Nerlens Noel

Nerlens Noel’s knee injury and the unfairness of the ‘one-and-done’ rule

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As of this morning, we don’t know the severity of the knee injury that Nerlens Noel, Kentucky’s star center and a likely candidate for the No. 1 pick in this June’s NBA Draft, suffered at Florida last night.

What we do know is that knees aren’t supposed to bend sideways to a 90-degree angle, and that anyone in enough pain to have their screams clearly audible on the television broadcast probably won’t be playing for a while. We can only hope that whatever happened inside that left knee is a) not too serious and b) somehow fixable.

(UPDATE: It’s official: Noel tore his ACL and, obviously, will be out for the rest of the season.)

Because the issue here isn’t that the Kentucky Wildcats lost their star center or that John Calipari’s team, the reigning national champions, now appear destined for the NIT. The bigger problem is that Noel’s knee isn’t a normal knee.

It’s a knee worth millions upon millions of dollars, one that an NBA General Manager is going to have to look at and decide whether or not it’s worth it to invest some $10-$14 million of guaranteed money in.

And that’s precisely why Noel should have never been in college in the first place. From Pat Forde:

The greater issue is Noel’s future, and the way it is put at risk by a system that forced him to play college ball for a year instead of going straight into the NBA draft.

Noel may have gotten hurt in 2013 no matter where he was playing, but at least he would be under contract and well-compensated by whatever NBA team would have drafted him in the first round last June.

Instead, he wound up playing for scholarship money at Kentucky. And while that is nothing to sneeze at, Noel’s presence on campus represents restraint of trade and a bastardization of what college is supposed to be.

He wants to be a pro basketball player. Let him be a pro basketball player without the charade of college delaying it. Unfortunately, that was not an easy option.

If this injury compromises Noel’s draft status, it’s on David Stern and his league’s minimum age requirement.

This is the worst-case scenario. This is the ‘what if?’ we’re always talking about. This is the No. 1 overall pick, a player that could have been banking seven-figures right now had the NBA not implemented the one-and-done rule, risking his livelihood because David Stern and his cronies ruled that a player be 19 and a year out of high school to be eligible for the draft.

The point that needs to be made clear here is that this is not college basketball’s fault. They have no control over what the NBA decides to do. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Mark Emmert and company were pushing for the one-and-done rule to go away. It would take away the headache of some of those recruiting scandals while leaving the NCAA’s one true money-maker — the NCAA tournament — intact.

Maybe Noel’s knee-injury can be a catalyst for change in the next collective bargaining agreement, but that seems unlikely. The NBAPA is an unmitigated disaster right now, and those NBA owners want an extra year — maybe more — of scouting and evaluation and development before they decide to invest millions into an athlete. It’s their money, and they want every bit of information possible to ensure they’re spending it wisely; they want to know they’re spending it on a kid that’s going to be ready to contribute, not a player that needs the length of his rookie contract just to develop enough skill to break into the rotation.

That rule isn’t changing.

And it’s not fair.

So what can we do?

Continue to push for college athletes to be compensated properly by the NCAA? Push for more of the elite players to spend a season abroad? Tell them to avoid college all together and instead spend a year training to develop the rest of their all-around game (an NBA redshirt, if you will)?

Modern medicine has made it such that a blown-out knee is no longer a career-ending injury. Ask Adrian Peterson, who tore his ACL and MCL exactly a year before he nearly broke the single-season NFL rushing record. Ask Branden Dawson, who doesn’t look the slightest bit bothered despite having torn his ACL less than a year ago.

So even if Noel’s knee injury is a worst-case scenario, it’s not necessarily the end of his career.

But the fact that someone so valuable was even put at risk of an injury like this is a travesty.

Yet, there’s nothing that we can do about it than shake our fists and look on disapprovingly.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

PREGAME SHOOTAROUND: A huge Saturday of hoops

Maryland players, including Jaylen Brantley (1) and Varun Ram (21), cheer after Jake Layman (10) scored against Nebraska during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Lincoln, Neb., Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016. Nebraska's Shavon Shields (31) and Benny Parker react. Maryland won 70-65. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
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GAME OF THE NIGHT: No. 18 Purdue at No. 4 Maryland, 4:00 p.m.

