Kentucky's Noel tears ACL, done for season
Nerlens Noel's dream of an NCAA basketball title will have to wait another year — at least with him in uniform.
On Wednesday, the University of Kentucky announced that Noel had suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, a season-ending injury that might affect the freshman's NBA Draft status for next year.
With approximately eight minutes left in the second half Tuesday in Kentucky's game against Florida, Gators guard Mike Rosario broke for an open-floor layup down the right side. Sprinting full bore, Noel jumped to block the shot but then crashed into the basket support after hitting the ground. Upon impact, the devastated 18-year-old writhed in pain on the floor, clutching his injured leg.
According to NBADraft.net, a reputable basketball site with a record of draft-day accuracy, Noel (pre-injury) stood as an elite prospect and potential No. 2 pick in June's draft (Washington Wizards). In 24 games with the Wildcats, the athletic power forward has averaged 10.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and a staggering 4.4 blocks per outing.
Before getting routed 69-52 at Florida, Kentucky had surged for five consecutive victories, with Noel playing a major role in the club's success.
From the perspectives of record (17-7, 8-3 in SEC play) and pedigree (defending national champs), the Wildcats are seemingly a lock to make the NCAA tournament next month; but it will be interesting to see how the team and coach John Calipari move forward without the SEC's most intimidating defensive presence.
Subsequently, there's a chance the NCAA tournament committee will downgrade Kentucky's tourney resume, since the program won't have Noel on the court.
On Twitter, Noel posted an uplifting message to his supporters and Kentucky fans, writing: "Minor setback for a MAJOR comeback! I love you all and can't thank y'all enough for the prayers."