocious 0-5 Crossroads Classic record on the line by facing Notre Dame this year on December 17 at Banker's Life Fieldhouse. Since the Fieldhouse will serve as an NCAA first and second round host in 2017 it gives Purdue a chance to play a game there before (hopefully) earning a high seed and two games close to home. Purdue has not beaten Notre Dame in 50 years, but there was obviously a very long hiatus in there.
December 19: Western Illinois
The Leathernecks return to Mackey Arena for the first time since the memorable CBI win in 2012. That really says everything about the last time we played them. They, along with SIUE, are members of the Never-Made-The-Tourney-Club, but they memorably upset Wisconsin in last year's season opener, which was one of the oddest upsets of the year.
December 21: Norfolk State
The one-time authors of a 15 over 2 upset, Norfolk State comes from the MEAC as one of that conference's stronger teams. They were 17-17 last season and 12-4 in the league.
This accounts for 11 of Purdue's 13 non-conference games. Because of Cancun Purdue is guaranteed to play at least five major conference teams, and of these eight five will be away from Mackey Arena. Don't expect a lot wow names with the remaining unknown games, as there is plenty of heft here already. Texas Tech and Notre Dame were tournament teams this season. We're getting a potentially nasty road game in the ACC/Big Ten challenge and a good home game in the Gavitt Games. The rest will likely be mid- to low-majors.
There is one very interesting game that is mere speculation on my part, but it would not surprise me if it happened:
Yes, it would not surprise me if Purdue made a trip to Indianapolis to play a true road game against its satellite campus. The Hoosiermakers have been on the schedule each of the past two seasons at Mackey Arena, and I have a suspicion that it might be part of a 2-for-1 where they get a home game as part of the deal. They now play at the newly renovated Indiana Farmers Coliseum on the State Fairgrounds. It seats about 6,500 fans and after seeing a few Indy Fuel hockey games there, it is a very, very nice small venue. IUPUI would LOVE to get Indiana or Purdue there for a surefire home sellout, so it would not surprise me in the least if Purdue went there. Purdue had a similar deal a few years ago when it played at Valparaiso and at Ball State, so there is a precedent. Doing a similar deal with IPFW in Ft. Wayne at the Memorial Coliseum up there wouldn't shock me either, especially when Purdue has already heavily recruited the area.
Big Ten Schedule
As long as one of Purdue's five double plays is Indiana I don't care. We do know the following from the same Indy Star article:
The Big Ten Conference schedule/pairings has not yet been released. We already know Purdue will play home-and-home series with Michigan State, Northwestern, Penn State and two other teams. Fans no doubt hope one of the other two is Indiana, since the rivals have been relegated to a single-play in two of the past three seasons.