College Basketball Nation: Keaton Grant

HOUSTON -- Keaton Grant can envision the moment. He and his Purdue teammates are standing amid the confetti as One Shining Moment plays on the big screen at Lucas Oil Stadium. They will be holding the trophy, the new national champions of college basketball.

[+] EnlargeKeaton Grant
Otto Greule Jr/Getty ImagesKeaton Grant says the Boilers are tired of hearing pundits say their team doesn't have a chance.
And …

“People will say we got lucky or whoever we beat didn’t bring their A-game,’’ Grant said. “We joke about that all the time.’’

In a region full of teams with chips on their shoulders -- Saint Mary’s, the underappreciated mid-major; Duke, the overseeded and perpetually despised power; and Baylor, the overachieving newbies -- no one is carrying a gouge quite like Purdue.

Since Robbie Hummel went down with his knee injury, the Boilermakers have been left for dead. Even the president went against them.

They were classic first-round upset picks against Siena and given no chance to beat Texas A&M.

Now up against top-seeded Duke, a team that blew the doors off Purdue a season ago, the Boilers might as well pack up and go home if conventional wisdom has any say so.

“I know we’re tired of hearing it,’’ Grant said. “They talk about it on CBS, on ESPN, in the newspapers. You kind of get used to it but we’re also sick of it.’’

The fact is, the doubting is nothing new for Purdue. The Boilermakers have been told what they can’t do for years now. As freshmen this crew wasn’t supposed to beat Arizona in the NCAA tournament. They did. As sophomores, conventional wisdom deemed the Boilers as upset material for Baylor. Didn’t happen. In their junior season, Northern Iowa was supposed to get them. Nope.

And then it was the end of Hummel, an injury that certainly left Purdue momentarily stunned, evidenced by the 11 first-half points they mustered against Minnesota in the Big Ten tournament.

“Oh, they blinked, they definitely blinked,’’ Matt Painter said. “We just don’t have a 6-8, 220-pound guy waiting in the wings.’’

But the Boilers licked their wounds and regrouped, turning the negative energy spinning against them in their favor.

“I think all of the doubt, it definitely sat with them,’’ Painter said. “Nobody believed in them except the guys in that locker room. They know that.’’

Previewing Friday in Spokane

March, 19, 2010
3/19/10
9:35
AM ET
SPOKANE -- Does Michigan State have another run in it? Can Purdue go far without Robbie Hummel? Does the nation's leading scorer, Houston's Aubrey Coleman, have enough points in him to shock Maryland and ACC Player of the Year Greivis Vasquez? Will Texas A&M slip because of poor free-throw shooting? Does Siena have another Cinderella win in it? Or is Utah State going to break through?

Those are a few of the many questions that will be settled in Spokane on Friday and Sunday.

SOUTH REGIONAL

No. 4 Purdue (27-5) vs. No. 13 Siena (27-6), 2:30 p.m.

Storyline: Purdue looked like a title contender at one point, but the loss of star Robbie Hummel to a torn ACL has most thinking the Boilermakers won't go far. Siena is dangerous because it's done this before: It's posted first-round upsets the past two tournaments.

What to watch Boilermakers: Will E'Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson, who combine for 31 points per game, give Purdue enough scoring, or will someone else step up? The other three starters combine for just over 14 points per game. Watch out of senior Keaton Grant, who scored in double figures in four of the past eight games.

What to watch Saints: Four players average between 13.6 and 16.3 points per game, topped by Alex Franklin. Ryan Rossiter is the force inside (11.1 rebounds per game), while Ronald Moore is the distributor (7.8 assists per game, which leads the nation). On the downside: They don't consistently hit from 3-point range.

They said it: "The only thing we can do to prove anybody wrong is to win basketball games," Purdue guard Chris Kramer said. "There's a quote that says losers make excuses and winners make it happen. So we just got to go out there and make it happen."

No. 5 Texas A&M (23-9) vs. No. 12 Utah State (27-7), 5 p.m.

Storyline: Texas A&M can't shoot the 3 and struggles at the line, which are both Utah State strengths. Both teams play deliberately, which could mean a low-scoring game. Texas A&M might have noticed that a lot of folks are pegging it for an upset. One thing we know: The Aggies are going to win.

What to watch Texas A&M Aggies: Donald Sloan, a first-team All-Big 12 pick, averages 18.2 points per game. No other player averages in double figures, though though three average nine-plus points. The defense led the Big 12 in scoring (65.8 ppg). The Aggies have shot .475 from the field in their past four games. They are 30-0 under coach Mark Turgeon when they shoot at least 50 percent from the field.

