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If Hummel's season is done, so are Purdue's Final Four hopes

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

Maybe Robbie Hummel's gruesome knee injury isn't as serious as it looked. Maybe the Purdue star can return in time for the NCAA tournament next month.

Until there's evidence of that, however, you have to think that even a team as mentally tough as the Boilers now needs a favorable draw to advance past the Sweet 16 next month let alone contend for the national title.

Hummel sustained the injury midway through the first half of Purdue's 59-58 road victory over Minnesota when his right knee buckled as he knifed into the paint and tried to cut toward the rim. Officially, coach Matt Painter said the team will wait for a diagnosis from team doctors on Thursday, but the way Hummel didn't put any weight on the knee as he left the floor certainly wasn't promising.

Shaken and shell-shocked, Purdue surrendered a 30-9 run immediately after Hummel went down before steadying itself and rallying from a nine-point second-half deficit to win on Keaton Grant's game-winning jumper with four seconds to go. It was an inspiring show of grit that kept the Boilers in first place in the Big Ten, yet also a hollow victory because of the steep price they paid to get it.

Hummel was Purdue's second-leading scorer and leading rebounder at 15.8 points and 7.2 boards per game. Take him, E'Twaun Moore or JaJuan Johnson off the roster and the Boilermakers go from a team capable of playing for a national title in its home state to one that's suddenly much easier to defend with only two main scoring weapons.

You'll hear a lot of talk about whether the selection committee will punish Purdue in the seedings as a result of Hummel's injury. People will bring up the 1999-2000 Cincinnati team that got dropped from a No 1 to a No. 2 seed because of Kenyon Martin's broken leg, or last season's North Carolina team that remained a No. 1 seed despite concern about Ty Lawson's injured toe.

What the committee does with Purdue will undoubtedly depend on Hummel's prognosis and what the Boilers do without him the next few weeks, but the cold truth is the argument is moot.

Purdue can gut out a win at depleted Minnesota without Hummel, but two offensive weapons and some admirable grit won't be enough against the likes of Kansas and Kentucky regardless of what round the Boilers face them.

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