That's a question I've been asked many times since Robbie Hummel tore his anterior cruciate ligament at Saturday morning's practice, and I'm afraid Purdue fans won't like my answer. But here's the truth: The Boilermakers shouldn't be considered Big Ten contenders anymore, which means they can't be ahead of Michigan State or Ohio State. I'd also hesitate to keep them ahead of Illinois. So I guess what I'm saying is that I'd probably start Purdue somewhere between 17th and 22nd in the country, and around fourth in the Big Ten (although that fourth in the Big Ten could easily be fifth or sixth if you like Wisconsin and/or Minnesota).
In other words, this is just as bad as you think.
Programs like Purdue can consistently be good, but they only get shots at greatness every once in a while. Hummel's torn ACLs -- first last season, then this season -- have taken away two of those shots. I genuinely believe the Boilermakers would've been a No. 1 seed and Final Four participant last season if Hummel was never injured, and they would've been contenders just the same this season if not for Saturday's awkward fall. Now fourth in the Big Ten seems like a reasonable goal. It's not fair. It's just reality.
But I really do hope Purdue overachieves and proves me wrong.
I hate being wrong, as you know.
But I wouldn't mind being wrong about this.