In case you weren't aware, Purdue was playing without Robbie Hummel tonight.
Truly, you haven't been able to hear the name Purdue over the past month without someone chiming in that they've lost Hummel, arguably the Boilermakers' greatest star this season. Seriously. It's everywhere. I think I myself have written that upwards of a hundred times since this blog began. He hasn't played a second, and he's all anyone can talk about regarding Purdue.
That said, how would you like to be Purdue and battle that for your entire postseason? How many times a day do you think JaJuan Johnson gets asked each day what this tournament season would be like if Hummel were there? The doggedness of having to field questions and judgments about Hummel's absence is probably more of a detriment than Hummel's actual absence.
Tonight that absence may have finally caught up to the surging, overcompensating Boilermakers as Duke sent them packing 70-57. Coach K's number one seed was simply a better team than the boys from Indiana, and though Matt Painter's expert coaching job kept finding new ways for his team to dismount solid opponents, it wasn't meant to be. Perhaps their luck just ran out. Perhaps they were just tired. Or perhaps Duke was just too good for them.
We're going to hear more about Duke in the next few days, perhaps even the next week, but I don't think we should let this Purdue team slide into the night without giving them their due. Here's a team that, for weeks now, has been told they can't do something because one of their key players is out. Siena was everyone's "lock" to beat them because it was believed that without Hummel, they were nothing. Wrong. Then it was Texas A&M's turn to get pumped because, as the press would have us believe, Purdue couldn't do it again without Hummel. Again, wrong. Strangely enough, it seemed there were other guys on this team; and amazingly, they wanted to win this tournament as well. Imagine that.
I say kudos to the Boilermakers in this tournament. Everyone kept expecting them to lose, and tonight they did -- to a one-seed -- but not before proving everyone that losing one guy doesn't mean it's time to hang it up and go home. This was a great story that's very underreported, and these guys deserve a standing ovation for putting up with all the slings and arrows tossed their way since Hummel's injury on February 24th. So way to go, guys. You may have been a four seed on paper, but the world for some reason was against you. And you shut a lot of folks up.
Duke progresses to play the three-seed Baylor in the South region finals on Sunday at 5:05 PM.