Purdue hasn't been to a Final Four since 1980, but with all five starters back from last season's team that reached the regional semifinals, the Boilermakers might have an opportunity at making the one-hour drive to Indianapolis in April.
Purdue opens its season at Mackey Arena on Friday, when it faces a Cal State Northridge team looking to reload in 2009-10.
The seventh-ranked Boilermakers finished 27-10 last season following a 72-60 loss to Connecticut, its longest NCAA tournament run since an Elite Eight appearance in 2000.
"We did accomplish a lot this season," forward Robbie Hummel said after the defeat. "We've been in the Sweet 16 now. We're going to be hungry to make it farther next year."
Looking for their fourth straight 20-win season under coach Matt Painter, the defending Big Ten tournament champions return nearly 83 percent of their scoring from last season.
Boilermakers guard E'Twaun Moore led the team with 13.8 points per game in 2008-09, but Painter wants the junior to take better care of the basketball after he averaged 2.6 turnovers.
"When he forces, that's when he struggles," Painter said. "When he doesn't force, that's when he's one of the best guards in the country."
Hummel, last season's conference preseason player of the year and the most outstanding player of the Big Ten tournament, is healthy to begin his junior season after playing with a hairline fracture in his back for the majority of 2008-09.
"That's definitely a positive," said Hummel, who averaged 12.5 points and a team-high 7.0 rebounds last season. "That was definitely frustrating not being able to practice every day and never knowing if you're playing."
Forward Patrick Bade, a 6-foot-8 freshman, gives the Boilermakers some much-needed size up front, but with JaJuan Johnson the team's tallest player at 6-10, Purdue could struggle against some of the Big Ten's top rebounding teams.
The Boilermakers were outrebounded by an average of 9.2 in their 10 losses last season.
"Are we a team on the interior that just wows you with our physical presence? No," Painter said. "But I think we're going to make more physical plays. I think we're going to be a better rebounding team."
Johnson, an All-Big Ten selection in 2008-09, will look to shoulder more of the rebounding load after a breakout sophomore season. He averaged 13.4 points, 5.6 boards and a conference-best 2.1 blocks while being named to the Big Ten's All-Defensive team.
Senior guard Chris Kramer looks for his fourth such honor this season after leading the Big Ten in steals with 2.1 per game.
After being named to the Big Ten All-Freshman team, guard Lewis Jackson will miss Purdue's season opener after pleading guilty to illegal alcohol consumption and possession of drug paraphernalia in April.
Jackson averaged 5.9 points and 3.3 assists last season.
While Purdue looks for its first regular-season Big Ten title since 1996, Cal State Northridge (17-14) is targeting its third straight Big West crown.
The Matadors, though, will have to replace Tremaine Townsend, Rob Haynes, Rodrigue Mels and Kenny Daniels, who accounted for 50.4 percent of the team's scoring last season.
Senior forward Willie Galick is Cal State Northridge's top returning scorer at 9.3 points per game. He had 12 with six rebounds in the Matadors' 81-70 loss to No. 2 seed Memphis in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
"I believe I speak for the entire team when I put another trip to the NCAA Tournament at the top of the list, and that means conference champions as our ticket in," Galick told the school's official Web site.
Coach Bobby Braswell will look for major contributions from junior transfers Lenny Daniel, Kevin Menner and Rashaun McLemore for Cal State Northridge to make its third NCAA tournament appearance.
This is the teams' first meeting. Purdue, which is 2-1 all-time against the Big West, has won 30 of 32 at home in non-conference play.