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.
On Monday, St. John’s sophomore center Chris Obekpa was diagnosed with a sprain and bone bruise in his right ankle after suffering an injury during practice. On Tuesday, St. John’s announced he could be sidelined for up to two weeks.
“Chris is a central part of what we do on both ends of the court. Our team will have to step up collectively in his absence,” St. John’s head coach Steve Lavin said in a statement. “Chris is not only an outstanding defender with shot blocking prowess but his recent offensive contributions have been a significant part of our team’s success. One of our team’s strengths is depth so we are confident in our front line players’ ability to see us through this challenging stretch.”
Despite starting Big East play 0-5, the Johnnies’ NCAA tournament hopes are very much alive. Obekpa, who is averaging 4.9 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.2 blocks per game, is one of the top rim protectors in the nation with his 7-5 wingspan. He’s been a key part of the Red Storm’s improved defense, which has led to eight wins in their last nine games.
The current streak doesn’t assure anything for St. John’s, which is currently slotted in the First Four in the latest edition of College Basketball Talk’s Bracketology.
St. John’s will need to boost its resume before Selection Sunday, which can happen with five games remaining in conference play. The Red Storm travel to Philadelphia on Saturday to take on No. 9 Villanova and will be back at home next Tuesday against Xavier, another team on the bubble.
Though, both of those games will be without the services of the 6-foot-9 Obekpa.
St. John’s hosts Butler at 9 p.m. on Tuesday night.
Arizona lost its unblemished record and No. 1 ranking on Saturday night. The Wildcats also lost starting forward Brandon Ashley to a foot injury that will sideline him for the remainder of the season.
The 6-foot-8 Ashley will likely undergo surgery, within the next couple of weeks, to fix his injured right foot, according to a report from Bruce Pascoe of the Arizona Daily Star.
“It’s a season-ending foot injury and it’s obviously significant,” Arizona head coach Sean Miller said on Monday afternoon. “First and foremost with an injury like that, it’s always about what’s in the best interest of the student-athlete and in this case, what’s in the best interest of Brandon Ashley’s future.
“Right now the next phase is just to determine … there’s different ways of doing surgery but again, which way is going to be in his best interest and that choice is made and he can have the surgery, move forward and have a prosperous career.”
With Ashley out, freshman forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson will likely be inserted into the starting lineup, moving fellow freshman Aaron Gordon to the four. According to Pascoe, players like Matt Korcheck, Elliott Pitts and Jordin Mayes could see a bump in minutes, coming off the bench along with reserve guard Gabe York.
Ashley was averaging 11.5 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.0 assists per game, shooting 53 percent.
No. 2 Arizona plays its first game without its sophomore forward on Thursday night at home against Oregon.
Injuries have been an unfortunately stable presence in No. 7 Michigan State’s season. A noticeable injury in recent weeks has been 6-foot-10 senior forward Adreian Payne, who has been sidelined, wearing a boot on his foot, for the past five games.
Expect that number to rise to at least seven games, according to a report from Andy Katz of ESPN on Tuesday afternoon. Michigan State Tom Izzo has ruled his senior forward out for the next two games, meaning Payne will be in street clothes for Tuesday night’s top-15 showdown against Iowa and a non-conference matchup against Georgetown on Saturday afternoon at Madison Square Garden.
Izzo also announced that Payne, the team’s second-leading scorer and rebounder at 16.2 points and 7.7 rebounds per game, could return to action against Penn State on Feb. 6 in East Lansing. Three days after hosting the Nittany Lions, the Spartans go head-to-head with No. 14 Wisconsin inside the Kohl Center.
With Payne out, Michigan State is 4-1, with the lone loss coming on Saturday against Michigan. The Spartans trail Michigan by 1/2 a game in the Big Ten Conference standings, ahead of Iowa by a 1 1/2 games.
Louisville has won four straight games after dropping a conference game at home against Memphis on Jan. 9. The last three wins for No. 12 Louisville have come without the services off first-year transfer point guard Chris Jones, who has been dealing with an oblique injury suffered in the Cardinals win over SMU on Jan. 12.
The Cardinals haven’t played since last Wednesday — a win over South Florida — and in that time Jones has returned to practice. The eight-day break has been a boost for Jones’ recovery, who could see a return to the floor this week, according to a report from Jeff Greer of the Courier-Journal, in time for Thursday night’s matchup with No. 13 Cincinnati, the top team in the American.
“We’d play well with Chris as well,” Pitino said after Louisville’s win over South Florida. “He’s only going to enhance our play.”
Freshman Terry Rozier has assumed the role of point guard in Jones’ absence, and has played well in the expanded role. In three wins over Houston, UConn and South Florida, he averaged 7.7 points, 4.7 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 2.3 steals. Rozier committed just two turnovers n 87 minutes.
Jones has posted averages of 11.3 points, 2.9 assists and 2.2 rebounds per game for Louisville this season.
On Saturday night, Michigan State was without Adreian Payne (for the fifth straight game) and Branden Dawson. The injuries have been an on-going dilemma for the Spartans. But Sparty wasn’t the only team inside the Breslin Center on Saturday dealing with sidelined starters.
Michigan has been without sophomore center Mitch McGary, an preseason All-American, since Dec. 14. The 6-foot-10 McGary has missed 11 games this season and counting after undergoing back surgery on Jan. 7.
Following Saturday’s big conference win over in-state its rival, the Michigan big man spoke for the first time about his back, and the recovery process, according to Brendan Quinn of MLive.com
“I really don’t know right now,” McGary answered when asked when he’ll start rehab. He’s waiting for another appointment with his doctor. There is no timetable for his return.
McGary, the breakout star in last season’s NCAA tournament, is averaging 9.5 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game in eight contests for the Wolverines. He’s missed nine straight games, all wins for Michigan.
Despite being out, McGary has clearly played a role in the team’s win streak with strategic game plans like this: