Nerlens NoelJust as Kentucky seemed poised to finally climb back into the national conversation, the Wildcats’ tournament hopes were dealt a crushing blow.

The team announced Wednesday that star freshman Nerlens Noel will miss the remainder of the season after tearing his ACL during Tuesday night’s 69-52 loss to Florida. Noel came down awkwardly on his left knee after blocking a shot midway through the second half and was carried off the court by teammates.

The 6-foot-10 forward was the nation’s top recruit out of high school and had replaced Anthony Davis as the defensive leader for the defending-champion Wildcats. Noel leads the nation with 4.5 blocks per game while ranking second in the SEC in rebounding (9.6 per game) and averaging 10.6 points per night.

The Everett, Mass., native was projected by many to continue to follow in the footsteps of Davis, who was picked No. 1 overall in the 2012 NBA draft after spending one season in Lexington. It is now unclear whether Noel, who thanked fans via Twitter for their support, will follow his expected path of turning pro after the season or return to Kentucky for his sophomore year.