How Hummel's injury affects Purdue's seeding; more notes
Purdue's Robbie Hummel suffered a season-ending knee injury
The selection committee has handled injures in the past in many different ways
If Purdue loses a No. 1 seed, Duke, Villanova and even K-State could take it
The news of Robbie Hummel's season-ending knee injury will not only impact Purdue's NCAA tournament hopes, but very well could change the shape and texture of the entire bracket.
Purdue was my final No. 1 seed in Monday's bracket and was able to hold off Minnesota on Wednesday night after Hummel went down. The Boilermakers' ultimate seeding on Selection Sunday, though, will rest heavily on how they look in their final three regular-season games and the Big Ten tournament. The selection committee will have to judge the entirety of Purdue's work under the prism of the small sample coming without Hummel, because that's the team that will be in the NCAAs.
There is some mixed precedent for this kind of late-season injury adjustment. The most popular (and poorly executed) example is Cincinnati star Kenyon Martin's broken leg in the 2000 Conference USA tournament, but that's not a great example because the selection committee didn't have any chance to see Cincinnati without Martin. The ultimate decision to move the Bearcats from a presumed 1 seed down to a 2 didn't satisfy anyone, as the adjustment was either deemed unfair or not enough of a jump. Cincinnati lost in the second round to underseeded Tulsa (led by current Kansas coach Bill Self) that made the Elite Eight.
The committee had an even harder job in 1990 trying to evaluate Loyola Marymount after Hank Gathers tragically collapsed and died on the court during the West Coast Conference tournament. LMU ended that season ranked 21st in the AP poll, but without Gathers was slotted in as an 11 seed. The Lions then made their famous run to the Elite Eight, where they lost to eventual champ UNLV.
Brian Butch's elbow injury in 2007 handicapped a Wisconsin team that had briefly reached No. 1 in the regular season. Those Badgers were 26-3 when Butch was injured in the regular-season finale and ultimately received a 2 seed. They also lost in the second round, to 7 seed UNLV.
The most applicable example (as far as adjustment, not seeding) of recent vintage, though, may be last season's Saint Mary's team, which was 18-1 when star point guard Patty Mills broke his hand at Gonzaga. The Gaels ended up losing that game and three of the next four before righting the ship. They got Mills back for the West Coast Conference tourney, but he didn't look 100 percent healthy and the Gaels were pounded by Gonzaga in the tourney final. The committee ultimately decided to leave Saint Mary's out of the tournament.
So, the story for Purdue will be wait-and-see. Hummel is obviously a very key component, but Purdue does not operate as a star system. If the sum of the parts can look solid, starting at home against Michigan State on Sunday, the Boilers could hang on to a pretty strong seed. The chances of it being a 1, though, are much slimmer today than they were 24 hours ago.
Who will this benefit if Purdue does slide?
Believe it or not, the team best positioned to poach that No. 1 seed is now Duke. The only obvious regular-season hurdle left is at Maryland, which could decide the ACC regular-season title. If the Blue Devils win out from here, they will end up at 30-4 with ACC regular-season (by multiple games) and tournament crowns. According to collegerpi.com, winning the last four regular-season games projects to an overall RPI of 2 against the No. 7 schedule. The Blue Devils might even be able to eat one regular-season loss and still be strongly in consideration. They currently are 9-3 vs. RPI top 50 (albeit just 1-2 vs. the top 25, part of being in the balanced-but-top-light ACC this season).
The other two teams that look best positioned would be Kansas State and Villanova, but each team has much harder run-ins than Duke. K-State hosts Missouri on Saturday and then must travel to Lawrence, Kan., to take on the No. 1 Jayhawks Monday night. Navigating through the Big 12 tourney will be treacherous, as well. Villanova faces road games at Syracuse and Cincinnati and then hosts West Virginia before the bear of the Big East tournament. Getting through that almost unscathed would be quite an achievement, but would position the Wildcats for a No. 1 despite the recent dip.
In other bubble news ...
Dayton's now in some serious trouble after losing a really ugly 49-41 game at Temple on Wednesday night. The Flyers are 7-6 in the A-10, which is a good league but not that good. Dayton now needs to win at Richmond on March 3 to have a reasonable chance at an at-large heading into the A-10 tourney.
Also, remember that the A-10 has moved its tournament to March 12-14, with the final being played on Selection Sunday. With as much as the committee has to do to handle multi-bid conference conflicts, it could come down to an either/or for the A-10. If Dayton makes and loses in the final, would they just swap in for a Rhode Island or Charlotte?
Xavier got a critical road win at Saint Louis (which no one in the A-10 had been able to do before Wednesday) and now looks set to join Temple and Richmond as NCAA teams. Richmond travels to Xavier on Sunday for first place in the league.
Minnesota didn't capitalize on a huge opportunity at home with the Hummel injury, missing a wide-open baseline jumper at the buzzer to lose by one after a big rally gave the Gophers a couple of late leads. Minnesota's at-large hopes now hinge heavily on the game at Illinois on Saturday. Without that one, it's 9-9 in the conference at best and a very deep Big Ten tourney run would be required. As a 6 seed or so, the Gophers would get chances at top-four teams in the quarters and semis, so the chance would be there.
San Diego State couldn't handle BYU in Provo in a game the Aztecs really needed to enhance up their profile. A Mountain West title-game loss wasn't enough last season, when San Diego State probably had a better resume.
Oklahoma State also missed on a key road chance in Texas. The Cowboys remain perched as the seventh team in a conference that might end up only getting six bids.
Florida State took care of very needed business at North Carolina, getting a road win almost everyone else in the ACC also is getting this season. Now 8-5 in ACC play, the 'Noles likely are two total wins away from feeling safe (either regular season or ACC tourney). They get home shots against Clemson and Wake next.
Clemson continues to court trouble (and enhance its rep as February folders) by collapsing at Maryland. The final three (at Florida State, Georgia Tech, at Wake Forest) are anything but easy. The Tigers are no NCAA certainty at this point.
Marquette got a buzzer-beating turnaround J off a loose-ball scramble to take down St. John's on the road for a really crucial win. If Marquette can get the one Sunday at Seton Hall, things look really good.
Other notable bubble results from Wednesday: UAB won at UCF to maintain in C-USA, William & Mary lost at home to lowly Towson and is basically out of luck, Cincinnati edged past DePaul to stay on track, and both Mississippi schools won to try to keep pace in the SEC.
One piece of bracket breakdown housekeeping
In Tuesday's column, one aspect of the 1-seed analysis should have been more clearly explained.
Syracuse actually is a couple hundred miles closer to Lexington, Ky., than Lexington is to Houston, but given the possible concentration of Big East teams in the 2-4 seed lines in the East, it might be a fairer fit to put Kentucky in the South region. Either trip is a flight (unlike Milwaukee, which is a comfortable drive for the Kentucky fans), and avoiding possible Sweet 16 and Elite Eight matchups against Big East teams in a Big East venue seems like something the selection committee would consider for a team that could be one of the top two overall seeds.
A lot will depend on who nabs the fourth No. 1 seed and how Kentucky closes the season, but yes, it's possible the Wildcats could end up in the East.
More College Basketball
College Basketball Truth & Rumors