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Purdue’s Isaac Haas, once declared out for the season, has NCAA’s blessing to wear an elbow brace

The NCAA will let Haas play with a big ol’ brace for his broken elbow.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round: Purdue Boilermakers vs. Cal State Fullerton Titans Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Last Friday, Purdue announced that center Isaac Haas was out for the rest of the NCAA tournament with a fractured right elbow. His injury will require surgery, the school said. One day later, CBS’ Allie LaForce reported that Haas might not be done after all.

Haas has been ruled out for Purdue’s game against Texas Tech on Friday.

The NCAA has amended a rule that could get Haas one step closer to a return. On Friday, the organization softened its stance on allowing padding to cover bulky joint braces like the one Haas has worn in the Boilermakers’ recent practices.

NCAA Senior Vice President of Basketball Dan Gavitt explained the rule change to Andy Katz.

With ample time this week to review the intent of the playing rule, the committee decided to provide a more contemporary interpretation, while keeping health and safety for all players the highest priority. Technology has improved materials used in braces, so now there will be more flexibility in applying the rule as long as the brace is fully covered and padded. Isaac and other players in similar circumstances should be able to play, as long as the brace is safe for all.

Ultimately, the choice over whether or not Haas will play will come down to the game-changing center, his coach Matt Painter, and the Purdue medical staff.

Haas was injured during the Boilers’ round-of-64 win against Cal State Fullerton on Friday. Haas returned to the game and finished the day with 9 points and 10 rebounds, but the program said he fell on the elbow while skirmishing for a rebound in the second half. Purdue finished that mismatch with a 26-point blowout, then went on to fend off in-state rival Butler without its starting center in the Round of 32.

If Haas is done, his injury is a blow to Purdue’s chances.

Haas, a 7’2, nearly 300-pound behemoth, is the literal centerpiece of Purdue’s offense and defense. The senior takes up tons of space and frees up his teammates on both ends of the court. He averaged 15 points and 6 rebounds per game and was one of the country’s better shot-blockers. That his college career would end this way is a terrible shame.

This has been by far the best season of Haas’ career. His point and rebound totals mark career highs, and he’s come by those numbers while playing a more efficient offensive game. Haas was shooting 61.7 percent from the field entering the tournament, by far the best figure of his four years in West Lafayette. Having Haas as an anchor near the basket and a high screen-setter has been pivotal to Purdue’s dominant offense and strong defense.

No matter what, Purdue will need another big man to step up.

The Boilers actually have another huge center on their roster. Dutch freshman Matt Haarms, who’s 7’3, averaged 5 points and 3 rebounds entering the tournament, playing 16.5 minutes per game. He played 21 minutes to Haas’ 15 against Fullerton, then graduated to a 29-minute stint as a starter against Butler. While he only made one of his three shots, he finished the afternoon with a solid seven-point, six-rebound, two-block performance.

Purdue could also turn to smaller lineups more often, and without Haas, it probably would have no choice. Haas’ absence should mean more minutes for 6’6 wing types Nojel Eastern and Grady Eifert. Eastern only averaged 13 minutes per game before the tournament, but he played 19 against Fullerton and could see significant run in the next round.

The view from Boilers blog Hammer and Rails:

When discussing it last night, our source agreed with my hypothesis: that Haas could theoretically continue playing, but possibly risks further injuring his elbow, much like how Elijah Sindelar continued to play after tearing his ACL against Northwestern this past football season. Regardless of whether or not Haas continues to play, surgery will be required for him once his season is done.

While this is obviously great news for Purdue, we must keep in mind that Haas injured his shooting arm, which means he will still be limited and might not be as effective whenever he plays. Nevertheless, this could be a huge morale boost for the team if Haas does play. We saw yesterday that despite still being in pain, Haas wanted to return to the court and continue to help his team. Hopefully, this will push the rest of the team to step up and continue fighting to extend this season.

The Boilers’ path, though, is inevitably way harder with an injured Haas or no Haas at all.

They’re in the East Region, which isn’t the hardest region in the field. And one potential matchup down the line, No. 4 Wichita State, has already succumbed to an upset. But it’s hard enough to beat a team like No. 1 Villanova or No. 3 Texas Tech, with its suffocating defense, even if you’re at full strength. Getting past either without Haas would be quite a task.