And here. We. Go.
Purdue Men’s Basketball has never been ranked #1. Purdue has appeared in 375 weeks of the AP Poll, tied with Oklahoma for the 21st most appearances, but is one of only two teams in the top 25 of appearances (Maryland is the other) that has never been ranked No. 1. It has been ranked #2 for 10 weeks total, all coming in the 1986-87 and 1987-88 seasons. It even started 1987-88 ranked #2.
Going into 2021-22, expectations will be that high again. Jeff Goodman, college basketball writer for Stadium, has released his way-too-early top 25 on the eve of this season’s Championship game and expectations are… high:
Transferring: F Aaron Wheeler (Jr., 3.9 ppg), C Emmanuel Dowuona (Soph.)
Back: PF *Trevion Williams (Jr., 15.5 ppg, 9.1 rpg), G *Jaden Ivey (Fr., 11.1 ppg), SG *Sasha Stefanovic (Jr., 9.3 ppg), C Zach Edey (Fr., 8.7 ppg), G *Eric Hunter Jr. (Jr., 8.5 ppg), G *Brandon Newman (RS Fr., 8.0 ppg), F Mason Gillis (RS Fr., 5.2 ppg), G Isaiah Thompson (Soph.), G Ethan Morton (Fr.)
Add: PF Trey Kaufman-Renn (No. 32), C Caleb Furst (No. 54)
Matt Painter returns just about everyone of note from a top 25 team. Williams and Edey are tough to match with on the frontline, Ivey is a potential star and Stefanovic and Newman give the Boilermakers proven shooters. Continuity will be rare this season, and that’s where Painter will have a major advantage.
Goodman is right: continuity will be critical and the only real loss is Wheeler after Dowuona didn’t play at all this season. Adding a pair of top 55 recruits helps too. Coach Painter always wants to get old and stay old, and bringing virtually everyone back certainly helps with that.
Purdue has gotten as high as #3 on two recent occasions, getting there in 2010 and 2018, but the less that is said about what happened after that, the better. The only time in the last 25 years Purdue even started in the top 10 was #9 in 1997-1998 and #7 in 2009-2010. We can expect the official ranking to be in the top 10 some time in October.
The schedule will be tough too. As far as the Big Ten goes, Goodman’s top 25 has Ohio State at #2 (I still don’t see it), Maryland at #5 (not seeing it either), Michigan at #12, and Michigan State at #18. We also can likely count on a huge matchup in Mackey (we’re due to play at home) in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. If you go by who is due to play on the road from the ACC that could mean #7 Duke or #9 Florida State (who we have a recent history of closes losses to). We still have one game left on our Gavitt Games contract, but I would bet it would move to 2022-23 because it is slated to be at home and it is unlikely we’re going to get an ACC/Big Ten game AND a Gavitt Games game at home in the same season. The non-conference schedule will also include the Hall of Fame Tipoff Classic in Uncasville, Connecticut, and that field is LOADED with Purdue, #11 Villanova, #20 North Carolina, and Tennessee. Purdue will play Butler in the Crossroads Classic as well.
The schedule will be tough. Purdue will be highly rated early and battled tested late. My minimum expectation is to contend for our 25th Big Ten Championship and make at minimum the Sweet 16.
Tipoff is in November.