Could Purdue star Haas play through broken elbow in NCAAs?
By NOAH TRISTER
DETROIT (AP) A day after Isaac Haas' season was declared over, there's now a bit of mystery surrounding the status of Purdue's star center.
That could be encouraging news for the second-seeded Boilermakers, who announced Friday that Haas would miss the rest of the NCAA Tournament with a broken elbow. On Saturday, a CBS reporter tweeted that Haas had practiced with the team, although coach Matt Painter tried to keep expectations low for a possible return.
"He ran up and down today, did a few things and worked out," Painter said. "I don't see him playing."
Still, Painter said he thought Haas would dress and go to warmups for Sunday's game against 10th-seeded Butler.
"I would think he wants to do that to stay connected and stuff," he said.
Haas fell to the floor during Purdue's victory over Cal State Fullerton on Friday and appeared in a good deal of pain, but he left the game only briefly before returning. So it was a surprise afterward when the Boilermakers ruled him out.
Painter said Saturday that Haas will need surgery at some point.
If Purdue wins Sunday and advances to the Sweet 16, then Haas and the Boilermakers have a few more days to take stock of the situation.
"He's fractured his elbow. So he can go out there and get in warmups and do things, but I don't think he's going to play," Painter said. "I'm obviously not a doctor. But I've been able to look at it and see - he just went through things today and just getting loose and everything. His legs aren't broke. So you're allowed to still run when your elbow is fractured."
If Haas is out, the Boilermakers will be missing their best big man - a 7-foot-2 standout who creates so many matchup problems. Purdue has been one of the nation's best 3-point shooting teams this season, but without that interior scoring threat, a lot could change.
And the Boilermakers haven't had much time to adjust.
"We just prepare for Butler," Painter said. "When Vince Edwards went out, and we had to play two conference games, we won those games. And you focus on what you have. You don't focus on what you don't have. It's no different than foul trouble. Isaac plays half the game for us. We're used to playing half the game without him. So now we've just got to play a full game without him."
Easier said than done.
When a defeat can end a season at any time, injuries like this are magnified. Just ask Virginia, which lost De'Andre Hunter to a broken wrist and then became the first No. 1 seed in the history of the men's NCAA Tournament to lose to a No. 16. The Cavaliers were eliminated by UMBC on Friday night.
West Virginia coach Bob Huggins had a championship contender of his own derailed by a major injury back in 2000, when he was at Cincinnati. The Bearcats were ranked No. 1 in the nation when Kenyon Martin broke his leg during the Conference USA Tournament.
Martin was the AP's national player of the year that season, but without him, Cincinnati lost in the second round of the NCAAs.
"It was a big loss for us, there's no way around it. He's a great player, he went on and played 15, 16 years in the NBA after the broken leg," Huggins said. "I don't think they depend on (Haas) as much as we depended on Kenyon. They've got a bunch of guys that make shots. Really outside of the one big they play pretty small. So, you know, I think hopefully for them they can adjust and do a better job of it than what we did."
Purdue indeed has plenty of offensive contributors, and a backup big man in Matt Haarms, who is 7-foot-3. So the Boilermakers will try to prepare as best they can for the challenges brought on by an unexpected injury.
"We're not going to hang our heads on it," Edwards said. "He's going to be our biggest cheerleader. We're going to go out and play for him."
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Follow Noah Trister at www.Twitter.com/noahtrister
Updated March 18, 2018