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What does it mean for Kentucky if Noel is out for a long time?

Feb 13, 2013, 12:21 AM EDT

That’s all it took.

An awkward landing after an ugly possession, a knee that buckled when an freak of an athlete got his left foot jammed on the basket support while running at full-speed, and Kentucky has gone from a potentially dangerous lower seed to a team that seems destined for the NIT.

That’s how much Nerlens Noel means to the Wildcats.

That fact has nothing to do with why this injury, if it is as serious as it looks, is so devastating. I don’t care if you are a Louisville fan, there isn’t anyone in the world that enjoys seeing a kid whose athleticism is worth millions upon millions of dollars have that flash in front of his eyes because of one bad landing.

But it is relevant. Kentucky is the reigning national champion. They are a team that still have one of the best head coaches in the game and plenty of talent on the roster. And it’s hard to imagine them doing much of anything the rest of this season.

Noel is the anchor for this team. He’s arguably the most dominant defensive presence in the country. He’s the one guy that can be counted on to provide — points, rebounds, defense, toughness, effort — consistently for this team. Everyone else is a question mark. Ryan Harrow was a deer in headlights tonight, unable to handle Florida’s defensive pressure. Archie Goodwin is supremely talented, but is still learning how to play. Alex Poythress has zero confidence. Willie Cauley-Stein plays hard and has unreal physical tools, but he’s an athlete that plays basketball right now. Not vice versa.

We don’t know how long Noel will be out, but the bottom-line is that without Noel in the lineup, Kentucky is not a tournament team.

Not even close.

(Video via @jquittner)

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

  1. gnyj85 - Feb 13, 2013 at 8:21 AM

    Lets just hope it looked more serious than it is

  2. florida727 - Feb 13, 2013 at 9:31 AM

    You know, everyone talks about his shot blocking (106 of them, includes the 3 he had last night), but I think his effect on their team goes way beyond that. What I mean was very obvious in last night’s game both before and after his injury. Before, Florida guys driving to the basket were looking around to see where he was, knowing he could come out of nowhere to affect the play. After, they went straight to the basket with no regard for getting their shot blocked. As impressive as the 106 blocks are, you can’t even count the number of shots he ALTERS because of his length. Plus, knowing there’s that safety net back there, their perimeter players get to extend on-ball pressure an extra foot or two than what they normally would. That foot or two is worth 10% on the other team’s shooting efficiency, at least. His impact goes way beyond blocked shots and rebounds. I’m a Florida fan, but I sure hope he recovers quickly and we see him in post-season play this year.

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