In life after Nerlens Noel, it’ll take a ‘by-committee effort’ to replace Noel’s defense and rebounding in the post. The good news for Kentucky is that three of their remaining six opponents are offensively-challenged teams who also do not rebound well. Usually, teams who don’t score much have more chances for offensive rebounds and put up respectable rebounding numbers. That is not the case, however, for Vanderbilt (281st in rebounding), Mississippi State (228th) and Georgia (204th). All three of these teams also rank worse than 300th in points per game.
The bad news? Missouri, led by Alex Oriakhi, ranks 2nd in the nation with 42.2 rebounds per game and offensively is scoring 76.5 points per game (21st in nation). We are far too familiar with what Patric Young and Erik Murphy are capable of doing against the Cats, even with Noel playing most of the game. Obviously, it’s going to take a lot more than a strong effort from just Willie Cauley-Stein to be able to put up a fight against Missouri and Florida. Every man on the court will have to rebound well.
You wouldn’t think Kentucky would struggle too much with Vanderbilt at home Wednesday night following a 30-point loss, but you can’t ignore the fact that the Cats just barely escaped Nashville with a win in their first meeting with quality minutes from Nerlens Noel (even if he was in foul trouble).
Below is a look ahead at the next three big men Kentucky will be challenged with in the upcoming three-game homestand. Kentucky may not stop all of these guys, but to have a chance, they’ll have to contain them and find a way to collectively out-rebound them. Oriakhi is the only one who scares me, but until this team toughens up without Noel on the floor, any of these guys are capable of having big nights against the Cats.
Wednesday vs. Vanderbilt
10.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg
Saturday vs. Missouri
10.6 ppg, 8.8 rpg
Wednesday, 2-27 vs. Mississippi State
8.9 ppg, 6.7 rpg