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Purdue won't overcome loss of Hummel
The Boilermakers' junior forward suffered a torn ACL in his right knee when he planted awkwardly last night in the first half of Purdue's win at Minnesota Wednesday night.
Robbie Hummel is helped up after suffering a knee injury in the first half against Minnesota on Wednesday.Jim Mone
Hummel's numbers may not have been staggering at 15.8 points and 7.2 rebounds per game, but it'll be difficult to imagine Matt Painter's team making any sort of deep NCAA tournament run without him.
This is a team that excelled due to the sum of its parts — and Hummel was the most indispensible piece in the puzzle.
He does it all.
Hummel's a versatile scorer, he rebounds, defends and also provides quality leadership. When Painter called out his entire team earlier in the season for a lack of effort during a three-game losing streak (the only three games Purdue has lost all season), he did so with one exception:
Purdue had a shot to go to the Final Four – with Hummel. Without him, the Boilermakers will be fortunate to advance to the Sweet 16.
The positive is that Hummel's teammates have experience playing without him. He was in and out of the lineup last season and missed four Big Ten games while dealing with a nagging back injury.
The negative is that they won just one of those games — at home against Penn State.
Purdue still has a solid core that includes E'Twaun Moore, JaJuan Johnson and senior guards Keaton Grant and Chris Kramer, but Hummel was the guy that Painter could least afford to be without.
He's just one of those guys where numbers don't begin to tell the entire story of the impact due to his toughness and intangibles.
The Boilermakers will go into Sunday's matchup against Michigan State in West Lafayette with first place in the Big Ten on the line. Purdue sits at 12-3 in the league, a half-game ahead of Ohio State and a full game in front of the Spartans.
The Boilermakers had the inside track to both the Big Ten regular-season title and a No. 1 seed when the field is unveiled in a little more than two weeks.
Now, it's difficult to imagine a Hummel-less Purdue team finishing strong enough to keep a grip on the top seed.
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It's reminiscent of the scenario a decade ago in which Cincinnati's Kenyon Martin broke his foot in the Conference USA tournament. The Bearcats were dropped to a No. 2 seed and lost to Tulsa in the second round of the NCAA tournament. Hummel isn't quite as talented as Martin, but his loss is just as significant.
Kansas, Kentucky and Syracuse would each be virtual locks to earn No. 1 seeds if the season ended today. The fourth is now completely up for grabs.
Duke has a shot. Kansas State, if the Wildcats finish strong, isn't out of the question. Villanova, with a win at Syracuse on Saturday, would return to the conversation.
Now, those low-major conference tournament champs will yell with excitement when they draw Purdue in the Big Dance because the Boilermakers could be ripe for the picking. This team isn't nearly as intimidating without the boyish-looking Hummel on the floor.
Painter did a terrific job assembling this team. He took guys like Kramer and Grant and added a stellar recruiting class back in 2007 that included four Top 100 players: Moore, Johnson, Hummel and Scott Martin, who transferred to Notre Dame after his freshman season. They were the Baby Boilers — and they surprised just about everyone by making the NCAA tournament as freshmen.
A year ago, despite the serious injury suffered by Hummel which forced him to don a back brace for most of the season, Purdue returned to the Big Dance and advanced to the Sweet 16. With everyone back, this was supposed to be a special year for Purdue.
There was even a chance the Boilermakers, a team that won just nine games in Painter's rookie season four years ago, could get back to the Final Four for the first time since a Joe Barry Carroll-led team in 1980.
But everything had to go right.
That hasn't happened in West Lafayette. Starting point guard Lewis Jackson suffered a foot injury prior to the season that required surgery and forced him to miss the first 19 games.
The Boilermakers were able to win without Jackson. But it'll be extremely difficult to imagine that without Hummel.
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