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With Noel Out, Burden is on Cauley-Stein to Help the Team, and Himself

While we’re all still dealing with how to handle the loss of Nerlens Noel, the Cats have a very practical, and fast-approaching problem: we go to Tennessee on Saturday.  While it can be hard to say goodbye to what we had, I’m sure there are only a few things, if any, that Noel would want more than his teammates to go out and play ball.  In fact, he seems to be handling this whole thing better than literally everyone else.

But as Wylie Burp famously said, “One man’s sunset is another man’s dawn.”  And while Nerlens’ basketball career is far from over, his season at UK is just that.  So what does that mean for the team?  It’s going to take a village to replace the defensive impact that Nerlens brought to the court (possibly the best in Kentucky history), but the lion’s share is going to fall on the other half of the Twin Towers, Willie Cauley-Stein.

Because whether you wanted them or not, Willie, here’s thirty-plus minutes a game.  The question now is, what are you going to do with them?  He hasn’t played more than thirty minutes in a single game so far this season, but you can expect that to change almost immediately.  So even though he certainly didn’t ask for it, and I’m sure isn’t happy about the circumstances surrounding it, he’s got a golden opportunity to really play himself into the NBA lottery with solid performances down the stretch.  It’s almost exactly the plot of 8 Mile, except it’s not about rap and he has Julius Mays instead of Mekhi Phifer.  Other than that, it’s spot-on.

So what does Willie have to do to earn himself a top-14 draft spot?  Well for starters, his free-throw percentage is going to have to improve.  37.5% from charity just isn’t going to help him make a good impression, nor the team win games.  Compare that to his team-best 64% FG shooting, and you have a guy that you know can make those shots, but is blanking for whatever reason.

And speaking of 64% FG shooting, that’s going to have to maintain, but at a much higher volume, if Kentucky’s got any chance of keeping defenders from swarming our perimeter players.  The rebounding, too, will have to stay good, or even get better.  WCS averages 5.5 in 20 minutes, while Nerlens was picking up 9.5 in 32 minutes.  We can’t expect Willie to automatically fill that void, but he will have to step it up if we want to keep improving on the glass (which the team has done drastically since early-season matchups with Maryland and Duke).  Can he do all this?  Sure.  Will he?  (See what I did there?  “Will he”/”Willie”? … It’s stupid, nevermind.)  We’ll have to watch and see.

Ultimately, we’re still feeling a loss that stings.  For a team already on the bubble, this was the worst thing that could have happened to our tourney chances.  But, the season isn’t over, and the bulk of the responsibility for how it ends falls to Willie Cauley-Stein.  He doesn’t have to be the next Nerlens to help the team on Selection Sunday, but even playing solid ball, while showing steady signs of improvement, could be enough to push us over the edge.  And, added bonus, if he does that, he’ll be helping not only his team, but his draftability.

Your move, Willie.  What do you got?

Article written by Corey Nichols

58 Comments for With Noel Out, Burden is on Cauley-Stein to Help the Team, and Himself

  1. also and otherwise
    9:03 am February 14, 2013 Permalink

    actually i think it is Poythress who has to up his game the most

  2. Matt
    9:05 am February 14, 2013 Permalink

    I love this team and will never give up on them but does anyone else think it sounds insane that there is even a slim chance we could have 4 lottery picks on this team and be struggling to even make the tourney? NBA scouts are crazy.

  3. five star heaven
    9:10 am February 14, 2013 Permalink

    we have 4 and 5 stars mostly on are team and we scared we not going to make the tournament…i think its Cal’s coaching!
    You tell me josh can get us to a final four but you can’t develop Willie….Cal you make 5 million a year,get your ass to work.

  4. slimflannery
    9:12 am February 14, 2013 Permalink

    2. When you see how many players leave school early, enter the NBA draft, and then end up playing 5 minutes or less a game, it seems like more would stay. I know they are getting paid as they develop, but it sure seems like college players have more fun and still enjoy game….but I have never been in that situation with the possibility of a large payday dangling before me.

