WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Greetings from Mackey Arena, where life without Robbie Hummel begins for No. 3 Purdue as it hosts No. 14 Michigan State.
Today's game had major Big Ten title implications before Wednesday night, and it still does. Purdue can hang onto sole possession of first place in the league with a win heading into its final two regular-season games (vs. Indiana, at Penn State). If Michigan State wins, it would be tied in the loss column with both Purdue and Ohio State, though the Spartans still would need some help in the coming days.
But the big story today is Purdue's response from losing Hummel, its No. 2 scorer and top rebounder, to a season-ending torn ACL. Few players in the country can match Hummel's versatility, and Purdue will have to fill production voids in tons of areas (scoring, rebounding, assists, 3-point shooting, free-throw shooting). The Boilers will turn to senior guard Keaton Grant, who will make his sixth start of the season. Grant is heating up, having tallied double figures in each of Purdue's last three games.
Injuries create opportunity, and for Purdue, there's plenty today. After losses by No. 1 Kansas and No. 2 Kentucky on Saturday, the Boilers could move into the top spot with a win, especially one under such adverse circumstances. The NCAA tournament selection committee will be evaluating Purdue without Hummel for seeding possibilities.
There's also plenty of opportunity for Michigan State today. The Spartans, who have struggled defensively this season, had few answers for Purdue in a 76-64 loss on Feb. 9 in East Lansing. Purdue shot 56.8 percent from the field and 42.9 percent from 3-point range at the Breslin Center, so the Spartans will need to be much better on the defensive end.
Without Hummel, Purdue could be susceptible in the post, and it's time for Michigan State's bigs to step up. Sophomore forward Draymond Green has been fabulous this year, but the Spartans need more from Raymar Morgan and Delvon Roe.
Back with more later, so keep it right here ...