While Baylor will have a huge fan advantage at tonight’s South Regional NCAA semifinal games in Reliant Stadium, there’s a surprisingly large Purdue contingent in town.
Boilermaker backers are fired up about an opportunity for the team get back close to home for next weekend’s Final Four in Indianapolis.
Another Indiana favorite, Butler, advanced to the West Regional championship on Thursday with an upset win over top-seed Syracuse.
Purdue (29-5) faces top-seeded Duke (31-5) in tonight’s second semi (scheduled for a 9:57 p.m. Eastern time start). Third-seed Baylor (27-7) plays No. 10 Saint Mary’s (28-5) at 7:27 p.m.
During Thursday’s open practice session in the stadium, Purdue fans showed up in swarms and were delighted when injured star Robbie Hummel worked out with the team for the first time in weeks.
A 6-foot-8 junior from Valparaiso, Ind., Hummel was averaging almost 16 points and seven rebounds per game when he suffered a season-ending knee injury during a Feb. 23 win over Minnesota. He’ll be on the sidelines tonight for the first time since surgery on March 8.
In practice Thursday, Hummel took a few shots but hasn’t yet been cleared to do any running.
"It's good for him to be here, to enjoy the experience of being in the Sweet Sixteen and hopefully advancing," Purdue coach Matt Painter said. "He's a great teammate and he helps guys.”
Doctors have told Hummel that it will be another 4-6 months before he can actually play in pick-up games.-- Caulton Tudor