The season-ending ACL injury of third-ranked Purdue's star junior Mr. Everything, Robbie Hummel, was the last thing Boilermaker coach Matt Painter thought would get in his team's way of a Big Ten title.
Hummel dropped to the floor in excruciating pain Wednesday night, after tweaking his knee on a routine drive to the rack in the first half of Purdue's 59-58 win over Minnesota.
Nevermind the fact that Painter is hosting the ever so dangerous No.14 Michigan State Spartans on Sunday, he now has to deal with how one of his stars' devastating injury will afflict his team as a whole.
Sound vaguely familiar?
Now, Painter knows how Spartan coach Tom Izzo felt like three weeks ago when Kalin Lucas suffered a high ankle sprain against the Wisconsin Badgers. Now back in action, Lucas is nearing 100 percent and the Izzo clan needs to play spoiler to the Boilers in order to take a chunk of the Big Ten championship.
The 6'8" triple-threat forward Hummel is Purdue's second leading scorer and a vital piece to the Boilers' tournament puzzle. Versatility, leadership and hustle are just a few of the things Hummel brings to Painter's line-up. Perhaps the most important contribution of all are his 15.7 points per game and ability to fill the bucket from nearly every angle imaginable.
Hummel's 15 points Feb. 9 in the Boilers' 76-64 Sparty romping in East Lansing had Izzo going into one of his patented tantrums—he won't have to worry so much come Feb. 28.
If Purdue was in comfort—mode sitting atop of the league, it has now been derailed in a colossal train-wreck. It's no easy task to win without an All-Big Ten caliber player like Hummel and Purdue fans are now taking a walk in the shoes that Spartan fans wore just weeks ago.
Lucas' bum wheel was a temporary achilles' heel for State, so what does that make Hummel's knee for Purdue? All joking aside, the Boilers have had a leg knocked from under them and are now left with just one to stand on—for now.
Great teams find a way to get by without their bread and butter if need be. Michigan State had a rough time with damage control without its 6'1" point-guard, Lucas, but it made do (barely). Purdue is going to have to rally behind its other leaders like JaJuan Johnson and Etwaun Moore if it wants to stand on solid ground once again.
Just a game behind Painter's crew, the Spartans now control their own destiny. A Big Ten title was all but lost in their 74-67 loss to Ohio State, but there now remains a glimmer of hope for the green and white.
A win Sunday would move MSU (11-4, 21-7) into a tie with Purdue (12-3, 24-3) and secure at least a share of the conference pie if it were to win out. Although unlikely, another Purdue loss to either Indiana or Penn State would hand the league banner to the Buckeyes and Spartans.
Injuries are a part of sports. There's no such thing as a "timely" injury. Just ask the Michigan State Spartans and Purdue Boilermakers—the two teams know that better than anyone.