The Kentucky Wildcats suffered a huge blow on Tuesday night, as superstar big man Nerlens Noel went down with a nasty knee injury against the Florida Gators.
According to Michael DiRocco of ESPN, the potential No. 1 pick in the 2013 NBA draft was seen leaving the O’Connell Center in a wheelchair, not long after he was carried off the court upon landing awkwardly on his left knee and hitting it against the basket support.
Coach John Calipari told Kyle Tucker of The Courier-Journal that he’s hoping for the best diagnosis possible, but was clearly shaken by what he saw on the court after Noel chased down Mike Rosario to swat a fast-break layup.
While there has been no concrete information on the exact of the injury, it seems that the 18-year-old’s season—and collegiate career—could very well be done.
This is terrible for Wildcats fans, who were already realistically preparing to witness their team enter the NCAA tournament somewhere between a No. 8 and 10 seed.
At 17-7, things could not be more gloomy in Lexington, as there is certainly a chance that UK is passed over by the selection committee altogether, a rapid fall from grace for the defending champs.
Kentucky is likely to slip out of the Top 25 rankings, as they were desperately hanging on with the last spot in the most recent polls, and could spiral even farther out of contention with Noel out for an extended period of time.
The team has just one notable win in 2012-13, coming against Ole Miss—and that hardly looks as impressive as it did when it happened back on Jan. 29, as the Rebels have since fallen to UF and Missouri.
Factor in that coach Cal’s kids lost to Texas A&M at home and faltered in almost every big game they have been involved with and you aren’t looking like at a national championship contender, but rather a likely NIT selection.
Unfortunately, this is the brutal nature of one-and-done recruiting, as Kentucky has little depth behind Noel. It will be extremely hard to replace their leading shot blocker and rebounder, and there is no way the Wildcats can seriously compete without the flat-topped youngster in the lineup.
It’s a true shame what happened to Noel and we hope the injury isn’t too serious, as we’d love to see the kid quickly rehabilitate and get his basketball career back on track.
A rough season just got much rougher for Kentucky, but don’t look for anyone to feel bad for coach Calipari or the basketball program down in Lexington.