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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Column: No need to rush Joel Embiid’s return

Kansas forward Tarik Black pounds his chest as he checks out of the game for the final time during the second half on Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Tarik Black pounds his chest as he checks out of the game for the final time during the second half on Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

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Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

Bill Self on celebrating KU's seniors and the Big 12 title

Bill Self on celebrating KU's seniors and the Big 12 title

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Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

Tarik Black, Andrew Wiggins and Naadir Tharpe discuss home finale, where Jayhawks go from here

Kansas basketball players Tarik Black, Andrew Wiggins and Naadir Tharpe discuss their home finale, and where the Jayhawks go from here, after defeating Texas Tech, 82-57, on Senior Night, which doubled as the final home game for one-and-done freshman Wiggins.

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KANSAS 82, TEXAS TECH 57

Box score

The mind has to drift somewhere when the game plays out as one-sided as Wednesday night’s in Allen Fieldhouse, where the scoreboard read Kansas 82, Texas Tech 57 at the end.

Mine drifted to Joel Embiid’s return, whether that comes in time for the Big 12 conference tournament or the NCAA Tournament.

Tarik Black looked so strong, so focused, so talented in place of Embiid that I couldn’t stop picturing the two centers playing together when KU faces a team armed with long and strong inside players.

It has happened here and there, but not very often.

Might we see the centers playing together once Embiid returns?

“It could happen,” Self said. “There’s no question. But if you play them together some that means (Perry) Ellis and (Jamari) Traylor aren’t in there, too. The majority of the teams we play — Texas Tech is one of the few that plays with two low-post players —  most of them play with a stretch four (three-point shooting threat) and a big. So sometimes that makes it a little harder for those guys to guard three-point shooters. But yeah, they could play together. There’s no doubt about that.”

Only junior guard Naadir Tharpe (96 minutes in five games) has logged more NCAA Tournament time than Black (93 minutes in four games), who played well in plenty of big games during his three seasons playing for Memphis, his hometown university. In the regular season a year ago, Black scored 21 points in 22 minutes against  a Louisville team that went on to win the national title.

If a tourney game with the right matchups presents itself so that it makes sense for Embiid and Black to play in tandem, it’s nice to have the luxury of turning to such an experienced, talented player.

Black’s performance won’t change Self’s approach as to when he decides to bring back Embiid (out with a strained lower back). Embiid will sit out Saturday at West Virginia and then Self will go from there. 

No point in rushing Embiid back into the lineup.

Not because Black played so well in his 70th career start. Not because KU would have a decent shot at winning the Big 12 tournament in Kansas City without the freshman 7-footer from Cameroon. The more rest Embiid gets the better. The less he plays in advance of St. Louis, the likely first stop for KU in the NCAA Tournament, the less chance he has of re-injuring his back.

Getting Embiid back to close to full strength outweighs concerns about KU’s seed possibly dropping during his absence. It would take discipline to hold back Embiid with the possibility of a sixth No. 1 seed in eight years dangling — a mind-blowing stretch of excellence — but Self clearly will put a premium on getting Embiid ready for the big tourney.

“I’m not sure a ‘1’ seed guarantees success,” Self said. “I’m not sure it makes much difference. It’s more about matchups than it is what you’re seeded. I think from an ego standpoint, everyone wants to be a so-called ‘1.’ It’s nice to be in the conversation, but we won’t be unless we play well moving forward. I just want us to have as much momentum and be as healthy as we can, regardless of what seed line we’re on.”

After re-aggravating his back in the loss in Manhattan, Embiid sat out one game and played four more before shutting it down again. Taking two weeks off, knocking off the rust in limited minutes in the NCAA Tournament opening game against a No. 15 or No. 16 seed, and then 

bringing KU back to full strength in the next round seems like the safest way to go.

Comments

Scott MacWilliams 7 months, 3 weeks ago

Put my vote in the 'Rest Jojo through Big12' column.

A second muscle tweak in a few weeks to me says that he could have benefited from a few more days to recuperate. But truly, unless he can strengthen his core muscles in the interim, he will be susceptible again. I don't know if he can do anything different in his playing style, but I just hate to see anyone in that kind of pain. It is the worst.

