Coach Bill Self announced Monday that Embiid will miss KU’s final two regular-season games against Texas Tech and West Virginia, but said the big man "could return" for the Big 12 tournament.
Resting Embiid is, needless to say, the smart and prudent thing to do. Back injuries are notoriously tricky, and with the season heading into its critical mass, this is the time to let him breathe. Michigan State coach Tom Izzo already has expressed his remorse for not giving Keith Appling enough time to heal for the Red Cross station that is the Spartans' roster.
The beauty of the timing for Kansas, too, is that whatever happens in these last two games shouldn’t hurt it. ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi elevated the Jayhawks to a 1-seed this week, a reward for KU’s ridiculously tough schedule and a punishment for Syracuse’s late-season swoon. Regardless of how these last games turn out, that shouldn’t change.
The selection committee, remember, will put a virtual asterisk next to these results, recognizing that Kansas played without one of its most impactful players.
It could get a little dicey for the committee if Embiid remains on the sidelines through the Big 12 tournament. Those games would still have the injury dispensation, but the committee also would have to weigh whether it would be fair to expect the freshman to return in time for NCAA tournament play.
Three years ago, Syracuse’s Arinze Onuaku injured his knee in a Big East tournament game against Georgetown. The injury was initially labeled a strain, and when asked for feedback from the committee, Syracuse said it expected Onuaku back in time for NCAA play.
The Orange were awarded a 1-seed, but Onuaku didn't play in the tournament for Syracuse, which lost in the Sweet 16 to Butler.