While the Purdue Boilermakers are thrilled to be in the Sweet 16 of this year’s NCAA Tournament, they know it will be difficult to keep winning without one of their best players, center Isaac Haas. The 7’2″ senior suffered a fractured right elbow in Purdue’s first-round victory over Cal State Fullerton, and that’s an injury that certainly won’t be healed by the end of the tournament. It also happens to be his shooting hand side, only making matters worse.

Stunningly, Haas warmed up for Purdue’s second-round game against Butler and wanted to play, but the NCAA ruled that the brace on his fractured elbow didn’t meet player safety standards. Our own Jay Rigdon wrote to not count out Haas for the Sweet 16 if it’s simply a matter of a brace being approved, noting that Purdue is known for being an excellent engineering school, after all: “However, if that truly is the only factor, it’s not impossible that Purdue finds a way to come up with a brace that would be approved by the NCAA in time for the Sweet 16, if they manage to get past Butler today. They are an engineering school, after all.”

Well, it appears Purdue really *is* putting their engineering skills to use in an effort to design an NCAA-approved brace for Haas.

The Journal & Courier reports that “Purdue sports medicine has reached out to Purdue mechanical engineering about working on a solution” to design a brace that could be approved by the NCAA before Friday night’s Sweet 16 game against Texas Tech.

The Journal & Courier confirmed that Purdue sports medicine has reached out to Purdue mechanical engineering about working on a solution. Doug Boersma, associate athletic director for sports medicine, declined comment, citing student-athlete medical privacy laws.

However, Purdue head coach Matt Painter doesn’t sound as optimistic about Haas’ chances to play, and even said that Haas had “the best brace you can possibly have that they didn’t approve” for the Butler game. Painter added that the brace being approved doesn’t matter if Haas can’t shoot free throws right-handed (Haas was unable to do this before the Butler game) and can’t grab a rebound with two hands:

“He has the best brace you can possibly have on that they didn’t approve,” Painter said. “So if he has the best brace possible and he can’t shoot a right-handed free throw, this brace isn’t going to be better. It’s just going to be one that’s a little bit less (bulky) and it’s going to get approved.

“He still has a broken elbow.”

“I don’t think the key is him getting some other apparatus that gets approved by the NCAA. You’ve still got to be able to shoot a right-handed free throw. You’ve got to be able to rebound with two hands. You’ve got to be able to catch the ball.”

Without Haas, Purdue is still a very good team in what’s clearly a wide-open tournament, but they would be one of the top title contenders with him. Of course, even if he’s able to play, he’d be doing so with a broken elbow on his shooting hand side, so he may not be anywhere near as effective.

Haas is tied for second on Purdue in scoring at 14.7 points per game, and is their second-best rebounder at 5.7 boards per game. 7’3″ freshman center Matt Haarms started in place of Haas against Butler, and had seven points, six rebounds, and two blocks.

Even with Haas’ availability (and effectiveness) in doubt, Purdue is a 1.5-point favorite against Texas Tech in the Sweet 16.

[Journal & Courier]

About Matt Clapp

Matt is an editor at The Comeback. He attended Colorado State University, wishes he was Saved by the Bell's Zack Morris, and idolizes Larry David. And loves pizza and dogs because obviously.

He can be followed on Twitter at @Matt2Clapp (also @TheBlogfines for Cubs/MLB tweets and @DaBearNecess for Bears/NFL tweets), and can be reached by email at mclapp@thecomeback.com.