Joel Embiid-less KU to face 0-for-Big 12 TCU

Kansas center Joel Embiid looks for an outlet as he is defended by Baylor players Isaiah Austin, left, and Brady Heslip during the first half on Monday, Jan. 20, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas center Joel Embiid looks for an outlet as he is defended by Baylor players Isaiah Austin, left, and Brady Heslip during the first half on Monday, Jan. 20, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Kansas University freshman center Joel Embiid, who has started the last 16 games after coming off the bench to open the season, will miss today’s 3 p.m. KU-TCU contest as he continues to rehabilitate his aching knee and back.

“He hasn’t done anything except get treatment,” KU coach Bill Self said of the 7-foot freshman, who will be replaced by senior Tarik Black in the starting lineup. Black started the season’s first eight games before giving way to Embiid.

“Although (his back is) a lot, lot better, it’s still not totally pain-free,” added Self, who believes Embiid will play Tuesday at Texas Tech. “We’re hoping he’ll be able to practice by Sunday.”

Embiid dressed for practice Friday in Allen Fieldhouse but did not compete in scrimmage situations.

Today’s foe, TCU, enters the weekend with something in common with Southern Utah of the Big Sky Conference, Illinois-Chicago of the Horizon League, San Jose State of the Mountain West and Citadel of Southern Conference.

All those squads are winless in league play.

“No, they haven’t got a win. They’re going to beat somebody, and I honestly believe that. It’s just a matter of time before they bust through,” Self said of TCU (9-14), which is 0-11 in the Big 12. KU is 18-6, 9-2.

One reason Self figures the Frogs are destined for one or more league victories is, “They’re much improved over last year. Last year they beat us and beat Oklahoma both handily,” Self said.

Indeed, the Horned Frogs went 2-16 in the Big 12 and 11-21 overall a year ago in Trent Johnson’s first year at the Fort Worth, Texas, school. The Frogs, who fell to KU, 91-69, on Jan. 25 in Fort Worth, have a pair of nonconference victories this season over Tulsa, plus wins over Washington State and Mississippi State.

“If you look at their scores, at Iowa State Ejim goes for 48, and still it’s a nine-point game late. That’s with a guy getting 48,” Self said.

ISU’s Melvin Ejim scored a Big 12-record 48 points in ISU’s 84-69 victory over the Horned Frogs last Saturday in Ames.

“If you look at their last game, they only lost to Texas by three — a team second in the conference,” power forward Black said of TCU’s 59-54 loss to Texas on Feb. 4 in Fort Worth. TCU has had one home game since then, a 91-58 blowout loss to Baylor on Wednesday.

“You can look at the stats and say they haven’t got a win yet. We can look at film and say they very well could have won that game,” Black added. “They had opportunities. They definitely can get a win in conference. It just hasn’t happened yet.”

TCU has also lost by five points at home to West Virginia, six at Texas Tech and eight at Oklahoma. TCU in the first meeting against KU was victimized by Andrew Wiggins, who scored 27 points. He was followed in the box score by fellow freshmen Embiid (14), Wayne Selden (12), Landen Lucas (7), Frank Mason (6), Brannen Greene (6) and Conner Frankamp (3). Sophomores Jamari Traylor and Perry Ellis had eight points apiece, while nobody else scored, meaning all of KU’s points were scored by freshmen and sophomores.

“At every position, they have somebody who can score. They attack you, so you really have to be on your toes on every defensive possession,” said TCU junior forward Amric Fields, who scored 13 points in the first meeting. Freshman forward Brandon Parrish led the way with 15 points on a night the Frogs hit 43.1 percent of their shots to KU’s sizzling 57.4 percent mark.

Coach Johnson, who had a 67-62 record in four seasons at LSU (one NCAA appearance) before taking the TCU job in 2012-13, became a firm believer in KU’s national-title aspirations after the Jan. 25 game.

“That’s a team that competes hard every possession. That’s what a guy like me respects. They are not caught up in their ranking. They are a special group. I’d be very surprised if they remain healthy they are not here in April,” Johnson said, referring to Arlington, Texas, where the 2014 Final Four will be held.

“Bill’s teams are always focused,” Johnson said. “First possession, last possession, that’s been a well-oiled machine for years. We’re trying to be relevant here (at TCU).”

Johnson likes KU’s talent.

“He’s a special player,” Johnson said of Wiggins. “Joel, Wayne, you can go down the line. The guy so much better nobody talks about is (Naadir) Tharpe. Running the team, making decisions. In my shallow opinion, they’ve probably got six pros. They play the game right, hard and together.”

As far as his own team, “It has to do with depth ... physically and skill level we just are not there right now,” Johnson said.