Week after week we've watched the Big Ten's elite 4 get the job done. Each has survived injuries; each could make a case for a deep March run.
Hummel's injury is the latest piece in throwing all that out the window. This is unpredictable elite college athletics at their most unpredictable. Are all 4 teams pretenders? Wisconsin could't beat Minnesota. Neither Michigan State nor OSU could beat the Boilermakers on their own floors. And while the Buckeye's 6-man rotation will hurt them in the game-a-day Conference Tournament, it will not in the weekly rounds of March Madness.
Or are all four solid--Hummel only became a force when he regained his shooting eye in recent weeks. Purdue and the Badgers and the Spartans have gaudy RPI's. They've all survived key injuries. And in a year when the SEC and ACC are down and Big 12 teams like Texas have been all over the place, the Big Ten 4 have been very consistant. But Thursday, the Big Ten Network said Purdue's trip to the Final Four had shifted from "coasting" to "virtually an ïmpossibility."
So is it something in between? Purdue may now be down for the count; MSU is unpredictably shakey, but the Buckeyes are hanging tough and Thursday night, Wisconsin produced one of the whole league's best performances of the season, with Jon Leuer coming back, in surgically dissecting Indiana.
The Bottom-Line : Don't call your bookie. The Big Ten's March peformance could get one of them to the Final Four. Or send all of them home in the 2nd round. Stay tuned--this year, it's anybody's ball game.