Purdue looks to cash in even after being robbed

John Supinie

CHICAGO — For that brief moment when his heart sunk and he realized the situation, Purdue coach Matt Painter had to look ahead. He couldn’t do much for fallen star Robbie Hummel.

The helpless feeling probably only lasted a few ticks on the clock after Hummel tore the ACL earlier this month in the same right knee he injured late last season — an injury that changed the forecast in the Big Ten Conference race and trimmed Purdue from the short list of teams under consideration as Final Four material.

“When you can’t do anything at a moment to help them, first of all you’re speechless,’’ Painter said during Big Ten media day Thursday. “Here we go again. If he’s there and just me and just our team, we can deal with that as a family. We can cry together, laugh together.

“When high school coaches are there, recruits are there and NBA scouts are there, and it’s such a vulnerable deal, you can’t protect him.’’

The longest 15 seconds ever

Just like Hummel’s knee, the Boilers must heal from the injury, so Painter did what he could do.

“It seemed like 15 minutes,’’ Painter said. “It was probably 15 seconds. We rotated to the next drill and kept practicing. That’s what you have to do in general. You have to move forward. We love him and care for him. There’s nothing you can do, and that just stinks.’’

The only thing the Boilers can do is move forward, and maybe it’s easier this time because the injury happened on the second day of practice. The first time Hummel tore the ACL, he was driving to the basket in late February at Minnesota. The Boilers returned home with a one-point win and a half-game lead in the Big Ten race.

The following Sunday, Michigan State exposed Purdue’s vulnerabilities in a win at Mackey Arena. Purdue hung on for a three-way tie of the Big Ten championship with Ohio State and Michigan State, and the Boilers reached the Sweet 16 before a loss to Duke ended their season with a 29-6 record.

This time, Hummel’s injury happened on the second day of practice with plenty of time left to shuffle the minutes, plan ahead and determine roles. Purdue still has senior center JaJuan Johnson and senior guard E’Twaun Moore, two of the five players on the Big Ten’s preseason all-conference team.

But there’s not another Robbie Hummel to replace Robbie Hummel. The Boilers had to move forward just like Hummel, who will undergo surgery after the swelling subsides. He plans to return as a fifth-year senior next season.

“He was crushed and hurt,’’ Moore said. “First, we hoped it would be an ankle sprain or a tweaked knee. After a while, you could see it on his face, and he was really hurting. There was nothing you could really do about it.’’

Purdue was ranked No. 14 in the AP Top 25 released Thursday, one spot behind Illinois. Michigan State was No. 2 and Ohio State No. 4.

Meanwhile, Painter also is regrouping, but he’s likely to go with a bigger lineup than using more guards.

“In my mind we have to play bigger,’’ Painter said. “I don’t think we can win a championship or advance far in the NCAA tournament playing small with this group.’’

Preseason voting

Michigan State earned the nod as the preseason Big Ten favorite in a media vote conducted by the Big Ten. Ohio State finished second in the voting, with Purdue third.

Michigan State guard Kalin Lucas was named the preseason Big Ten player of the year for the second consecutive season, but he’s not 100 percent after rupturing the Achilles tendon in his right leg during the NCAA tournament last season. Illinois guard Demetri McCamey and Wisconsin forward Jon Leuer joined Lucas, Johnson and Moore on the preseason first team.

Ohio State is the preseason favorite in the women’s race, according to polls by the coaches and the media.

John Supinie can be reached at 217-377-1977.

Hot shots

The best lines from Big Ten media day.

— The Big Ten hasn’t considered more expansion before the presidents meet in December, commissioner Jim Delany said.

— The Big Ten will likely miss a tentative deadline of Dec. 1 to unveil the names of the Big Ten football divisions and the Big Ten’s new logo by 60 days. There would be no divisions in basketball. While coaches would like the league to return to a 16-game schedule, the Big Ten has no plans to trim back from 18 conference games. Said Delany: “We didn’t add a 12th team to the conference to play fewer games.’’

— The best lines from Big Ten media day.— Indiana coach Tom Crean on Illinois: “Bruce Weber’s team at Illinois could be knocking on the door of a Final Four, national championship type of program if he gets his young guys to understand how hard it is to win in this league. They have tremendous quality.’’