Sunday, February 17, 2013

Kentucky Now Just Another Team Minus Nerlens Noel

Kentucky head coach John Calipari has had a tremendous career, one that is sure to see more greatness before it is finally over. To win the national title last season, lose his entire starting five, a come back with another competitive group this year goes to show the quality of his coaching and his recruiting.

Especially his recruiting.

Recruits paid off last year in the form of the best player in the nation, Nerlens Noel, the 6-foot 10-inch center from the Tilton School in New Hampshire. A sure fire NBA lottery pick if high school players could still be drafted, Noel was a metaphorical Christmas present for Calipari. With him he was assured that his team would be competitive before he knew who the rest of his starting five would be.

But now he has lost him. Darn those knees for needing functioning ACLs!

And now his team is in utter turmoil.

In the team's first game without Noel they had a soft opponent in Tennessee; they should still have been able to win with the players they had. Instead they were embarrassed losing to the Volunteers 88-58.

The game was a mess from the start and never got any better for the Wildcats. Assistant coach John Robic was ejected after roughly nine minutes. Calipari felt the need to bench Ryan Harrow to get him started. The move failed; Harrow fouled out after 18 minutes with no real contribution on the court in that time.

Willie Caulie-Stein may be a 7-footer, but he might as well have been nonexistent doing little and fouling out with more than nine minutes to play. He lasted longer than Alex Poythress though who fouled out before him.

For those that suffered through the game the Wildcats looked nothing like the kind of team that UK fans had grown accustomed to. The team had not been playing up to par this season anyway with seven losses already, but after this blowout loss the future of the defending champions is not too bright.

One thing has to be remembered--this is Kentucky. The Wildcats do not recruit schmucks or so-so players. They may be human like everyone else and sit back while a fantastic talent like Nerlens Noel does his thing, but they are still Kentucky-caliber players.

They just need what John Calipari said a couple guys were not capable of receiving--coaching. Should they get it there is still hope for this group to do something special. They may not be the same caliber team that won it last year, but two seasons ago they finished the regular season 29-9 (10-6 in conference) and still made it to the Final Four.

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