  5. Rich
    9:12 am February 14, 2013 Permalink

    #1 – you are absolutely correct. #3, it’s not the coaching, it’s the players and their attitudes. He’s coaching harder this year than he has before. The kids aren’t buying in.

  6. Bob Loblaw
    9:15 am February 14, 2013 Permalink

    They need to work on their help side defense and Archie needs to sit on the bench more.

  7. Harlen Stud
    9:17 am February 14, 2013 Permalink

    I will be preying for wcs to have a good game. Go cats!

  8. hawkeyetim
    9:19 am February 14, 2013 Permalink

    NBA drafts potential…….projecting what type of player he will be in five years……like looking at 8th graders and guessing who will be a stud his senior year of high school.

  9. HeshimuEvans'2ndGradeTeacher
    9:20 am February 14, 2013 Permalink

    His FT percentage could be 7.5%, as long as he’s 7ft, got the motor he has, and the hands, they’re gonna want him. My bet though, Cal is gonna try and get by with not playing him that many minutes. I’m guessing you’re gonna see the combo of Alex & Kyle down low a lot, especially in the next few games.

  10. bung
    9:22 am February 14, 2013 Permalink

    I hope we start Willie, Wiltjer, Hood, Polson, Mays. Poytress will get time subbing for Willie and Kyle. Ryan and Archie haven’t changed all year. They are a negative right now and cost us games. I hope they get sub minutes only until they show that they are willing and able to do it right…Nerlens injury took the focus off of how lousy Ryan and Arch played. It was embarrassing. Even the Sports center guy at halftime said Ryan had no business on the floor. I wish we had a deeper bench but we don’t.

  11. Bluekzu
    9:22 am February 14, 2013 Permalink

    I don’t get this. Willie was never talked about as a one year player when he signed. I like him a lot, but he seems to be more like Kyle and will need much more than a year. I don’t think he’s going anywhere yet.

  12. Tad
    9:23 am February 14, 2013 Permalink

    You are putting too much on Willie. Yes, he needs to step up, and he has a great chance to improve his draft stock. But even tremendous production from him would not offset a lack of production from Poythress and Goodwin, and Harrow’s inconsistency. Kyle Wiltjer has the potential to emerge as the team leader, and he and Mays, as the most experienced players, could well be the key to how they finish the year. Champions come through in tough times, and they may, but these are still young men who already have too much pressure on them.

  13. Ridge Runner
    9:23 am February 14, 2013 Permalink

    Willie has had a problem with cardio too which worries me. ya see him out of breath a lot even at 15-20 min / game. At least more so than others I’ve seen.

  14. RICK
    9:25 am February 14, 2013 Permalink

    I have to agree with # 3, the coaching this year is awful, teach a player to shot free throws, teach a player to drive stop and take a 5 foot jump shot,teach a player to make a good solid pass,if not for a piss poor pass Noel would still be playing. All this bs about the team needs to love each other is crazy. You can either coach or you can win with good players. I here people saying the players are just not that smart, i’m not buying that. Coach a little and dont worry about the team loving each other and buying in.

  15. Pioneer Pirate
    9:25 am February 14, 2013 Permalink

    When you run through players like water (one and done), this is what happens. We need to develope players a little more before feeding them to the wolves.

  16. ummmm
    9:28 am February 14, 2013 Permalink

    3. The 4 and 5 star players we have on the team werent as highly ranked as the 5 star players in the past or the 5 star players we have coming in next year. Other than Noel where were the others ranked coming out of high school. We all new this class wasnt nearly as good as the rest, and they have one more games than the class of Jones, Lamb, and Brandon Knight.

  17. Flippy23
    9:29 am February 14, 2013 Permalink

    It is not a burden…’s an opportunity.

  18. Kevin
    9:31 am February 14, 2013 Permalink

    13, I think that’s because he is going full speed and knows that he doesn’t have to stay on the floor with Noel playing with him. With Noel out, he will approach the games differently since he may have to stay out there for extended minutes. It’s like saying, “I’m going to go in there like a blaze and as soon as I get worn out, I will rest on the bench until I can go blazing in there again”. He hasn’t had to worry about getting tired because he was coming off the bench.

