Not since Matt Painter's initial season (2005-06) had the Purdue men's basketball coach finished a year with a losing record when his team limped to a 16-18 mark in March of this year. There were a number of reasons for that, one of which was maturity in handling a challenging non-conference schedule early in the season.
“You have to be able to look at some of your failures and use them to improve your program and use them to get better,” Painter said. “Nobody wants to struggle and yet it does happen to most. We need to see a difference in maturity, guys growing up and just being more accountable as a basketball player on a daily basis.”
There were early signs that Purdue might be in a bit more precarious situation than many thought when the Boilermakers lost at Mackey Arena in the season opener to Bucknell (though the Bison were an eventual NCAA Tournament squad).
Painter's guys added to that dilemma by losing to Oregon State and Villanova and got off to a 1-3 start.
“It's how you handle that as a coach,” Painter said. “Coach (Gene) Keady always did a great job with that, of trying to fix the issues and get to the point of it.”
Purdue will again challenge itself next season – to a degree – but the Boilermakers will also have a number of games, at Mackey Arena, that it has no business losing.
The 2013-14 non-conference schedule will feature 10 home dates, an appearance in the loaded Old Spice Classic and the third edition of the Crossroads Classic.
The Boilermakers will open the regular season at Mackey Arena against Northern Kentucky on Nov. 8, then play host to Central Connecticut State (Nov. 13), Rider (Nov. 17) and Eastern Illinois (Nov. 20) over the next 12 days.
Purdue will kick off the Old Spice Classic in West Lafayette on Nov. 24 when it hosts Siena in a non-bracketed round game. The Boilers will play three games at the HP Field House on the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex from Nov. 28 to Dec. 1. In addition to Purdue and Siena, the field for the eighth-annual event – routinely one of the season's top early-season tournaments – includes Butler, LSU, Memphis, Oklahoma State, Saint Joseph's and Washington State.
Purdue will return home to Mackey Arena to host Boston College in Big Ten/ACC Challenge action on Dec. 4 and Eastern Michigan on Dec. 7.
The third edition of the Crossroads Classic will take place at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis on Dec. 14, with Purdue taking on Butler as part of the doubleheader event.
The Boilermakers will host Maryland Eastern Shore on Dec. 17 before wrapping up the non-conference slate in Morgantown, W.Va. on Dec. 21.
Prior to the start of the regular season, Purdue will face Indianapolis (Oct. 30) and Wayne State (Nov. 4) in exhibition play.
Purdue had a very young squad last season with players such as Rapheal Davis, Ronnie Johnson, Donnie Hale, Jay Simpson, and A.J. Hammons playing collegiately for the first time. That experience was painful at times last year, but should benefit the Boilers this time around.
“We'll have 3 (sophomores-to-be) that started and played a lot,” Painter explained of Hammons, Davis and Johnson. “And all three of them are talented. You have Jay Simpson that has been through a year of practice, and you have Donnie Hale that has been through two years (he redshirted his first season at Purdue). I do think that we have some experience with some talented guys that have played major minutes already.”
The Boilermakers' Big Ten Conference schedule will be released later this summer.