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Purdue catches some breaks with 2013-14 basketball schedule

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For more on college basketball, follow Tom Davis via Twitter at www.twitter.com/Tom101010

Boilers should rebound from losing season

Wednesday, August 28, 2013 - 11:19 pm

Purdue released the Big Ten Conference portion of its 2013-14 men's basketball schedule on Wednesday and the Boilermakers caught a number of breaks in their scheduling of opponents.

Purdue will seek to bounce back from a dismal 16-18 campaign last season, which culminated with an 86-83 loss – at Mackey Arena, no less – to Santa Clara in something called the CBI.

Purdue's 31-game regular-season will officially open Nov. 8 at Mackey Arena against Northern Kentucky following a pair of exhibition games against Indianapolis (Oct. 30) and Wayne State (Neb.) (Nov. 4).

When analyzing the upcoming schedule, there was a lot to like if you are a Purdue fan, starting with the fact that Northern Kentucky is no Bucknell.

Last season, Purdue dropped its season opener at Mackey to the Bison, which at the time appeared to be a disappointing defeat of epic proportions. However, as the 2012-13 season played out, Bucknell proved to be a really good team that ultimately made the NCAA Tournament and that Boilermaker loss appeared slightly more acceptable.

Purdue has a few challenges in its non-conference schedule, which includes the Big Ten/ACC Challenge (Purdue will host Boston College on Dec. 4 at 9 p.m. on ESPN2), as well as the Old Spice Classic in Orlando, in which the Boilermakers may face Butler for the first of two games in December.

Purdue will also battle the Bulldogs in the Crossroads Classic at Banker's Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis on Dec. 14 (6 p.m. on the Big Ten Network).

There are more positive aspects than negative ones with this schedule, so let's break this schedule down beginning with the good news for the Boiler Nation.

POSITIVES

• Northern Kentucky is no Bucknell

The Bison stunned the Mackey Arena crowd a year ago in the 2012-13 opener by getting a narrow win. However, Purdue fans (nor the media) shouldn't have taken it so hard because Bucknell turned out to be a very good team.

• Purdue likes 'em young

There are certain teams that Purdue would like to play twice in the unbalanced league schedule and teams that are in year one of rebuilding mode top that list. Purdue gets two of them in Minnesota (now coached by Richard Pitino) and Northwestern (Chris Collins).

• Anytime, anywhere

There is never a negative aspect to playing Penn State in basketball and the Boilers get to do so on two occasions.

• Never forget

Purdue got humiliated by its rival Indiana (97-60) a year ago in West Lafayette and come Feb. 15 (4 p.m. on ESPN or ESPN2) it is payback time. The Boilers not only get to host Indiana this season, there will be no return game in Bloomington this season.

• Will want to forget

There is simply no way to avoid playing Michigan State, but if you must (which all Big Ten teams do), you'll want to play Sparty just once this year and do so at home. The Boilermakers at least have that going for them.

• The last positive on this year's schedule is a mixed one. Purdue only has to play an improving Iowa program once this season. However, they have to do so at Iowa City.

NEGATIVES

• Just one shot

As the schedule has been laid out, Purdue gets just one shot at Illinois and it is in Champaign. Last season, the Boilermakers had only two really impressive league wins and one was against the Illini in West Lafayette.

• The Butler does it

Purdue just may have to play Butler two times in two weeks and history shows that the Bulldogs have a knack (OK, almost always) of beating in-state teams. This won't help recruiting wars in the future if Butler sweeps the Boilermakers.

• Late season jet lag

Over the course of an 11-day span in late February and early March, the Boilermakers will have to fly to Nebraska, Iowa and Wisconsin. They'll be 0-3 in those games.

• Lose to Nebraska?

Yes, Purdue will lose Feb. 23 at Nebraska, which is ever improving under Tim Miles. In addition, the 'Huskers are playing in this season in a new facility, the 15,200-seat Pinnacle Bank Arena.

• The February death march

The schedule makers did Purdue no favor with its February schedule, which will include this seven-game stretch: at Ohio State, vs. Indiana, vs. Michigan State, at Nebraska, vs. Michigan, at Iowa and at Wisconsin. The Boilermakers could very easily close the regular season with a 1-7 record in their final eight games.

So how will all of this play out? Here are my projections:

WINS (20 overall, 10 in Big Ten)

Northern Kentucky

Central Connecticut

Rider

Eastern Illinois

Siena

an Old Spice Classic win

Boston College

Eastern Michigan

Butler

Maryland-Eastern Shore

Minnesota (twice)

Nebraska

Penn State (twice)

Indiana

Northwestern (twice)

Ohio State

Wisconsin

LOSSES (11 overall, 8 in Big Ten)

Oklahoma State

an Old Spice Classic loss

at West Virginia

at Illinois

Michigan (twice)

at Ohio State

Michigan State

at Nebraska

at Iowa

at Wisconsin