After suffering the most humbling defeat in NCAA Tournament history, Matt Painter has little choice but to spin this offseason into a blizzard of relentless positivity.

Fortunately, Painter no longer has to lie to himself in order to put on a happy face.

National Player of the Year Zach Edey’s Wednesday night decision to remove his name from the NBA Draft and return to Purdue is among the most seismic moves of the college basketball offseason.

This almost never happens.

Prior to Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe coming back last year, no National POY had come back for another season since North Carolina’s Tyler Hansbrough in 2008. (With Hansbrough back, UNC won the NCAA title in 2009.) Before Hansbrough, the most recent AP National Player of the Year to return to school was Shaquille O’Neal at LSU in 1991.

That’s the difference NIL makes. As Tshiebwe just did, Edey stands to make a good bit of money this year by simply being who he already is — Purdue star Zach Edey. That can be a more lucrative year than being the No. 3 center for the Portland Trail Blazers.

It’s pretty ironic considering the op-ed former Purdue president Mitch Daniels wrote a year ago lamenting the growth of pay-for-play in college sports.

“In the past year, the agents, lawyers, politicians, sportswriters and would-be union organizers rooting for free-for-all player compensation have largely won the battle,” Daniels groused. “They made a convincing case that athletes should be able to earn income from the fame their talents bring them.”

Yet the very money that had Daniels clutching his pearls now gives the Boilermakers a chance to exorcise their March demons.

Edey rewrites the Big Ten title race

Michigan State, which seemed poised to take control of the Big Ten next season, suddenly has stout competition for the title. The Spartans and Boilermakers are each likely to be in the preseason top 10, and it wouldn’t be a shock to see Purdue ranked No. 1 when things tip off in November.

Being ranked No. 1 in November is likely of little interest to Purdue. In West Lafayette, that singular digit currently carries a stigma that has only been previously felt by Virginia and Three Dog Night.

And if Purdue does enter the season ranked No. 1, you can bet the chatter about its first-round defeat to 16th-seeded Fairleigh Dickinson will reach deafening levels.

Painter obviously knows it’s coming. Last year all that chatter was about Purdue’s Sweet 16 loss to 15th-seeded Saint Peter’s. Little did he know it was preparing him to batten down the hatches for an even bigger storm.

Luckily for Painter, there’s a blueprint for dealing with this.

The Virginia plan

Only 1 other team has ever worn Purdue’s shoes.

Virginia, a No. 1 seed in the 2018 NCAA Tournament, became the first team to lose to a 16-seed in the NCAA Tournament after 33 years of 16-seeds failing to get the job done.

It was a humiliating defeat for a program with a history of postseason letdowns. Sound familiar?

But not unlike Purdue last season, that UVA team was a year ahead of schedule. The young Cavaliers, unranked in the preseason, exceeded expectations. And then when the lights burned brightest, they weren’t ready for the moment.

The next year, they were.

UVA once again earned a No. 1 seed, but this time there was no faltering. Virginia won 3 straight games decided by a possession on its way to the national title — including an overtime win over Purdue in the Elite Eight.

There are similarities between the Boilers and those Cavs.

The best player returned for both teams, as did much of the supporting cast. Freshman point guard Kihei Clark was the only significant addition for Virginia. With any luck, Purdue can get a similar lift from incoming wing Myles Colvin.

And, of course, both teams are exceptionally well-coached. But at the time, there were plenty of doubts about Tony Bennett’s ability to coach in March. He hadn’t reached the Final Four despite having a top-2 seed in 4 different seasons.

The same whispers follow Painter thanks to his inability to reach the Final Four in 13 NCAA Tournament appearances. And they won’t go anywhere until that changes.

A simple vibe isn’t going to get Purdue to the Final Four. For that matter, neither is just having Edey back. As FDU put on full display, Purdue’s backcourt will need to be up to the task. We won’t know whether that will be the case until well into next season.

But for now, Edey’s return serves as an enormous psychological boost for the Boilers. After a couple months with heads hung down, there’s reason to look up again.

The big man is back. And that means it’s possible to dream again in West Lafayette.