Purdue center Isaac Haas will miss the remainder of the NCAA tournament with a broken elbow, the program announced Friday.
Haas suffered the injury battling for a rebound during the second-seeded Boilermakers’ 74-48 win over Cal State Fullerton in the first round of the tournament.
Purdue players, including Haas, reportedly downplayed the injury in the locker room after the game. But the program announced about an hour later that the senior had suffered a fractured right elbow, and would miss the rest of the postseason.
His college career, therefore, is also over.
Haas, at 7-foot-2, was the big man around whom Purdue was built on both ends. He shot 62 percent from the field during the regular season and Big Ten tournament. He averaged 14.7 points and 5.7 rebounds in less than 24 minutes per game. He also ranked among the top 10 in the Big Ten in block percentage, and affected many opponent shots in ways that don’t show up on the stat sheet.
In his absence, the Boilermakers will likely do two things. Matt Haarms, a 7-foot-3 freshman from the Netherlands, will be pushed into a larger role. And head coach Matt Painter will presumably be forced to experiment with small-ball lineups featuring versatile 6-foot-8 wing Vince Edwards at the five.
But neither solution is ideal. The Boilermakers’ potential will be diminished by the Haas injury blow. Their status as a Final Four contender was largely predicated on an offense that at times bordered on unstoppable, and without Haas, it will be less so.
It was the second-most efficient in the country, per Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted numbers, and a big reason for its success was its balanced construction, with five 39-plus-percent shooters around Haas. The senior’s presence forced defenses to collapse or double. Those doubles freed up the likes of Dakota Mathias and P.J. Thompson. Haas led the Big Ten in win shares per 40 minutes, and ranked fifth in offensive win shares despite playing only 58 percent of available minutes.
Without him, defenses won’t have to collapse. Harms is no slouch, and he’ll be able to replicate some of Haas’ rim protection, but he lacks the strength and back-to-the-basket ability of the senior. And he’s not going to be able to make a jump from 16 minutes per game to 30 minutes per game. Purdue has no other big man in its rotation, so will have to scramble for solutions.
And it will have to find solutions quickly. It will play Butler in the second round on Sunday.