The loss of Nerlens Noel not only hurts the team going forward, but it could also hurt the team’s chances of a NCAA bid if they don’t continue to improve.
USAToday.com spoke with the NCAA Selection Chair and he will definitely be keeping an eye on the Wildcats.
The NCAA tournament selection committee always assesses a team in the sense of what team will be on the court in March. And one with Noel would look a lot different than a Wildcats team without him.
“As with any injury that is significant to any player around the country, obviously it is truly a shame what has happened to Nerlens Noel,” said Mike Bobinski, chair of the NCAA tournament selection committee, during a teleconference Wednesday. “Sorry to see that for him personally, and for the Kentucky team.
“The reality is we have about 4½ weeks of basketball left to be able to watch Kentucky play and to see how they perform without him in the lineup now, and that will really tell the story I think of how we ultimately judge and view Kentucky. It is way too early to consider them in, out or in between. We will clearly be watching them closely to to see how they are able to play without a young man who clearly has been an important part of their success to this point.”
Eric Prisbell looks at the immediate and long term future of Kentucky and thinks it has an uphill battle to make the tournament.
Looming on the immediate horizon for the Wildcats is a road date at Tennessee on Saturday, which would be particularly challenging without Noel in the lineup. After that, only home games against Missouri on Feb. 23 and Florida on March 9 await as opportunities against top-50 teams.
Kentucky is not in Florida’s class this season. But in a wildly unpredictable college basketball season, the Wildcats were playing like an NCAA tournament team. And few opponents would want anything to do with an improving Wildcats team, and especially Noel, in March.
Without Noel, Kentucky has an uphill climb to reach the NCAA tournament.