What to watch Utah State Aggies: Point guard Jared Quayle is where Utah State's precise offense starts. He averages 12.5 points, 4.2 assists and 6.3 rebounds per game. Nate Bendall and Tai Wesley are smart, capable post presences. Brian Green is the best 3-point shooter on a very good 3-point shooting team (42 percent).

The said it: "They run a ton of sets, obviously, and run them very well," Turgeon said of Utah State's offense."They have counters to counters to counters. And you've got to pick and choose what you show and how much you show. I have a couple of my seniors and I say, 'Is this a lot?' and they say, 'Yeah, this is a lot, coach'."

MIDWEST REGIONAL

No. 5 Michigan State (24-8) vs. No. 12 New Mexico State (22-11), 7:20 p.m.

Storyline: Did New Mexico State's leading scorer Jahmar Young tweak Michigan State's two-time first-team All-Big Ten point guard Kalin Lucas this week by replying, "Who?" when asked about Lucas. Absolutely. But Young clearly was making a statement that he -- and, by extension, his teammates -- aren't afraid of the Spartans.

What to watch for the Spartans: Lucas leads four players who average in double figures. Chris Allen, suspended for the Big Ten tournament, is the Spartans best threat from 3-point range. The Spartans aren't big but Raymar Morgan, Delvon Roe sixth man Draymond Green are particularly good at grabbing offensive rebounds.

What to watch for the Aggies: Young and fellow guard Jonathan Gibson combine for 38 points a game, but Wendell McKines, Hamidu Rahman and Troy Gillenwater are physical players who each averages in double-figures. The Aggies like to run-and-gun and try to force turnovers. They are 19-0 this season when they outshoot their opponents.

They said it: "I watched him. He can play. Everyone can play. What am I supposed to do, bow down because of what they say? That's not going to happen, but it's no disrespect to him at all," said Young when told that Lucas has been offended by his comments.

No. 4 Maryland (23-8) vs. No. 13 Houston (19-15), 9:50 p.m.

Storyline: It's ACC Player of the Year Greivis Vasquez (19.5 ppg) vs. the nation's leading scorer, Aubrey Coleman (26.0 ppg). Both teams are hot. The Cougars won four games in four days to win the Conference USA Title. Maryland won nine of 10 to finish the regular season.

What to watch for the Terrapins: The Terrapins averaged 79 points per game, so it's obviously not just Vasquez, but the senior will have the ball in his hands if things are tight late. It's likely Maryland is eager to face a defense that allows foes to hit 46 percent of their shots.

What to watch for the Cougars: The 6-4 Coleman will get his points, but the Cougars upset chances probably require more than a one-man show. Guard Kelvin Lewis, the conference tournament MVP, averages 15.3 points per game and he likely will spend plenty of time guarding Vasquez. He also shoots nearly 40 percent from 3-point range.

They said it: "I'm not going to get caught up in trying to go back and forth with him. He's a great player in the ACC. And we know everybody is going against us because we are Conference USA," Coleman said of his matchup with Vasquez. "We don't have nothing to lose."
INDIANAPOLIS -- The 2010 Big Ten tournament has reached the semifinals. Here's a look at the two matchups on tap today at Conseco Fieldhouse.

No. 1 seed Ohio State vs. No. 5 seed Illinois (CBS, 1:40 p.m. ET)

Records: Ohio State (25-7), Illinois (19-13)

Season series: The Buckeyes swept two games from Illinois and did so in convincing fashion, pummeling the Illini 72-53 in Champaign and 73-57 in Columbus.

Advancement: Winner faces Purdue or Minnesota in the championship game Sunday (CBS, 3:30 p.m. ET).

What to watch for Ohio State: Evan Turner's legend grew Friday as the National Player of the Year frontrunner hit a 37-foot shot as time expired to lift the Buckeyes to a 69-68 victory over Michigan. Turner has been very good against Illinois this season, averaging 16 points, 11.5 rebounds and 6.5 assists in the two meetings. Ohio State called Friday's game a wake-up call after a 10-day layoff, and Turner and his teammates need to reclaim their defensive swagger. Illinois big men Mike Tisdale and Mike Davis turned in one of their best performances Friday against Wisconsin, and it'll be important for Buckeyes center Dallas Lauderdale to stay out of foul trouble. Buckeyes sharpshooter Jon Diebler was on fire in his last game against Illinois, swishing 7 of 14 attempts from 3-point range.