From Rob Dauster’s Weekend Preview.

We’re going to be getting an interesting contrast of styles in College Park on Saturday afternoon, as the Boilermakers — with arguably the biggest front line in college basketball and one of the best defenses in the sport — take on a Maryland team that likes to spread the floor and relies on the ability of their two talented guards to make plays. The issue for Purdue all season long has been their back court play. Will Johnny Hill and P.J. Thompson make enough plays? Can they get the ball to A.J. Hammons, Isaac Haas and Caleb Swanigan in a position where those big bodies can be effective?

Hammons is going to be the key here. Diamond Stone has had an up-and-down season. There are nights he looks like a top five pick and games where he seems to be completely overmatched. Hammons is a first-team all-Big Ten performer and a guy with an outside shot of making an all-american team that is playing his best basketball of the season right now. So while Melo Trimble and Rasheed Sulaimon — along with Robert Carter — get the headlines, the matchup with Stone and Hammons may be the most important of the game and the one that brings out the NBA scouts en masse.

THIS ONE’S GOOD TOO: No. 3 Villanova at No. 11 Providence, 2:30 p.m.

This game was far more intriguing before Providence forward and Big East leading scorer Ben Bentil injured his ankle in Wednesday’s loss to DePaul. Why was it intriguing? Because Villanova is all alone in first place in the Big East, and if the Friars have any prayer of catching the Wildcats, this is a must-win game. It’s also a rematch of a game from earlier this season, when Providence overcame the two feet of snow Snowzilla dumped on Philly to beat Villanova in overtime. Then throw in the fact that the Friars are looking to right their ship after losing to DePaul (!!!) this week, and there were all kinds of intriguing story lines heading in.

And then Bentil had to go and sprain his ankle.

AND DON’T FORGET THIS ONE: No. 15 Baylor at No. 14 West Virginia, 8:00 p.m.

The Big 12 race is not for the faint of heart this season, but both the Bears and the Mountaineers currently find themselves in the thick of the race. After knocking off Iowa State in Ames this week, West Virginia has climbed into a tie for first place with Oklahoma while Baylor is sitting a game out in a tie for third. Jonathan Holton is not expected back for this one, which should give Baylor an advantage on the interior. The key here: How will Lester Medford deal with the WVU pressure?

WHO’S GETTING UPSET?: No. 2 North Carolina at Notre Dame, 7:00 p.m.

From Rob Dauster’s Weekend Preview:

Does anyone know what’s wrong with Marcus Paige? Over the course of his last six games, the former all-american is shooting just 21.3 percent from the floor and 14.3 percent from beyond the arc. That’s atrocious, particularly when you consider just how good Paige has been at times during his career. The other problem for the Tar Heels? Joel Berry II isn’t playing his best basketball right now, either, and Justin Jackson was in the midst of a slump of his own until Monday’s loss at Louisville. Notre Dame isn’t quite as good as we thought they would be this season, but the Fighting Irish are still a tournament team with one of the best point guards in the country in Demetrius Jackson. The key for them is getting stops, but if they do, they’re potent offensively.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR:

1. Pitt has a big, big game this weekend as they host No. 9 Virginia at 12:00 p.m. We’re still in a position where we don’t really know all that much about the Panthers. Just how good is this team? The only ranked team they’ve played is Louisville (they scored 41 points and lost by 18) and the only quality wins on their profile came against Notre Dame and Syracuse. The could use a home win against a top ten team that has been inconsistent on the road this season.

2. No. 10 Michigan State seemed to find their stride last week, as Denzel Valentine returned to his Player of the Year caliber form while Bryn Forbes and Matt Costello have been playing some of their best basketball of the season. The Spartans will pay a visit to rival Michigan at 2:00 p.m., and while the Wolverines have picked off Maryland in Ann Arbor without Caris LeVert, they’re coming off of a blowout loss in the same building to Indiana.