  19. inlinefor9
    9:32 am February 14, 2013 Permalink

    Everyone b*tching about the one and done and Cal’s coaching, yall remember we won a championship last year right? And a Final 4 the year before that. And an Elite 8 the year before that. This years been rough, but honestly, take your fairweather opinions and get the hell out.

  20. R. Smith
    9:33 am February 14, 2013 Permalink

    reading this blog entry just depressed me more about the rest of the season.

  21. bung
    9:36 am February 14, 2013 Permalink

    I hope Malone and Lanter are practicing free throws and understand that on a fast break when you draw the defender to you that is when you PASS, not shoot…

  22. Dude
    9:36 am February 14, 2013 Permalink

    I disagree about it being coaching to an extent. If a player shoots over three people while he has open teamates, that’s on the player. Constant travels and stepping out of bounds is on the player as well. However I would love to see more sitting on the bench when selfish plays are occuring. Anytime you put yourself above the team in a situation where your teamate has a much higher percent of success, you should sit on the bench. That’s the aspect of coaching that I think is missing. I coached for 8 years at the middle and high school level (obviously much different). If my players were selfish, they sat on the bench. Nothing wrong with scoring 30 when the opportunities are there, but when you constantly take a pass on your teamates, that is a problem.

  23. Rae
    9:38 am February 14, 2013 Permalink

    3. Josh was 22. Josh had been thrown into a bathroom stall at one point in his life. Willie is 18. That’s the difference. You can coach as hard as you can, but if they aren’t going to listen, they aren’t. Parents go through the same thing. Not every boneheaded kid is the result of bad parenting. Not everyone is teachable. Cal got an Austin Rivers and a boy who looks scared of his own shadow sometimes. These guys don’t all turn into men on our timetables, or Cal’s. These could be the 5 stars that need time to develop. Not all blue chip guys are created equal.

  24. Bob
    9:41 am February 14, 2013 Permalink

    There’s no way Nerlens only averaged 24 mins a game.

  25. ACL SchmACL
    9:43 am February 14, 2013 Permalink

    I think the real burden is on Wiltjer to get his feet out of the quicksand and be a more alert helpside defender. We’d have 2-3 more wins if this team was just decent at help defense.

  26. ummmm
    9:46 am February 14, 2013 Permalink

    14 if they dont know how to make a solid pass by college something is seriously wrong……no coach works on free throws during practice unless they are working on setting up a press or running break out drills….. free throw practice is done while running wind sprints at the end of practice to simulate a game experience and other then that its up to the players to stay after practice and work on it on there own. He doesnt want them to love each other LOL! He wants them to TRUST each other…….

  27. H.A. Milton
    9:48 am February 14, 2013 Permalink

    Forgive me if someone already stated this, its getting tough to read the comments on here, but, the difference in WCS’ FG and FT% lies in the fact that he isn’t 2 feet from the rim when he attempts a free throw, not tough to figure that out. Also, I agree with one of the comments I did read. I think the biggest change we could see out of the gapping, monstrous, canyonesque hole left by Nerlens is Poythress. He seems to have deferred and maybe felt a little bit of butthurt at being second (or third) fiddle, and now, hopefully he can step up and be a big presence for the team inside. WCS is already doing what he can, and as was stated, hopefully he can sustain over longer minutes. But all this doesn’t really speak to the fact that those guards looked lost out there with out Nerlens down low. they just shut down and couldn’t get anything going. It was kind of wierd. We don’t have a PG and have not, all year. Sorry, but Harrow is as soft as they come, a walking muffin top, and try as he might, Polson is just not good enough…Love the CATS, this is going to be an interesting ride.

  28. masscat
    9:48 am February 14, 2013 Permalink

    Nerlens’ 9.5rpg came in an average of almost 32 minutes, not in 24… meaning that they each rebound at roughly the same rate when they’re on the floor.

