Former Wildcats center Sam Bowie believes the injury to Nerlens Noel might initially affect the team’s psyche, especially with so many young players.
“His teammates will start to second-guess themselves, and that’s just human nature,” Bowie said. “You always say, ‘We’ll regroup; people have to step up and take their games to another level,’ and that’s been the politically correct thing to say, but realistically speaking it will affect the team mentally.”
Considered the nation’s top recruit last season, Noel led a four-man freshman class also including Archie Goodwin and Alex Poythress that was expected to pick up where last year’s championship team left off. Noel has often been compared to national player of the year Anthony Davis because of his size and shot-blocking ability.
Kentucky visits Tennessee on Saturday before returning home Wednesday against Vanderbilt, providing the Wildcats chances to sweep season series against both schools and stay in the SEC race.
Bowie believes John Calipari is capable of motivating the Wildcats to overcome Noel’s absence, band together as a team and return to the postseason — suggesting that urgency sometimes brings out the best performances.
“I still feel like they’ll make the tournament,” Bowie said, “but whether they have a legitimate chance of making a serious run, that will be determined. With Cal as coach, and I think they have plenty of personnel, they have a chance to be one of the 65 teams invited to the tournament.”