3. Florida visits No. 20 Kentucky at 4:00 p.m. and I can’t help but feel like we’re going to learn quite a bit about both teams in this game. Kentucky followed up their terrific performance at Kansas by … blowing a 21 point lead at Tennessee and losing. The Gators? They’re streaking right now, having landed a blowout win over West Virginia last weekend. Going into Rupp and winning is a different beast, however.

4. No. 23 Arizona is in a bit of an interesting position right now, as they don’t have much in the way of quality wins on their NCAA tournament profile right now. They’re also two games off the pace in the Pac-12 regular season standings and are still playing without Allonzo Trier. Washington, on the other hand, has been one of the nation’s most entertaining teams. The two will square off on Saturday at 4:30 p.m.

5. There are two games that will be featured on NBCSN on Saturday: Davidson at Duquesne (12:30 p.m.), Delaware at William & Mary (2:30 p.m.).

CLICK HERE to watch these games on NBC Sports Live Extra Saturday afternoon.

OTHER TOP 25 GAMES

  • No. 1 Oklahoma at Kansas State, 6:00 p.m.
  • Marquette at No. 6 Xavier, 12:00 p.m.
  • No. 7 Kansas at TCU, 12:00 p.m.
  • No. 25 South Carolina at No. 8 Texas A&M, 4:00 p.m.
  • No. 13 Iowa State at Oklahoma State, 2:00 p.m.
  • Boston College at No. 19 Louisville, 12:00 p.m.
  • No. 21 Wichita State at Illinois State, 10:00 p.m.
  • No. 22 Indiana at Penn State, 8:00 p.m.
  • No. 24 Dayton at George Mason, 6:00 p.m.

OTHER NOTABLE GAMES

  • Florida State at Wake Forest, 12:00 p.m.
  • Temple at UCF, 12:00 p.m.
  • George Washington at VCU, 12:00 p.m.
  • Cincinnati at Memphis, 12:00 p.m.
  • Texas Tech at Texas, 2:00 p.m.
  • Rutgers at Nebraska, 2:00 p.m.
  • N.C. State at Duke, 2:00 p.m.
  • DePaul at Creighton, 2:00 p.m.
  • Missouri at Alabama, 3:00 p.m.
  • New Mexico at San Diego State, 4:00 p.m.
  • Clemson at Virginia Tech, 4:00 p.m.
  • Stanford at Cal, 4:00 p.m.
  • Butler at St. John’s, 4:30 p.m.
  • Auburn at Georgia, 5:30 p.m.
  • Mississippi State at LSU, 6:00 p.m.
  • Tennessee at Arkansas, 8:00 p.m.
  • Vanderbilt at Ole Miss, 8:00 p.m.
  • Georgetown at Seton Hall, 9:00 p.m.

No. 13 Iowa State suspends Jameel McKay indefinitely

Iowa State forward Georges Niang, forward Jameel McKay, forward Abdel Nader and guard Deonte Burton celebrate after center Stuart Nezlek scored late in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Coppin State, Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2015, in Ames, Iowa. Iowa State won 104-84 (AP Photo/Justin Hayworth)
AP Photo/Justin Hayworth
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Already lacking depth, No. 13 Iowa State will be short a key contributor Saturday when they take on Oklahoma State in Stillwater.

Friday night it was announced that senior forward Jameel McKay has been suspended indefinitely by head coach Steve Prohm and did not make the trip with the team. McKay, who’s been dealing with knee issues recently, is averaging 12.4 points and a team-high 9.0 rebounds per game on the season.

Over the last six games he’s averaging 7.7 points and 8.7 rebounds per contest, shooting 60.6 percent from the field.

McKay has been asked to man the middle for a team lacking in both size and depth, with Georges Niang shifting over to the five when McKay needs a break for either rest or foul trouble reasons. Without McKay even more responsibility falls upon the shoulders of Niang, Abdel Nader and Deonte Burton in the front court.

The Cyclones are looking to end a two-game losing streak, and even with Oklahoma State’s struggles accomplishing that gets tougher with McKay out of the lineup.

News of McKay’s suspension was first reported by the Ames Tribune.