Before Robbie Hummel went down with a crushing, season-ending injury, Purdue appeared poised to at least make a run to the Final Four. After, they boasted a tenacious defense and an experienced squad that had been together the past three seasons, steadily building to the point where they were a legit contender. But absent their sharp-shooting forward, the Boilermakers struggled -- to say the least -- putting the ball in the hoop, before falling to eventual champions Duke in the Sweet 16.
With only defensive stopper Chris Kramer graduating, Purdue looked to 2011 as the year they would make a deep run in the tourney -- until, that is, juniors JaJuan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore decided to test the NBA Draft waters. However, with the news that the duo will return to Lafayette for their senior season, SB Nation's Hammer and Rails sees no reason why 2011 shouldn't be the Year of the Boilermakers:
This was Purdue first major victory on the way to the 2011 National Title.
And yes, I want to place the bar of expectation that high. This group is deep enough, experienced enough, and talented enough to demand nothing less. Everyone is talking Final Four, but I know we can win the entire things once we get there. I don't know if we will ever have another chance as good as this one. We're already going to come into the season as a top 3 team, if not #1 overall. It is time to think beyond a mere Final Four, which can happen to anyone even as a fluke (George Mason 2006), and start thinking about winning the entire thing.
Of course, Duke and Michigan State might have something to say about being the actual preseason No. 1 team, but Purdue should be firmly in the top five with most of their core returning. And the Spartans and Boilermakers (and Ohio State) should have quite the battle for Big Ten supremacy next season.