  29. Dude
    9:50 am February 14, 2013 Permalink

    I’m interested to see how they respond. This may change the mindset of the entire team. With our best player out, they may all feel a sense of urgency to get better because of his absense. I think Willie’s biggest hurdle will be to stay out of foul trouble each game. But I feel we may become slighty better on the offensive end, and have a large sense of urgency on defense with Noel being gone.

  30. BigRush
    9:51 am February 14, 2013 Permalink

    Well… For everyone who wanted to know when John hood was going to get on the floor. You’re prayers have been answered.

  31. Bill says
    9:52 am February 14, 2013 Permalink

    First year Elite 8, second year Final Four, third year National Champions. Yes, Cal needs to step it up a little he is way behind John Wooden. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

  32. ummmm
    9:55 am February 14, 2013 Permalink

    I think most of you will be surprised by WCS…… remember he has missed a quit a few games this year…. hurting his conditioning and growth he hasnt played basketball but for a couple of years right? I say he has 4-5 blocks against TENN!

  33. Troy
    9:57 am February 14, 2013 Permalink

    I am a diehard UK fan. I bleed blue, but the loss of Nerlens is so disheartening, and the team play so frustrating, I’m not sure I can follow this team any more this year. It became a lay up drill after nerlens went down. Our NBA shooting guard can’t shoot AT ALL. Our NBA all world forward misses lay ups and charges almost as frequently as our NBA shooting guard that can’t shoot. Honestly, I don’t remember us ever having a shooting guard who shot as terribly as Goodwin, and I’ve been watching this team since the early 80’s. Our only scoring threat can’t get himself open, and often looks to not score, and is a massive defensive liability. Our point guard disappeared from the game, and has regressed since he peaked at Louisville. our only players who bought into the system and give it their all wouldn’t have played more than 2 minutes a game on last year’s team, and they are getting 20+ minutes a piece. Seriously, the only “joy” I had from this team was watching a master at his craft single handedly win games through effort and amazing defensive prowess. Watching this team on offense is like having a tooth extracted without anesthesia. Now, watching both ends of the floor will be PAINFUL. I think for my own mental health, I’ll just read up on the crushings we shall get in the near future AFTER the game and in the horrible box score stats we are sure to put up.

    Honestly, it really is in the best interest of Goodwin and Poythress to go pro, because I doubt they start on next year’s team, and their minutes will go down. This is probably as high as their draft stock will be, almost as high as the NBA scouts evaluating them as NBA players.

  34. rick
    9:58 am February 14, 2013 Permalink

    Sorry, I got a little carried away on my post. Won it all last year and will probably win it all next year. GO BIG BLUE

  35. Corey Nichols
    10:00 am February 14, 2013 Permalink

    24 – You’re right, good catch. When I wrote that, I must have looked at Wiltjer’s minutes on ESPN, which are right above Nerlens’. User error. It’s been fixed.

  36. Boyd Crowder
    10:04 am February 14, 2013 Permalink

    We are down to 6 true scholarship players in the rotation. Don’t see how this can end well.

  37. RealCatsFan
    10:05 am February 14, 2013 Permalink

    I think we may see Kyle playing more of the 5 spot instead of the 4. That would move Alex to the 4, and he actually seems to play a little better from that position. Having Kyle at the 5 would also allow him to force the opponent’s 5 to come outside to guard him, which could open up the lane a little more for the dribble drive.

    Our best lineup for offense would probably be Harrow -1, Goodwin-2, Mays-3, Poythress-4, Kyle-5. May have to interchange the 2 & 3 depending on matchups. Hood could see some action at the 3 as well. The big adjustment for this team will be defense. These kids are so used to relying on a shot blocker in the middle to clean up their ole-style defense that they might have trouble adjusting to staying in front of their man. Cal might find himself cracking the “Zone Defense for Dummies” book late at night to finish out this season.

  38. tyrus
    10:09 am February 14, 2013 Permalink

    Nerlens minor, the end of my college career. Nerlens major, playing for an NBA team. BBN, he’s moved on so let us move on and give Willie all the good Karma he needs. It’s great to support Nerlens during his rehab but more focus needs to be on the current players.

