Purdue wasn’t part of a shocking result on the court in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The surprise, unfortunately for the Boilermakers, came after they beat 15th-seeded Cal State Fullerton when the team announced senior center Isaac Haas is out for the remainder of the season with a fractured right elbow.
Haas’ injury is a big deal for Purdue, there’s no denying that. The 7-foot-2 big man is a centerpiece of the Boilermakers’ game plan at both sides of the floor, and he averaged 14.9 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game during the regular season.
Fans who picked Purdue to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament should not abandon hope yet, though. Haas might be stuck on the sidelines, but Purdue is still very much a threat to win the East Region and get to the Final Four. Here are three reasons why:
Purdue basketball can still bank on Carsen and Vince Edwards
With Haas out for the season, Purdue’s offense will go through one name — and two players. Carsen Edwards and Vince Edwards average a combined 33 points per game, and that number probably has to grow without Haas. Carsen is the team’s leading scorer at 18.5 points per game, but he struggled a bit against CS Fullerton, going only 4-for-12 from the floor (1-of-4 on 3-pointers) for 15 points. Vince, a senior, also had 15 points in the first-round win and averages 14.5 points per game. Purdue’s offense will look different without Haas lurking near the lane, so look for Carsen and Vince Edwards to create offense for themselves and their teammates off the dribble.
The Boilermakers already relied heavily on the long ball
Purdue has made 335 3-pointers this season — an average of 9.6 per game. Isaac Haas has made zero of those triples. The loss of the senior center will not change the fact that Purdue relies heavily on 3-pointers, though it should change the way opponents defend them. Purdue shoots 42 percent from beyond the arc this season and went 9-for-22 against CS Fullerton. The Boilermakers need players like Dakota Mathias, P.J. Thompson and Ryan Cline to knock down open looks when they come if they’re going to beat teams like Butler, Florida and Villanova.
Purdue has another 7-footer in Matt Haarms
It’s your chance to shine, Matt Haarms. Haarms, a 7-foot-3 freshman, has been a consistent part of Matt Painter’s rotation this season, averaging 16.1 minutes per game. For comparison, Haas logged an average of 23.6 minutes per game. Haarms is the team’s leading shot blocker with 73 rejections on the season and he averages 4.8 points per game. Haarms obviously lacks the experience (Friday was his first NCAA Tournament game) and size (Haarms is an inch taller but 40 pounds lighter) of Haas, but he gives the Boilermakers a big man in the middle that can protect the rim and grab rebounds.