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Kentucky Needs Nerlens Noel To Step Up

There's lots of pressure on the kid with the flat-top.

The Kentucky Wildcats didn't have the best week. First, they traveled to Notre Dame's Purcell Pavilion and lost by 14 points, and then they followed that up with their first ever home loss under Coach Calipari, to Baylor.

Everyone knows that this team is much, much different than the one that won last year's national title, and like most Calipari-coached teams, it is stacked with freshmen who need seasoning. Yet some of the young players need to start growing up a little faster:

In assessing Kentucky's performance, freshmen center Nerlens Noel told the Associated Press,

''I think a lack of concentration, having lapses during important parts of the game, bad shooting and field goal percentage, especially myself. I guess I did not have enough touch.''

Understandably, there is a lot of pressure on Noel to be the team's new leader. Noel was the No. 1 rated high school player in the country last year, and he happens to play the same position as 2012's Kentucky super-stud Anthony Davis. Many fans expected Noel to step right in and fill those shoes without any difficulty.

Yet that has not been the case. Despite decent-looking numbers (11.4 ppg. 9.4 rpg), it has been apparent to anyone watching that Noel has struggled against the bigger college competition (Duke, Notre Dame, and Baylor). Teams are attacking him early and often, and Kentucky is struggling as a result.

It certainly is early in the season, and Noel has plenty of time to grow and improve, but if he doesn't do so fast, Kentucky could be in for a long, long season. Nerlens Noel needs to start taking his game a little more seriously.