  39. Hash
    10:10 am February 14, 2013 Permalink

    Can’t believe people even attempt to call themselves true fans. Something like this happens and everybody is jumping off the bandwagon. You damn people never thought a UK team would suffer an injury. 31 I agree completely. Maybe you fools would be happy if Billy Clyde was still here putting people kids in bathroom stalls, being rude to media, and sitting on the sidelines rocking to and fro while his teams get beat by VMI and Gardner Webb. Come one folks give me a DAMN break. Spoiled bitches!

  40. Josh
    10:10 am February 14, 2013 Permalink

    I would like to know why everyone says a BAD team? IDIOTIC statement, this is a good team, not great but good. Those who say bad do not know basketball. This is the youngest team in CBB. Spoiled idiots that put the burden on these guys by saying bad are the real losers here.

  41. bung
    10:12 am February 14, 2013 Permalink

    I don’t see how ryan and archie could currently even be considered to start. I do think poythress will get enough minutes down low to build his confidence while subbing for willie and kyle. Polson and mays and hood have their negatives but not as many as ryan and archie right now…

  42. Willie Cauley Stein
    10:13 am February 14, 2013 Permalink

    I’m gonna make you all forget about Nerlens what’s his name. Gonna be a shot blockin’, rebound gettin’, dunkin’ machine for the rest of the year. Can you say Final Four Baby!

  43. ThankfulCat
    10:16 am February 14, 2013 Permalink

    Cal needs to play a lot of zone Saturday. Double team the one post guy who blabbed about winning in Rupp(and lost) and chase the guard who can score.

    I wish Cal would implement a 1-3-1 with Willie on the top, Harrow and Goodwin on the wings, Kyle in the middle and Poythress running the baseline. With Willie’s wing span, he could disrupt a lot and we are quick enough to trap out of it and generate some run outs.

    I’m not giving up on this team.

  44. Blue2day
    10:17 am February 14, 2013 Permalink

    The real question becomes will some of the guys with draft potential on this team further refuse to buy in or hustle in fear of an injury? The attitude of, “I ain’t diving for a loose ball and getting hurt ruining my chances.” Surely hope not but actions speak loudly.

  45. asdf
    10:17 am February 14, 2013 Permalink

    The problem with Harrow is that word is out. Pressure him and get a little rough, and he wants to run and hide. Would it be legal to get him a little drunk before the game too relax his nerves?

  46. playersfan
    10:18 am February 14, 2013 Permalink

    It would be a good time to show Hood you had confidence in him, not just tell him and jerk him ever 2 minutes. Who knew that Poythress can’t jump, has trouble dunking the ball, can’t play defense, doesn’t know how to block out on rebounds, and that Archie, who could shoot at the beginning of the year can’t shoot. Been playing with 3 players, now down to 2, going to have to find 3 more from whats there.

  47. UK
    10:20 am February 14, 2013 Permalink

    I sure hope the team isn’t as deflated as I am!

    I’m down in the dumps because of what happened to Noel. Not because of how important he was to our team but how he was such a good person. I feel so bad for him right now!

  48. 2020
    10:21 am February 14, 2013 Permalink

    Can some math geek out there develop a true shooting % which is reflecting of actual shooting, not lay-ups or dunks or putbacks? WCS is a horrible shooter, despite his 64% FG%.

  49. Dribble Drive Offense
    10:22 am February 14, 2013 Permalink

    I’m still waiting to make an appearance this year…

  50. Bluebarn
    10:35 am February 14, 2013 Permalink

    Free throw shooting is a minor concern compared to Willie’s defensive positioning or lack thereof and his agressiveness on the boards without getting pinched or moved-out. He must do both of these things without getting into foul trouble. That is going to be his biggest challenges.

