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October 26, 2008CHICAGO - Purdue's delegation to the Big Ten's media day in Chicago Sunday morning said all the right things after being lavished with preseason praise consistent with the considerable hype around Boilermaker basketball this season.
Coach Matt Painter's fourth team was tabbed as the league's preseason favorite by a media poll, finishing ahead of Michigan State and Wisconsin, respectively, in the balloting.
"It's just a preseason (award)," junior Keaton Grant said. "It doesn't determine the season. We still have to play. It's exciting and good, but at the same time, we can't get over-excited about it, because we have a long season ahead of us."
Painter noted that in the past 15 years, the preseason favorite has won the league only six times.
"In the past 15 years, if the favorite won it every time," Painter said, "then you'd feel real good about that.
"There are always going to be surprises. I really believe our league has seven teams that can make the NCAA Tournament."
Sophomore Robbie Hummel was named the Big Ten's Preseason Player-of-the-Year.
When informed of the honor by a reporter, he said, "Oh, really?" barely breaking expression.
His reaction: "It's an honor. But it's an award based off last year and doesn't mean a whole lot toward this year, because we haven't played yet. But it's really a tribute to the guys on our team. It's really more of a team award in my mind."
Hummel and classmate E'Twaun Moore were each named preseason first-team All-Big Ten.
In what can be construed as a sign of just how loaded Purdue is this year, Painter couldn't decide who among his four highest-profile players should come with him to Chicago. So, he brought all of them.
So while most teams brought just two players - Northwestern must have had extra room in the car, so it brought three, while Indiana brought only Kyle Taber, its only returnee - four Boilermakers accompanied their coach to the Marriott O'Hare.
"Robbie Hummel's the preseason player-of-the-year, and I don't know if he's the best player on our team," Painter said. "I'm not saying he's not, but you can come to our practice, and he'll look like the best player on our team Monday. But Tuesday, Keaton Grant might look like the best player on our team. Wednesday, E'Twaun Moore might look like our best player. Then, Thursday, Chris Kramer will look like the best player on our team."
"That's a very good problem to have. I think the strength of our team lies in our balance and our unselfishness."
While tabbed preseason player-of-the-year, Hummel generated a clever way of deflecting questions about it: He tore up his face crashing into a Mackey Arena wall Friday in practice.
And so, the question Hummel was asked Sunday most often: "What happened to your face?"
During sprints Friday, worried he wouldn't make his time, Hummel dove, taking a face full of wall, creating two large gashes, one above his left eye, the other below.
So, Hummel showed up for media day looking like he'd just come from fight club.
Kramer admits to wondering what Hummel was thinking.
"Honestly, I was," Kramer said. "... I was like, 'Rob, what are you doing? It's not worth injuring yourself trying to make a time.'"
After winning the Big Ten Tournament last season with an injury-decimated roster, women's coach Sharon Versyp saw her third Purdue team picked by conference coaches as the league favorite, while Ohio State was the media's pick.
"My mind set as a coach is always that it doesn't matter what's written," Versyp said. "... It doesn't matter. It only matters at the end and we haven't done anything yet. We haven't done anything yet to deserve any of these things."
Point guard FahKara Malone echoed her coach's message.
"We can't go into (Big Ten play) thinking we've already got it won," Malone said. "Every game's going to be tough and every team will be capable of knocking us off."
Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton, back from an injury-caused redshirt year, was named to the preseason all-league team by the coaches and media.
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