In 2010 it was The Injury
In 2011 it was The Injury: The Sequel, followed by Kelsey Barlow being suspended from the postseason.
Now, for the third year in a row, a Purdue season is derailed by something completely unexpected just as everything was coming together. Kelsey Barlow has shockingly been thrown off of the Purdue men's basketball team for his actions last night at Where Else which led to D.J. Byrd getting arrested. Byrd, who has been on fire of late, has been suspended for Sunday's game against Michigan State.
Once again, this could not have come at a worse time. Byrd was playing incredibly well in Purdue's last three games, while Barlow was emerging as a consistent offensive threat to get to the basket in addition to his usual stout defense. Barlow knew he was on thin ice after last year's suspension that is still shrouded in mystery, so he has no one to blame but himself if he was thrown out of Where Else last night.
As for this year's team, you have to move on. The loss of Byrd stings more from an offensive standpoint for Sunday. It likely means more minutes from John Hart and Anthony Johnson, who are not nearly as reliable of shooters or defenders as Byrd and Barlow. It is up to them to get at least two more wins so Purdue can still make the NCAA Tournament.
This is a sutation much like two years ago when Hummel was injured with three games to play. Purdue only needed two wins against weaker opponents to still win a share of the Big Ten. Now, they need two wins against weaker opponents (Penn State and Nebraska) to reach 19 wins, nine in the Big Ten, and be likely safe for the NCAAs.
It does make Sunday's game against Michigan State and trips to Michigan and Indiana difficult, but not impossible. I have seen Purdue band together and move forward after difficult circumstances more times than I care to remember. They have still managed to get it done, and I have complete faith that the NCAA Tournament is far from conceded at this point. We cannot, and will not concede a single game the rest of the year. Why? Because we haven't before.
It's becoming an unfortunate refrain, but the goals remain the same. D.J. Byrd now becomes the main senior leader on next year's team that will also have Dru Anthrop and John Hart in their final years. That means we're going young again next year as the next wave of recruits comes in like 2007 all over again. As for this year, we concede nothing.
This team is still going to the NCAA Tournament and it will pull off at least one upset down the stretch here simply because we've been written off after losing players before only to come back and fight like mad bastards. That's the precedent I am basing my optimism on until proven otherwise. Ryne Smith, Lewis Jackson, and Robbie Hummel will certainly not go down quietly. If you think we're done and NIT bound I invite you to tell those three young men that.