Purdue's slate offers time for growth

Purdue unveiled its nonconference schedule on Thursday, and while it lacks intrigue, the rather weak list of opponents is just what this young team needs.

Go through Purdue's newly-released schedule and sift over the list of opponents.

The slate opens with home games against Northern Kentucky, then Central Connecticut, Rider, Eastern Illinois and Siena. A quick Google search confirms each school does indeed exist.

What other nonconference games will Mackey Arena host, you ask. Mark your calendars for December when Eastern Michigan and Maryland Eastern Shore come to town. If you were wondering, Maryland Eastern Shore won two games last season.

The schedule isn't all cupcakes, though. The Boilermakers' trip to Orlando for the Old Spice will draw a first-round matchup with either Memphis, LSU, Oklahoma State, St. Joseph's or Washington State. Any of those make for a respectable opponent, but not quite the toughest of tests.

For the ACC/Big Ten Challenge matchup, Purdue will host—not Duke, not North Carolina, not MiamiBoston College, a 16-game winner last season. That's not exactly one which will have fans packing Harry's Chocolate Shop.

Sandwiching in the Dec. 17 matchup with Maryland Eastern Shore, the Boilermakers will battle Butler in Indianapolis just three days before, and cap the nonconference schedule with a trip to West Virginia on Dec. 21.

Are you still with me?

The Boilermakers' slate may not be the most appealing for season-ticket holders. Sorry, but garnering wins is all that matters. Forget about RPI, too, because the treacherous Big Ten schedule will take care of that important detail. Put aside the fact that Northern Kentucky—also a real school, Google says—isn't exactly John Wooden's UCLA team.

With another young roster in place, Purdue needs to build chemistry, to grow comfortable, and above all else, to get wins. That's what this nonconference schedule allows.

Before traveling to sunny Orlando in late November, the Boilermakers will have seven games (two exhibitions included) under their belts. Being realistic, Purdue could enter Big Ten play with 10 wins in hand.

This schedule wasn't built to bring national television to town. It was constructed for the growth of Ronnie Johnson, the promising point guard, and A.J. Hammons, the talented big man. It'll benefit Rapheal Davis, who will be settling in for his second season of action and Kendall Stephens, who will play big minutes in his first year on campus.

During these 13 games, Purdue can click as a team, something which it never did during last season's 16-18 debacle. Coach Matt Painter can learn what he has with this roster during the first five games of the season, all which should be comfortable wins.

The real seasoning will come in Orlando, where the Boilermakers will face challenging opponents and some team-building moments on the road. Butler and West Virginia serve as the most daunting tests of the schedule. By that point, chemistry should be formed and roles will be won.

If your calendar isn't marked with each of Purdue's nonconference games, you're probably not alone. But this is the right thing for a team that has plenty of promise. Some time for growth will be a good thing.

Chris Emma has covered recruiting, college athletics and professional baseball for FOX Sports Next since 2009. Emma covered the Nebraska Cornhuskers and Northwestern Wildcats, and currently covers the Purdue Boilermakers. A Chicago native, he resides in West Lafayette.
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