Saturday, October 16, 2010

Robbie Hummel Tears His ACL Again

Heartbreaking news out of Purdue as Robbie Hummel has torn his ACL. Recall that last season also blew up for Purdue after Hummel tore an ACL, in late February. Hummel's career will always be a what-could-have-been for Purdue fans, because he's been so incredibly good when healthy, yet has so rarely been healthy.

Purdue will have a great backcourt this year, but their frontcourt will go through a dramatic transformation without Hummel. Everybody has been talking about the dramatic progress that JaJuan Johnson has made this offseason, particularly in terms of body strength, and he was already one of the best players in the Big Ten last season. He's a legitimate contender for Big Ten Player of the Year. But after that?

I had mentioned back in April's Big Ten 2010-11 preview just how badly Purdue's lack of depth in the frontcourt was exposed the last time Hummel tore his ACL. After Johnson, their only returners over 6'5" will be Patrick Bade and Sandi Marcius, both 2009 recruits. Bade was lightly used in '09, and Marcius redshirted the entire season after breaking a bone in his foot during the preseason. Neither player is a blue-chipper, nor is Purdue's lone 2010 frontcourt recruit, Travis Carroll.

Obviously, Purdue will play a lot with D.J. Byrd and Kelsey Barlow at the three spot. They have a very big backcourt, even by Big Ten standards, and can get away with three guards on the floor. But one of those young big men is going to have to develop or they're going to have a big hole in their starting lineup. And you have to wonder if JaJuan Johnson's offensive efficiency will be affected by how much helping he'll have to do on defense in the paint.

Purdue was a team projected by many to be a legitimate Final Four threat. I gave Michigan State the slight nod over them in the Big Ten, but made them the highest rated non-conference champion in my most recent BP68. They will fall quite a bit back when my new BP68 comes out this week. Purdue has to now drop behind Ohio State, meaning that they'll finish no higher than third in the Big Ten. And a team like Illinois or Wisconsin could even give them a run for that spot.

It's sad to see Hummel's playing career so derailed by injuries. I viewed him as the poor man's Larry Bird when he first showed up on campus, with his rare combination of rebounding, passing and shooting touch. It's a shame that we'll never see if he really could have been one of the all-time Big Ten greats.

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