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For the second time in his career, Purdue coach Matt Painter might have an injury derail his team's opportunity to make a Final Four.
The first came back in 2010, when then-junior Robbie Hummel tore his right ACL a few weeks before the NCAA Tournament. Purdue was 24-3 at the time of Hummel's season-ender and unquestionably a top-five team in college basketball. It went on to lose to Duke in the Sweet 16. The Blue Devils won the title that year. That was Painter's most talented team at Purdue.
This year might be his best one.
And now a national title, a Final Four, it's all in doubt due to Friday's Pyrrhic victory.
The Boilers, seeded second in the East Regional, lost 7-2 senior Isaac Haas in the second half of their 74-48 blowout win over No. 15 Cal State Fullerton. Regrettably, Haas' injury came with 8:46 left in the second half when Purdue was up 55-35. He even went back into the game after he took the fall. He and the team didn't realize the elbow was fractured that point.
So now Painter and Purdue are faced with a potentially debilitating situation. Haas managed to practice Saturday, but Painter has gone back and forth on whether he's a game-time decision or not expected to play in a matter of semantics since.
The injury isn't good, either way. It also shouldn't derail Purdue.
I don't think the Haas news means Boilermaker fans should panic or pack in on this tournament. Yes, Haas absolutely is a unique player in college basketball. There's nobody in the sport that has his combination of size and skill. He's a massive human, and he's developed a good post game to drive his 14.9 points per game.
But did you know he only averages 5.7 rebounds per game? That's almost two fewer than what forward Vincent Edwards averages. If you're thinking losing Haas opens a void for Purdue's interior, well it might be more of a tree-sized gap.
And there still is size for the Boilers. Freshman Matt Haarms -- who is 7-3! -- doesn't have the bulk of Haas but does have more natural skill and length.
Beyond that, Purdue's Final Four and national title chances were never going to hinge on Haas. He was going to be the supplemental piece, the emotional boost for this group. They'll still have the latter, just not on the floor. Purdue's shot for a championship has always come down to its long-range weaponry. This team has been elite offensively since late November. It ranks No. 2 in efficiency at KenPom. It's the best 3-point shooting team in the tournament (42.0 percent).
So Purdue goes smaller. OK. Painter's a coach well in tune with the lineups he puts on the floor and how his personnel thrives or dives. He tracks roster combinations for offensive and defensive efficiency, including plus-minus. Purdue, maybe more so now, will look to thrive on the 3-ball. It's got the guys to try.
Carsen Edwards, Vincent Edwards, Dakota Mathias, P.J. Thompson and Ryan Cline all average 39 percent or better from deep. Defensive rebounding will probably be the biggest issue, but again, Haas wasn't elite in that area to begin with. Purdue's next opponent will be a familiar in-state foe.
Butler awaits on Sunday. The teams met earlier this season. I was there, at the Crossroads Classic in Indianapolis. The Boilermakers won 82-67 and it wasn't that competitive. Beyond that, in terms of the East Regional, when you take into account Haas' injury and Wichita State getting upset by Marshall, it seems like things are breaking nicely for Villanova. But the Wildcats are no lock. They still have to get out of the first weekend, too.
Haas' injury, in the big picture, feels a lot like what Virginia's now taken on with losing De'Andre Hunter. Each player brought something to the floor that no other player on either roster could provide. The losses probably prevent either team from winning a national title, but they're not so devastating that they kill off their chances of getting to San Antonio.
It wouldn't surprise me to see Purdue opt to sell out entirely and go for broke from 3. That would be dangerously fun. It might be exactly what needs to happen in order to fling this team through the region and into the Final Four.