No Robbie Hummel, no Final Four for Purdue. It's that simple.
The Boilermakers (24-3 overall, 12-3 in the Big Ten) were headed for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament until their junior swingman tore his ACL in Wednesday's win against Minnesota.
And, like in-season injuries to title contenders in previous seasons, this one robs Purdue of what could have been a memorable season.
|Without Robbie Hummel, Purdue's Final Four hopes are essentially toast.
Hummel's the team's second-leading scorer, rebounder, top outside shooter and best overall player. E'Twaun Moore is the go-to scorer, but his life is made far easier having Hummel around.
"Rob does something for us offensively and defensively that balances our team," Purdue coach Matt Painter told the AP when Hummel missed time last season due to a back injury. "He's a facilitator. He moves the basketball, he makes the extra pass, he gets the ball inside. ... Some of the basic things that don't show up in a box score is what we miss."
Without Hummel, a spot in the Elite Eight would be a supreme achievement for the Boilermakers. A Sweet 16 finish seems far more likely.
The biggest questions now are: Where will Purdue be seeded in the Big Dance, and who's the best bet for that last No. 1 seed?
The seeding committee will note how the Boilermakers fare in their final three regular-season games and in the Big Ten tournament before making a decision on seeding. If take two of those final three Big Ten games and go out early in the conference tournament, a 1 seed is still possible, though unlikely. It's reminiscent of back in 2000 when Cincinnati lost Kenyon Martin before the tournament. The Bearcats
still received a No. 1 dropped to a 2 seed, and was bounced in the second round.
Meanwhile, Duke, Kansas State and Villanova figure to benefit most from Hummel's injury.
K-State (23-4, 10-3) can increase its profile with a win against Missouri on Saturday, and make its best argument with a road win at Kansas next Wednesday. That would be an even bigger boost than winning the Big 12 tournament, which ends hours before the NCAA tournament seeds are announced – which could make the seeding committee more likely to decide K-State's decision before the title game.
Villanova's better positioned to make a run at a 1. The Wildcats (23-4, 12-3) have a massive game Saturday at Syracuse, followed by a game at Cincinnati and a home stand against West Virginia. Sweeping all three would probably make them a lock as the final 1 seed barring a first-round exit in the Big East tournament. Reaching the BE tourney final would clinch it.
Duke (23-4, 11-2) has a slightly easier remaining schedule, but actually could help the Blue Devils. According to Andy Glockner, if the Devils win out and take the ACC tournament, they'd be 30-4 and have an RPI of 2 and the 7th best strength of schedule.
Villanova has the toughest road, but the most to gain. A stumble would benefit Duke. And if they both suffer a couple of losses, K-State could move into the final spot.
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