Get better Jojo, we're all pulling for you to be well and free of pain.

Rock Chalk!

Dirk Medema 7 months, 3 weeks ago

"concerns about KU’s seed possibly dropping during his absence"

This was the natural concern, but I'm thinking that our seed possibilities actually are strengthened if we can get a strong performance from the frontline without Jo. Coach played Jo 32 (?) min when he came back the first time. Maybe a game like this and hopefully Saturday will encourage him to give him fewer minutes when he does come back. Regardless, the Big12 tourney could be a brutal 3 games, or maybe the team rises up to their potential and we dominate.

Craig Carr 7 months, 3 weeks ago

As much as we all would like Joel on the floor, especially defensively, resting until the real tournament has to be the decision. He will have the first game to get his legs and timing back. This team is deep enough to win the Big 12 without him

Robert Brown 7 months, 3 weeks ago

Everyone knows too well that a #1 seed does not guarantee a Final Four appearance. It would be interesting if KU and Wichita were in the same regional as 1 and 2 seed.

Jonathan Allison 7 months, 3 weeks ago

I think that Self will make Embiid available during conference tourney and play him as a reserve on an as needed basis.

If we don't need him, don't play him. If we get into foul trouble or need a boost, then he's suited up and ready to go.

Bottom line is that Embiid needs as much time off as he can get to be getting treatment and rehabbing. But this team will need Embiid to be ready and to be sharp at least by the NCAA tournament.

I don't know what value Self will put on the conference tournament, but based on past experience, Self hates to lose a game, any game, and so he will probably pull out all the stops in order to try to win in the post-season. I have a feeling that winning 30 games is still important to Bill Self.

Jack Wilson 7 months, 3 weeks ago

"No point in rushing Embiid back into the lineup."

Correct, but that has nothing to do with whether Black could play well against Texas Tech. Black could go out Saturday and have two quick fouls, and play a limited role as we've seen many times this season, and it wouldn't matter either.

The only thing that matters is Embiid being ready for the NCAA tournament. Because we ain't winning it without him.

Mark Lindrud 7 months, 3 weeks ago

It was nice to see Black perform well, but that has to do with matchups. There are certain centers he matches up well with and some he won't. He hustles and is a leader. I was amused when during the game he got Wiggins into defensive position, which is a great sign of leadership.

We should want the 2 seed because that will put us in the midwest with less travel. The 1 seed puts us in the East with a trip to New York. We want to be in the vicinity of Big 12 country. With a healthy, and rested Joel and a favorable region locale we have a good chance to make some noise, but for now, let's win Saturday before we take too many steps ahead.

Rich Hetherington 7 months, 3 weeks ago

This is off subject, but I wanted to point out that my day to day, Jayhawk desk calendar had a pretty bad typo in it. It was a fairly easy trivia question, but was worded in this way: "Whose college career averages of 29.9 points and 18.9 points per game are Kansas men's basketball records?" The obvious guess is correct, Wilt Chamberlain, but I still can't believe it said points twice rather than points and rebounds. I really want to contact the makers of the calendar for that one! Woops!

Tony Bandle 7 months, 3 weeks ago

POINT/COUNERPOINT:

1] Having Jo Jo back for the Big 12 Tourney would be great./ Gee, maybe three games in less than 72 hours would be the less than ideal way to bring someone back from a back injury.

2] It's all about match ups./ Nope, Coach......it's all about Tarik not getting in early foul trouble. The match-ups will take care of themselves.

3] A number 1 seed would be an advantage for a NC. / Gee, One out of six doesn't strike me as overwhelmingly compelling odds favoring that assumption.

4] The Big 12 Tourney will be a challenge./ You think???.....if all goes according to plan, seven of the final eight teams will at one time or another been in the top 25. [KU, KSU, ISU.OU. OSU, TX, BU....holy crap!!!]

5] Waiting to bring Jo Jo back rested and rejuvenated, for the first NCAA game in a limited scope in order to press forward at full speed makes sense. / I have no counterpoint for that.

Put me down for the scenario as the next time I see Jo Jo in sneakers, I will be sitting courtside in the Scott Trade Center in St.Louis, MO. on Friday, afternoon, March 21st!!

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