On Friday, Kansas, the No. 2 seed in the South Region, got past upset-minded Eastern Kentucky, 80-69, in the Round of 64. For the Jayhawks, it was the fifth straight game playing without freshman center Joel Embiid, who is dealing with a back injury.
When KU takes the floor in St. Louis on Sunday against No. 10 Stanford, Embiid will miss a sixth consecutive game, according to a report from Jeff Goodman of ESPN. Entering the NCAA tournament, it was unlikely that Embiid would be able to go during the first weekend, and Kansas head coach Bill Self made that official on Saturday afternoon.
Self also told Goodman that Embiid would be questionable to appear in the Sweet 16, if the Jayhawks can get past the Cardinal on Sunday.
Even without Embiid in the lineup, KU still has a good frontline with second leading scorer Perry Ellis while Tarik Black and Jamari Traylor have both stepped up in recent games, such as Traylor’s 17 points and 14 rebounds against Eastern Kentucky. Despite missing Embiid’s 2.6 blocks per game, the Jayhawks were able to reject seven of the Colonels’ attempts on Friday.
Clearly, they will go up against a much better team on Sunday. The attention might be on Kansas’ missing piece inside, but the Jayhawks will need to focus in on the Cardinal’s talented backcourt of Chasson Randle and Anthony Brown. Both of them played every minute of Thursday’s win over New Mexico, scoring 33 of Stanford’s 58 points off 10-of-23 (6-of-9 from three) shooting.
The Stanford-Kansas Round of 32 matchup is scheduled to tip at 12:15 p.m. on Sunday afternoon.
(This will be updated throughout the day.)
GAME OF THE DAY: Syracuse 74, No. 25 Texas A&M 67
The Orange got 20 points from Michael Gbinije and 15 points and five assists from Trevor Cooney as they won the Battle 4 Atlantis title on Friday afternoon. We wrote on this game earlier. Are the Orange for real this year?
No. 10 Gonzaga 73, No. 17 UConn 70: Eric McClellan and Kyle Dranginis made some big plays down the stretch as the Bulldogs held on to win a game they led by as much as 21 in the second half. Kyle Wiltjer scored a team-best 17 points for Gonzaga, which finished third at the Battle 4 Atlantis. Rob Dauster wrote more about the Bulldogs and their second-half performance here.
Alabama 64, No. 20 Wichita State 60: Not only did the Shockers drop their second straight at the AdvoCare Invitational, but they also saw Anton Grady leave the game on a stretcher after being involved in a scary second-half collision. He was awake and alert shortly after leaving the court. While the Shockers’ losses to USC and Alabama don’t help them from an NCAA tournament standpoint, the bigger issue is the team’s health.
Quincy Ford, Northeastern: Not only did he score 24 points in the upset win over No. 15 Miami, but he hit the game-winning jumper, too. Video here.
Wichita State’s bigs: Five of them (Anton Grady, Zach Brown, Rashard Kelly, Bush Wakumota, Eric Hamilton) finished a combined 3-for-21 from the floor with 14 points and 14 fouls. Wakumota shot one of the worst threes you’ll ever see with Wichita State down 62-60 with 10 seconds left.
Grady suffered a scary neck injury late in the game, but early reports sound positive.
THE REST OF THE TOP 25
- Jamal Murray went for 21 points and three assists without a turnover at No. 1 Kentucky rolled over South Florida. The big question: How bad is Tyler Ulis’ elbow injury?
- Jalen Brunson and Josh Hart both had 13 points as No. 8 Villanova knocked off Georgia Tech to win the Preseason NIT, 69-52.
- No. 23 Xavier raced out of the gates against USC and led by as much as 32, going on to win 87-77 in Orlando. Trevon Bluiett led four Musketeers in double figures with 16 points and James Farr added 12 to go along with nine rebounds off the bench.
OTHER NOTABLE RESULTS
- Stanford finished third at the Preseason NIT with a 69-66 win over Arkansas, closing the game on a stunning 21-1 run. Rosco Allen scored eight of his career-high 25 points during that run, and Marcus Allen’s goal-tended layup with 2.6 seconds remaining gave the Cardinal the lead for good.
UNLV sophomore Goodluck Okonoboh is transferring out of the program, a source told NBCSports.com.
The 6-foot-10 center was the No. 31 recruit in the Class of 2014, but he never was able to find a place in the UNLV rotation. He averaged 2.9 blocks as a freshman, but is a career 34 percent free throw shooter that never proved he could be more than just an athlete.
With Ben Carter getting eligible and UNLV landing Stephen Zimmerman this season, Okonoboh’s minutes dried up. He played just 19 minutes total against UCLA and Indiana.