Nerlens Noel most overrated 2012 prospect? Whoa, now …

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If you want clicks from college basketball fans, write about Kentucky. If you want clicks and comments, write something critical of a Kentucky player. That’s a guaranteed formula.

Still not enough? Add a generalization that doesn’t apply to college players.

Cue this story at Rant Sports: “Top Prospect Nerlens Noel is Most Overrated Prospect in 2012.”

Noel, the 6-10 center who re-classified from the class of 2013 to 2012 and committed to the Wildcats in the spring, is the man who’ll step into Anthony Davis’ considerable shoes this season. Noel already earned a rep as the best shot blocker in a generation – yes, even better than Davis – and is seen as a guy whose offensive game can only get better.

But Jason Greenberg at Rant is convinced that Noel won’t match Davis’ production. He says Noel’s offensive game was lacking at the adidas Nations event earlier in June (only scoring off putbacks and dunks) and was outplayed by other prospects such as Isaiah Austin and Steven Adams. Worse yet, he got pushed around.

Here’s the thing: Greenberg is right about one thing. Noel probably won’t match Davis’ production. Not many guys – let alone freshmen – lead their team in scoring, rebounding and blocked shots, win a national title and take all the major awards in the process. That’s a remarkable season. But to use Davis’ performance as a way to call Noel overhyped – and throw in references of Bowie vs. Jordan, Oden over Durant – misses the point. (Is Shabazz Muhammad MJ or Durant in this scenario? I’m confused.)

Noel doesn’t have to be the next Davis. If he hits the averages Greenberg expects (eight points, seven rebounds, three blocks) then he’ll still be incredibly valuable. Three blocks a game usually means he’s altering another five or six. That’s game-changer in the frontcourt from a defensive standpoint, which is what Davis was most of the season for the ‘Cats. (Remember that at least one scouting site ranked Austin Rivers as 2011’s top recruit.) Noel will be surrounded by enough scorers and shooters that the points will come. Probably off putbacks and dunks. Concerns about Davis’ build also lingered throughout the season, but somehow didn’t matter in the end (having Terrence Jones down low helped a lot).

But hey, who hasn’t trotted out a sensational headline every now and then? Just don’t make it a habit.

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