2010 NCAA Tournament: Why Purdue Could Be the Latest Example of the Ewing Theory

J.T. AxelrodContributor IMarch 17, 2010

In 2001, ESPN columnist Bill Simmons debuted the "Ewing Theory."

In order to achieve this "Ewing status," the situation must include two main elements:

"1. A star athlete receives an inordinate amount of media attention and fan interest, and yet his teams never win anything substantial with him (other than maybe some early-round playoff series).

"2. That same athlete leaves his team (either by injury, trade, graduation, free agency or retirement)—and both the media and fans immediately write off the team for the following season."

Patrick Ewing was a prime example for this situation, because his teams at Georgetown and the New York Knicks achieved much greater success when he left.

Two other main examples of this theory occurred when the Seattle Mariners won a record 116 games in 2001 despite losing Alex Rodriguez, Randy Johnson, and Ken Griffey Jr. in the three-year span before the season (1998-2000), and the Red Sox' first World Series in 86 years in the same season Nomar Garciaparra was traded to the Cubs.

Enough about the past. This theory is going to have another prime example take place. Bill Simmons stated on his mega March Madness podcast that he felt their was a possibility for a team taking a Ewing Theory-esq run.

The team? The Purdue Boilermakers, who had star forward Robbie Hummel tear his ACL on Feb. 24.

Since this injury occurred, I have had the following statements said to me at least 1,000 times each: Purdue is nothing without Hummel. They lost to Minnesota, a bubble team at the time, by 27 points without him, after defeating them earlier in the season by 19 when they had Hummel. Siena will destroy Purdue on Friday.

I get the point. The guy was a good player. Purdue's loss still does not take away from the two keys to their winning formula: running the motion offense and playing an aggressive man-to-man defense.

On offense, the Boilermakers will feel more of an effect. They are now limited to two reliable scorers: JaJuan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore. Johnson is a second-team all-league performer who is one of the most dangerous scorers, rebounders, and shot-blockers in the Big Ten.

On the other hand, Moore is one of the most underrated players in the entire nation. He has the most lethal first step out of anybody in the nation, and opposing defenders always have to be aware of where he is.

These two premier players will be able to take over most, if not all, of Hummel's responsibility.

On defense, the effect of Hummel's departure is not felt as much because he can be replaced as a defender by different role players. Of course there will be a little drop-off, but not as significant as all the haters have made it.

Even without Hummel, this Purdue team is dangerous. They are still one of the best teams in one of the most dominant conferences in college basketball.

However, the public's perception of their situation has been blown out of proportion. Right now, Purdue is only a four-point favorite over a Siena team that obtained its first lead versus a lowly, 11-20 Manhattan Jaspers team about halfway through the second half.

Let's say you want to take the statistical approach. In Ken Pomeroy's efficiency rankings, Purdue is still ranked as the 13th best team in the nation. Yes, most of the games account for Hummel being in the lineup. Regardless of this fact, there is no possible way that they have been as inefficient as Siena, who is ranked as the 58th best team in the nation.

Any way you look at this, Purdue seems like a team that can survive without its star player. The results may not be as glamorous as the Final Four berth that could have been achieved, but nonetheless, it will still achieve a relative amount of success.

The first round matchup with Siena can be taken care of easily by Moore and Johnson, with their cast of consistent role players. The difficulty of their second round matchup depends on which team wins.

If Texas A&M wins, it could be entirely possible that a Hummel-less Purdue could reach the Sweet 16, presumably to face Duke. If Utah State wins, Purdue will have much more trouble because of Utah State's out-of-this-world efficiency when they have the ball.

Either way, the Boilermakers will persevere and exceed the expectations that many in college basketball nation have thrust upon them.

Update: Purdue defeats Siena 72-64 in first round. JaJuan Johnson drops 23 points. E'Twaun Moore helped out with 12. Siena shot only 32.9% from the field. Next opponent: Texas A&M

Update 2: Purdue defeats Texas A&M 63-61 in the second round. The game was a highly competative game, which went to OT. For the second game in a row, they had 4 players with double digit points. Next opponent: Duke