Bad news hit West Lafayette and Columbia on Thursday afternoon, with Purdue's Robbie Hummel and Missouri's Justin Safford both going down for the remainder of the season with torn ACLs. The more important ligament on a national level: clearly that would be Hummel's, and his injury could be the difference in seed lines for the Boilermakers. Many have used Kenyon Martin's broken leg back in 2000 as the comparison to Purdue losing Hummel, but that's a bit off when you further examine the cases.
The first significant happening on The Road to the Final Four may have taken place in Minneapolis on Wednesday night depending upon the results of an MRI on Thursday. Purdue forward Robbie Hummel went down with a knee injury in the first half and was unable to return to action. Seemingly in control of the game at that point, the Boilermakers fell victim to a Golden Gopher run to take the lead and Minnesota led by as many as nine in the second half.
Does Thursday represent Conference USA's "last stand" in regards to possibly avoiding the fate of being a one-bid league? Probably not but an upset by Tulsa at Duke would go a long way in giving the conference at least two bids. The Golden Hurricane can give the Blue Devils some trouble inside due to the presence of an NBA-caliber big man in senior Jerome Jordan.
Wednesday night presents San Diego State with a huge opportunity to state their case for an NCAA Tournament bid. While Steve Fisher's team is 13-1 at home they're just 7-6 on the road without a marquee win to their credit (with a loss at Wyoming to boot). The first meeting was a nip and tuck affair with the Cougars making the key plays required to sneak out of San Diego with a 71-69 victory. Can the Aztecs put together one of their best performances of the season at the Marriott Center? It's possible but they're going to need outstanding performances from the likes of Billy White, D.J.
Connecticut went into their game against West Virginia back in the NCAA Tournament conversation following wins over Villanova and Temple. But consistency has been a problem for the Huskies all season long, so it can be understood if some expected them to fall to West Virginia at the XL Center. A mediocre rebounding team for most of the season, the Huskies received a far better performance on the glass on Monday night, out-rebounding the Big East's best 37-33 in a 73-62 win.
Another night and another opportunity for bubble teams throughout the nation to add a solid victory to their resumes. Florida and Louisville have opportunities at home to just that and it's fitting that the coach of one school (Billy Donovan) was coached by the head coach of the other (Rick Pitino). The Gators are coming off of a crucial win at Ole Miss on Saturday in a game that likely was an "elimination match" for the loser.
In terms of NCAA Tournament importance there's really only one game you need to watch on Monday night. UConn hosts West Virginia with the opportunity to pick up one more resume-building victory at their fingertips. Just one week ago Jim Calhoun's team was given up for dead by many as a result of their loss to Cincinnati, a performance that Coach Calhoun described as "embarrassing".
It wasn't the prettiest game and the rising emotions on the floor likely had something to do with it. But when the game between Kentucky and Vanderbilt came down to crunch time it was the younger squad that made the winning plays in a hostile environment.