What to watch for Illinois: The Illini likely put themselves in the NCAA tournament with the Wisconsin win, but they can virtually guarantee a spot with a win today. Star guard Demetri McCamey comes off one of his more complete performances of the season (13 points, 8 assists, 5 rebounds), and he'll need an even better effort against the Buckeyes and Turner, his former high school teammate in Chicago. Tisdale did a nice job of extending Wisconsin's defense Friday, hitting two 3-pointers and several long 2-pointers. If he can bring Lauderdale or David Lighty away from the bucket, it should free up opportunities for others. D.J. Richardson looked like a freshman for much of Friday's quarterfinal win, but he found his shooting stroke late and never lost confidence. He needs to be a factor today if Illinois plans to advance.

Quotable:

Ohio State forward David Lighty: "It's a wake-up call. Watching games [Thursday], watching Syracuse go down, watching Kansas go down to the wire almost and things like that, it's kind of like we almost did the same thing. We have to get our minds right. It's like second lift, second wind for us."

Illinois head coach Bruce Weber: "No matter what, [Ohio State has] to be feeling relieved about [Friday's win], and then second, 'We kicked Illini butt two times.' I hope we can have a little bit of a mental edge."

No. 2 seed Purdue vs. No. 6 seed Minnesota (CBS, 25 minutes after Ohio State-Illinois game)


Records: Purdue (27-4), Minnesota (20-12)

Season series: Purdue crushed Minnesota 79-60 in West Lafayette on Jan. 5 and found a way to escape Williams Arena with a 59-58 win Feb. 24 after losing star forward Robbie Hummel to a season-ending knee injury in the first half.

Advancement: Winner faces Ohio State or Illinois on Sunday in the championship.

What to watch for Purdue: The Boilermakers missed 10 of their first 11 shots Friday against Northwestern and likely can't afford another slow start against surging Minnesota. Juniors E'Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson are really answering the bell in Hummel's absence, and both men need strong performances again today. Johnson recorded a double-double (14 points, 10 rebounds) in the 1-point win at Minnesota, while Moore recorded 18 points and five assists in the teams' first meeting. The Boilers amped up their defensive intensity Friday and will try to fluster Gophers guards Devoe Joseph, Lawrence Westbrook and Blake Hoffarber. Purdue won Friday without much from senior guards Chris Kramer and Keaton Grant, who struggled with poor shooting and cramps. Both men need to be better today.

What to watch for Minnesota: The Gophers have put themselves firmly on the NCAA tournament bubble, and they probably will put themselves into the field of 65 by beating Purdue. Aside from an ugly loss at Michigan on March 2, Minnesota has played pretty good ball the last three and a half weeks. Minnesota already has avenged a 1-point home loss to Michigan State and looks to do the same against Purdue. The Gophers' interior defense needs to be good on Johnson, but Tubby Smith is getting very solid play from forward Damian Johnson and center Colton Iverson right now. Minnesota has more length from Purdue and needs center Ralph Sampson III to bounce back from a poor performance Friday (0 points, 2 rebounds). Remember that Sampson had the best game of his career against Purdue in Minneapolis, recording 21 points, seven rebounds and two assists.

Quotable:

Purdue coach Matt Painter: "Our next opponent, no matter who it is, we have to out rebound them, but if we don't, we have to shoot the ball better. We're not going to get out rebounded and shoot the way we did [Friday] and win basketball games. You've got to understand how you're going to win, but you've also got to understand how you're going to lose and be proactive about that as a coach and really drill that home to your players."

Minnesota coach Tubby Smith: "We're as talented as anybody when we play the right way. I think every coach in America feels that way about their team, especially when they get to this level. If you don't feel that way, you're not going to win any games. I've got as much confidence in this team as in any team I've ever coached."

