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Joel Embiid’s health, ball-screen defense concerns after Kansas loss at Kansas State

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The final three shots and Andrew Wiggins took in regulation in Monday night’s loss to Kansas State are a pretty good representation of what this season has been like for him.

In the final minute with a chance to tie the game, Wiggins airballed a three. A couple of possessions later, he beat his man off the dribble and got into the paint, but his runner bounced off the backboard and rolled off the rim. But being the athletic freak that he is, Wiggins was able to come from the baseline outside the paint and tip in the miss, causing a turnover on the ensuing Kansas State possession that would force overtime.

That’s him right there. That’s who he is. Underwhelming performances where he has a tendency to disappear and leave your mouth agape when you see him make the plays that he is capable of.

It’d be easy to pin this 85-82 overtime loss on another one of those up-and-down performances. Wiggins was 0-for-4 from the floor in the first half, meaning that he’s now 1-for-14 from the field in the first halves of his last three road games. The ‘1’? A half court prayer that came after the first half buzzer sounded at Baylor. He finished the night 4-for-12 from the floor and 8-for-15 from the line.

So yeah, it wasn’t a good night for Wiggins.

But that’s not why Kansas lost. Not even close.

Take a look at the Kansas State’s second half shot chart, via Kansas beat writer Jesse Newell of the Topeka Capital-Journal:

source:
@JesseNewell

If you can’t interpret that, it’s simply: Kansas State got 11 layups and dunks in the second half. Every other shot they hit was a three-pointer. When it comes to running efficient offense, that’s about as ideal as it gets.

Now, the reason that Kansas State got so many layups is a bit more difficult to work through. The obvious answer is that Joel Embiid was out of the game for much of the second half. He’s been dealing with a knee issue since the TCU game two weeks ago and a back issue since Saturday’s win against West Virginia. Bill Self said after the game there’s a chance he might sit out some games.

“Joel is beat up,” Self said after Embiid’s third-straight game in which he played less than 18 minutes. “I’m not going to make one excuse for him, because if you’re out there you have to perform. But certainly, he’s going to get some time off.”

Embiid is one of the nation’s best shot blockers, which would presumably make it more difficult for Kansas State’s burly-but-undersized front line to finish around the rim.

But the way that Kansas State was running their offense, there’s no guarantee he would have been around the rim to block any shots. Kansas was struggling with their ball-screen defense — on one possession, I counted Wildcat ballhandlers running off of six ball-screens — and you can be sure that if Embiid was in the game, his man would have been the one setting the screens. The goal of any coach is to get a shotblocker like that away from the basket — by forcing him to guard a shooter, involving him in screening actions, etc.

That’s besides the point, anyway.

Kansas’ defense has to be much, much better if they are going to be a national title contender.

Iowa State’s starting center Jameel McKay remains suspended

Iowa State forward Jameel McKay celebrates on the court at the end of an NCAA college basketball game against Oklahoma, Monday, Jan. 18, 2016, in Ames, Iowa. Iowa State won 82-77. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
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Steve Prohm announced on Monday that starting center Jameel McKay will not be in the lineup on Wednesday when the Cyclones take on Texas Tech.

“He’ll practice today because I want him in practice,” Prohm said, “but game-wise, he’s suspended.”

McKay did not make the trip to Stillwater with the team on Saturday, where Iowa State beat Oklahoma State, 64-59. Prohm has not gotten into specifics regarding the cause of McKay’s suspension, but it’s reportedly an issue with the way he has been practicing. McKay is dealing with a nagging knee injury, which may play a role in the situation as well.

“My hope is he’ll be with us on Saturday,” Prohm said.

AP POLL: Villanova climbs to No. 1 in the country.

Jay Wright
(AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
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Like the Coaches Poll, Villanova found themselves No. 1 in the AP Poll during the regular season for the first time in the history of the program.

And like the Coaches Poll, there isn’t much in the way of a consensus when it comes to who is the No. 1 team, as there are six teams that received No. 1 votes in the poll this week.

[NEW PODCAST]

[LATEST BRACKETOLOGY]

The biggest shock to me?

The No. 1 team in the NBC Sports Top 25, Iowa, received just 11 first place votes and is ranked fourth in the AP Poll.

They were ranked fifth in the Coaches Poll.

Can we get Fran McCaffery the love they deserve?

Here is the rest of the AP Poll:

1. Villanova (20-3, 32 first-place votes)
2. Maryland (21-3, 13)
3. Oklahoma (19-3, 7)
4. Iowa (19-4, 11)
5. Xavier (21-2)
6. Kansas (19-4, 1)
7. Virginia (19-4, 1)
8. Michigan State (20-4)
9. North Carolina (19-4)
10. West Virginia (19-4)
11. Oregon (18-4)
12. Miami (FL) (18-4)
13. Louisville (19-4)
14. Iowa State (17-6)
15. Texas A&M (18-5)
16. SMU (20-2)
17. Arizona (19-5)
18. Purdue (19-5)
19. Dayton (19-3)
20. Providence (18-6)
21. Baylor (17-6)
22. Kentucky (17-6)
23. USC (18-5)
24. Texas (16-7)
25. Wichita State (17-6)

DROPPED OUT: No. 22 Indiana, No. 25 South Carolina
NEW ADDITIONS: No. 23 USC, No. 24 Texas