Not saying it will. Not saying it should. Not saying it's likely.
Just saying it can.
At the beginning of the year, the answer to the question I pose in this post's title would've been unanimous and sans any sort of cacophony: because it doesn't have Robbie Hummel.
That's no longer a problem. Purdue (22-5, 11-3) has played beyond expectations, solidifying the top of the Big Ten as the most impressive of any conference with its 76-63 win at home over No. 2 Ohio State this afternoon.
And it was largely because of E'Twaun Moore, but Lewis Jackson had a hell of a game, too. Moore (right) had half his team's points, going for 38; yes, that's a career high. He hit 7 of 10 3-pointers, pushing him past the 2,000-point mark for his career. All accomplishments achieved and considered, he'll never have a better day of basketball. More of Moore: five assists, four rebounds, two steals, one foul. Just a ridiculous, awesome showing.
It's a home game, and Ohio State's perspective must part of the equation (in terms of seeing Purdue's play and writing this kind of post), but no denying the outcome was a photo negative of the 87-64 crushing Matt Painter's team took in Columbus Jan. 25.
I hope you watched today's tilt (hey, on CBS!) and had the volume at a louder-than-reasonable level. The atmosphere shot through the screen and speakers in my apartment. A great home win in college basketball which, again, can be plenty thrilling in the regular season. Despite a 13-point difference at game's end, the energy level never dipped below an uncomfortable buzz and ohm in Mackey Arena. Love it. Love February games almost as much as March ones.
Standing tall, flexing its pectorals and towering over a team that got humbled for the second straight weekend on the road in Big Ten play, Purdue looked as emphatic a victor as I've seen all year. I'm not going knee-jerk on you, here, I promise. And worth noting that Ohio State's two losses this season have come to teams undefeated at home.
Watching that win, while being prompted by this tweet , I thought, Why can't Purdue end up in Houston this year?
Purdue's wins over possible/probable tournament teams:
- Virginia Tech
- Michigan State
- Ohio State
Imagine how good this team would be with Hummel. If he was playing, instead of writing why Purdue can win the national title, I'd probably be trying to come up with a few feeble reasons why it couldn't.