MSU-Purdue pregame thoughts

February, 28, 2010
2/28/10
2:58
PM ET
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 ...
A day after the Robbie Hummel injury, college basketball is still fixated on Purdue. A weak Thursday night slate probably didn't help much. So let's do a Hummel-heavy link dump and get it all out of our system before tomorrow blows our collective minds. (Not to mention tonight; for what it's worth I'll be at Valpo-Butler this evening, so stick around and hang out, if you're not doing anything. What, like you've got better things to do on a Friday night? Pshh.)
  • The first and most common question about Hummel and Purdue: How will the injury affect Purdue's tournament seed? Andy Katz looked at that aspect yesterday, arguing that if "the Boilermakers keep winning without Hummel, then why wouldn't Purdue get judged on its overall body of work? What if Purdue coach Matt Painter does a fantastic job adjusting without Hummel, like he did in a road win at Minnesota after Hummel left the game in the first half?" This seems fair, and it's up to Purdue now. If they can prove they're still an elite team with Keaton Grant starting in place of Hummel, then the committee should treat them accordingly, yes?
  • Meanwhile, Matt Painter addressed the media today, remaining upbeat (though, really, what is he going to say -- "We're screwed?") but called the Hummel injury "an unbelievable challenge": "From a coaching standpoint, this happens, whether it’s injuries or foul trouble,” Painter said. “Things happen and you have to be able to deal with adversity. It’s an unbelievable challenge for our team to deal with this adversity to make improvements and get stronger. The thing last year, for us, that was different with Rob’s injury … was the fact that we didn’t know if he was going to play or not going into games. Knowing how to prepare with him and how to prepare without him are two very different things."
  • Oh, and yes, Keaton Grant is officially taking Hummel's starting role.
  • Rush The Court has an interesting little ditty about what to watch for as a home viewer when a player injures his knee. It has a description of the quick tests the doctors perform, that sort of thing. Learn something new every day, right?
  • Purdue's next game vs. Michigan State couldn't come at a worse time for the Boilers, obviously, but Tom Izzo is right about one thing: Even without Hummel, Purdue is still a very good team. Not to mention Michigan State now has to adjust its preparation, which had focused on stopping Hummel, for a different, Grant-heavy rotation.
  • Yesterday, Pat Forde recounted similar big late-season injures, chief among them Kenyon Martin's in 2000. Mike DeCourcy remembers the Martin situation too, and analyzes the Boilermakers' chances of avoiding a similar fate.
  • Andy Glockner recounts other, less well-known, late-injury seeding situations.
  • And Jeff Eisenberg has this quick breakdown of the No. 1-seed ramifications, provided Purdue slips in its remaining regular season or Big Ten Tournament games: "Any slippage from Purdue would probably make Duke the odds-on favorite to grab the final No. 1 seed despite its utter lack of marquee victories. The Devils (23-4) have the strongest computer profile and the most trouble-free remaining schedule, though Villanova could overtake them by beating Syracuse on Saturday and Kansas State could make its case by toppling Kansas next week."

In non-Hummel-related linkage:

Hummel injury a sad turn for Boilers

February, 25, 2010
2/25/10
4:53
PM ET
video
That headline is a little self-evident; you don't need me to tell you that Robbie Hummel's torn ACL -- which will officially cost Hummel the rest of the season -- puts Purdue's tourney chances, No. 1 seed status and, frankly, its entire peerless season into jeopardy.

In many ways, though, the injury is even worse than that. For Purdue, the loss of Hummel also means the loss of three years of preparation, three years of growth and maturation and coaching and friendship, three years of congealing a top-notch recruiting class into a national power. These juniors -- Hummel, JaJuan Johnson, and E'Twaun Moore especially -- were going to take Purdue to the promised land. An added benefit? That promised land just so happened to be in Indianapolis; if everything went according to plan, the Boilermakers would play their triumphant Final Four in front of a home-state crowd a mere hour south of West Lafayette, Ind. As Pat Forde wrote after Purdue's win over Ohio State on Feb. 17, the three-year slow grind was finally coming together. It was happening. Now it's all gone.

That's not to say Purdue can't still make a run. It can. The Boilermakers are still a very talented team with enough depth in senior Keaton Grant to mask some of what they'll miss in Hummel. Purdue's next few games, including the Big Ten tournament, will be its opportunity to show that to the NCAA tournament selection committee. Purdue still deserves that No. 1 seed. All hope is not lost.

Unfortunately, that won't diminish the disappointment for Purdue or its fans, which runs deeper than any one injury in any one season would. And for anyone interested in seeing the best teams in the country take the floor this March, well, we're disappointed, too.

Purdue staves off upset bid

February, 20, 2010
2/20/10
6:20
PM ET
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Purdue just keeps on winning.

Despite a record peformance by Illinois guard Demetri McCamey and a blazing shooting day for the Illini, the fourth-ranked Boilermakers pulled away in the final three minutes for a 75-65 win, their ninth straight.

On a day when one of the Boilermakers' Big Three struggled -- JaJuan Johnson was just 1-for-10 from the field for five points -- senior Keaton Grant made a big contribution off the bench. Grant scored a season high 15 points, 10 of them coming in the final 6:02.

His three-pointer broke a 56-all tie, and Purdue would never trail again. He also hit a three with 1:28 to go to make it 68-60. Robbie Hummel had 22 points and 12 rebounds, while E'Twaun Moore added 18.

Illinois guard Demetri McCamey tied Tony Wysinger's 24-year-old school record with 16 assists. That also tied him for the most assists in an NCAA Division I game this season.

But Purdue closed the game with a 14-5 run to move one step closer to a Big Ten regular season title.

More to come ...

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