  51. Elzeko
    10:45 am February 14, 2013 Permalink

    I think we should concentrate on the team performance and success instead of where certain players will end up in the draft.No one appreciates what Cal has done and meant to our program. but the facts remain that it is the schools team, and not just a breeding grounds for the pros.Go cats

  52. Optimistic
    10:51 am February 14, 2013 Permalink

    I could be completely wrong, but I feel that this team will step up and do what it needs to do to get in the tourney. We have seen glimpses of how great these players could be all season and believe Noel’s injury will be motivation to make the tourney in honor of him. I have faith in Cal and believe this team will be ready for March as all of Cal’s teams are. Saturday will be a big day to show how this team will react in needing to step up with Noel on the sideline.

  53. bosshogg24
    11:00 am February 14, 2013 Permalink

    We have 3 people who don’t want to play, Harrow, Poythress and Goodwin who think they are in a Church league back home! These 3 must step up and help Willie or it is going to a disaster!

  54. Bledsoe's Biceps
    11:01 am February 14, 2013 Permalink

    49) +1 – That’s been my frustration with this team. The offense absolutely stinks and Cal has stuck with it. He keeps doing the same thing, expecting different results. It has been the modern version of the old UNC 4 corners. They just pass the ball around the perimeter, until 10 to 12 seconds remain on the shot clock. Then they will finally make a pass or drive into the paint. And you can forget about trying any fast breaks. They happen maybe once per game.

  55. The Rev
    11:20 am February 14, 2013 Permalink

    Everyone on the team needs to up their game. As the old saying goes there is no “I” in team. Leadership expert John C. Maxwell gives a simple 3-step process for anyone who wants to reach their full potential: 1). Discover Your Potential – Decide to soar with the eagles not runaround the barnyard with the chickens. 2). Dedicate Your Potential – “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13. 3). Develop Your Potential – Your talent is God’s gift to you. What you do with that talent is your gift back to God. Have a positive self-image and get acquainted with success people.

    Wise words for all of us! Cal is the right man for this challenge.

    Go CATS! Beat The Ugly Orange.

  56. Rondalp
    11:23 am February 14, 2013 Permalink

    I have bn a fan since the early 1950 and still. However i don’t recall ever watching a UK team play so weak as Tuesday night against Florida. Scared to compete! Nerlens always gives 100%. Kyle is a bit slow on his feet.Ryan is timid with his game. Jarrod sets the offense up best of the point guards. Hood! who knows if he could help given minutes. Julius is a good rhythm player. WCS will get his game together, will it be soon enough? Archie and Alex, did Cal really get what he ordered? Archie is no team player, ‘I’m an attack-first guard’. Never smiles. Alex needs to stay focused on his assignments ” get position and block out. Cal! will he has a problem with Archie’s goals.
    Well I’ma still a 100% Supporter of UK.

  57. STEVE!
    1:29 pm February 14, 2013 Permalink

    A problem we have is that our Freshmen are playing like… FRESHMEN! What’t wrong with those guys?! Face it. We have been extremely fortunate to have outstanding mature Freshmen the past three years, and we’re spoiled. A lot of people complain that we don’t have guys that will stay more than one year and develop depth, experience, and cohesion. Well, maybe we have that with this bunch. If we don’t run them off, they may be incredible next year, especially competing daily with the group we have coming in.

  58. Good luck Nerlens
    2:31 pm February 14, 2013 Permalink

    This is a huge stretch for WCS! He is borderline for the draft. Most mock drafts have him as the last pick in the first round. That said I don’t think he goes if he is going to go second round because most have him top 10 in next years draft if he comes back. So he has the rest of this season to show the scouts where he’s at.
    If he plays well and moves his stock up I think he goes. If he gets exposed a little he will probably comeback and be a big part of next years team. Remember he wasn’t like the rest of our freshmen and rated real high where scouts will fall back on that!
    14) I can tell you never coached or played the game by your comments! Let cal coach he gets payed a lot of money and has a elite 8, FF, and NC on his UK record. What do you have???
    47) I feel the same way. He’s been a special young man! As someone who lost his father at a young age to cancer it touches my hart to see a kid his age care about others this much! It takes him a couple hours a week to see those kids but it will last the rest of their lives! With UK’s rich history there is very few who have done more for UK then it has for them. We have been blessed to have had 2 in the last 2 years in Noel and MKG! That’s why I hope he gets payed he deserves it!