Nerlens Noel was on pace for the greatest defensive season in years until he tore his left ACL Tuesday night after blocking his 106th shot of the year. Wednesday it was announced he will miss the rest of the season after undergoing surgery in two to three weeks.
With 8:09 left to play Tuesday night and Kentucky trailing Florida 57-45, Nerlens Noel lost the ball. To make up for the turnover, the greatest defender college basketball has seen in years ran the length of the floor to catch speedy guard Mike Rosario from behind and rejected his lay-up before crashing into the base of the backboard and falling in obvious pain.
The young Kentucky team had struggled so far, but Noel's defense was so dominant that he had willed them back into the Top 25 this week. Noel was blocking more than one out of every eight 2-point shots Kentucky opponents had taken, and he was in the top 3 percent of all players in both defensive rebounding and steals. On the offensive end, he was making 59% of his shots.
He was slated to be the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft if he went pro, while Kentucky is slated to be a prohibitive favorite for the national title next year.
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||Stephen F. Austin