The 2013-14 non-conference schedule, released today, will be the opening act of that journey.
While the team's young core gained valuable experience in both the highs and lows of college basketball last season, the Boilermakers will be young once again in 2013-14. With an already young roster that is adding more new pieces, the staff placed a priority on playing a string of early home games.
This year's group will have the opportunity to play five-straight games at home to open up the regular season, factoring in the non-bracketed round game of the Old Spice Classic against Siena. In 2012-13, the Boilers opened up with three of their first six away from home and took some lumps that lingered throughout the non-conference season.
Utilizing the NCAA legislation that allows for the non-bracketed Old Spice Classic game against Siena was key in the sense that it gives the team additional game action before it heads down to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex to take on a loaded field at the HP Fieldhouse.
Purdue has placed a high premium on these early season multi-team events in recent years, as head coach Matt Painter has sought to prepare his teams for NCAA Tournament play. In one trip, Purdue will get three neutral-court games against quality opponents in what is annually considered one of the top in-season tournaments in college basketball.
The staff received a scheduling boost with the program's hosting assignment in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. The hosting nod allowed Purdue to continue its long-standing philosophy of having a marquee non-conference game at Mackey Arena, without having to enter into a multi-season deal.
The final game on the non-conference slate - a date with West Virginia in Morgantown - will be a great final tuneup before Big Ten play begins. Any opportunity to take a young team into a hostile environment early in the year is an investment for the stretch run, and the series between schools with like-minded coaches in Painter and WVU's Bob Huggins - who value toughness, effort and execution - has been beneficial for all parties.
Heading into a season in which the Big Ten shows no signs of being knocked off its mantle as the top conference in the game, the Boilermakers have orchestrated a non-conference slate tailored to a team with a foundation of young talent. Purdue will have the opportunity to gel during its early-season home stand before heading out for early tests in both neutral settings and hostile environments.
When the ball goes up on Oct. 30 in the exhibition opener, the focus will be on the task at hand for this year's team. The path for the figurative rebound of the Purdue basketball program has already been laid before it.