The first game after getting back into the Top 25, Kentucky lost the best defender in the country and key to their team. Nerlens Noel (10.6 points, 9.6 rebounds, 4.5 blocks per game) screamed and yelled in agony when he went down with eight minutes to play in a lopsided win by the SEC-leading Florida Gators. Without Noel, the Wildcats could be a bubble team with even a tournament bid in doubt.
By the time Noel was injured, Florida was en route to improve to 20-3 and 10-1 in the SEC, and likely better their No. 7 ranking. It was only the second time Billy Donovan had defeated Kentucky’s John Calipari in nine tries, but losing the game was the least of Calipari’s concerns. Without his dominant shot-blocking and surprising number of steals, the Wildcats could struggle as they did early this season.
Kentucky had won five straight games, but dropped to 17-7 and 8-3 with the loss. Alabama’s win at Georgia dropped Kentucky to third place in light of Alabama having already defeated Kentucky. Breitbart reportedly previously that Noel was the best defensive player in the past eight years based on his Value Add rating.
For the winners who are still eyeing a No. 1 seed that could keep them closer to home for the tournament, Pat Young muscled his was to a sixth double-double, and Scottie Wilbekin had 14 points and eight assists.
The following are the SEC standings: