Is Purdue Still a Legitimate Contender After Blowout Loss to Minnesota?

Alex PetersonContributor IIIMarch 14, 2010

INDIANAPOLIS - MARCH 13:  Forward Ralph Sampson III #50 of the Minnesota Golden Gophers drives against Chris Kramer #3 of the Purdue Boilermakers in the semifinals of the Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament at Conseco Fieldhouse on March 13, 2010 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Boilermakers where humiliated last night by Tubby Smith's squad of Golden Gophers. They were beaten to a pulp early and often in every aspect of the game, suffering a pitiful 69-42 loss. Honestly, it wasn't even that close.

Nobody could put the ball in the basket for Purdue, going on an 11 minute scoring drought in the first half. They finished that half with 11 points, shooting below 20 percent from the field.

On the other side of the court, Minnesota wasn't having the same problems. Minnesota guards were eating the Purdue defense for breakfast, including Lawrence Westbrook, who had a monster game.

It was a truly poor showing for Purdue, and it was obvious that Purdue missed the scoring, defense, and leadership of junior forward Robbie Hummel. Without his outstanding shooting touch, they had to rely heavily on JaJuan Johnson for scoring. When I say heavily, I mean every single point they scored, because nobody else seemed to be able to make a basket.

Now, even after that loss, is this Hummel-less team still a contender to make a run to the Elite Eight or further? Do they have enough in the tank to play with the top teams in the nation?

I would say no.

Without Hummel, this team is stagnate on offense. They've scored less than 60 points in three of their last six games since his departure, something they had not done at any point this season with Hummel in the lineup.

Without any reasonable depth at the forward spot, Purdue has been unable to find a capable replacement for Hummel so far. They don't have a big man on their bench who can play, which really hurts them on the defensive end. They can't match up against teams that have length or size anymore, something every top team in the nation has.

They have been hurt in the rebounding category as well, losing their second leading rebounder in Hummel. With seven boards a game, he definitely makes an impact on the glass. The Boilers have been unable to make up for that loss, becoming a much weaker rebounding team.

Before this Hummel injury, Purdue was truly a Final Four contender and had all the necessary composition to go far in the NCAA tournament. However, this team has proven incapable of making up for the Hummel injury, and has shown many new flaws that didn't exist with Hummel healthy. They will still be a two seed in the Big Dance, and definitely have the resume to get that seeding, but with the loss of such an impact player, this is a completely different team than the one that dominated earlier in the season.

I know every team has off-games, but I believe that this game, and the six before that, have proven that Purdue is no longer an elite team without Hummel. The Boilers will make a run to the Sweet 16 as a two seed, but any further than that might be out of reach.