Joel Embiid will not play in the Big 12 tournament and will likely be out for the first weekend of the NCAA tournament, Kansas head coach Bill Self announced in a statement released on Monday evening.
“It is possible that he could play in the later rounds of the NCAA Tournament,” Self said, noting that it is a “longshot” that Embiid will be ready to suit up the first weekend.
Embiid aggravated an injury to his back in a loss at Oklahoma State a couple of weeks ago and sat out the final two regular season games. On Monday, he flew to California to get a second opinion from a spinal specialist. The injury was diagnosed as a stress fracture, but it won’t require surgery.
The is clearly massive news. Without Embiid, not only is the Kansas offense limited on the interior, but they lose the nation’s best rim protector on the defensive end as well. It changes their team quite a bit; without Embiid, I’m not sure that Kansas can win a national title.
The other question has to do with how the Selection Committee will seed Kansas, and that will likely have a lot to do with how the Jayhawks do in the Big 12 tournament.
There is also an NBA Draft element here. In a draft that is this loaded, is someone going to risk using the No. 1 or No. 2 overall pick on a 19-year old seven-footer that is already dealing with back issues? Backs are finicky, especially for people that are that tall. Is this an isolated injury or a chronic problem? The last time we saw an elite center with injury issues matriculate through college, Portland missed out on Kevin Durant.
Along those same lines, his professional potential is precisely the reason that Embiid should not return this season. Everyone knows what he can do. He doesn’t need to prove anything this month. Rest up. Get healthy. As much as it sucks for college basketball and Kansas fans, jeopardizing his career in the long-term for an NCAA tournament is just dumb.