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Purdue's dreams dashed

Purdue’s trip to Indy appears to be done

It appears that Purdue’s worst hopes have been realized as reports are that star junior forward Robbie Hummel tore his ACL during Wednesday night’s win over Minnesota.

What a shame, too, because everything seemed in place for the Boilermakers to make a long NCAA tournament run, with the Final Four being held down the road in Indianapolis. The Boilers have won 10 in a row following a one-point escape in Minnesota on Wednesday, but Hummel, the team’s leader and best all-around player, was driving the lane in the first half against the Gophers and his leg slipped as he tried to plant. He fell to the floor in pain as he clutched his knee. Frankly, it looked bad when it happened, so the fact he tore the ACL is not really a surprise.

The 6-foot-8 Hummel is averaging 15.8 points and 7.2 rebounds per game (both second on the team) for the Boilermakers, who are 24-3 overall and lead the Big Ten with a 12-3 record. Purdue has a big game with Michigan State on Sunday that could determine the regular season Big Ten champ (Ohio State is also in the mix).

There’s really little doubt that with Hummel the Boilers are the Big Ten’s best team when whole. They have won at Illinois, at Michigan State and at Ohio State. Purdue also beat Tennessee, Wake Forest and West Virginia in non-conference play. They, not Tom Izzo’s Spartans or Evan Turner’s Buckeyes, were the team best-suited for March.

But that’s all gone now.

Sure, Purdue should close the season by winning out: Sunday’s home with Sparty, then the Boilers will be heavily favored vs. Indiana and at Penn State. But would you take a Hummel-less team to win the Big Ten Tournament? I wouldn’t. Thus a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament has probably gone by the wayside as well, with Purdue now staring at a No. 2 – and don’t think those tournament officials don’t take into account when a star player is missing.

This is sort of similar to Wisconsin in 2007 when it lost center Brian Butch to an injury when the Badgers were 26-3. He missed the rest of the year as well, and No. 2 seeded Wisconsin then went out in the second round of the Big Dance.

It’s likely that senior Keaton Grant would move into the starting lineup, and Grant has been playing better of late, averaging nearly 13 ppg in the past three after not scoring in double figures since before the Big Ten schedule began. Or coach Matt Painter could go with Lewis Jackson, who is more of a distributor than a scorer. Purdue hasn’t lost since Jackson returned from injury on Jan. 28. Either way, a thin bench just got a lot thinner.

If there’s a bright side, it’s that Purdue is a bit used to playing without Hummel, as he missed portions of last season with a hairline fracture in his back. But in the four conference games that he missed, Purdue -- which is basically the same roster as last year -- was 1-3.

Look for those Purdue NCAA title futures odds to change soon, and not in a good way.

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