Kansas sophomore center Udoka Azubuike will be a game-time decision for the Jayhawks when they open the NCAA tournament on Thursday against No. 16 seed Penn.
The 7-foot-0 Azubuike has been out since last week with a left knee injury suffered during practice. Kansas won the Big 12 Tournament without its starting big man as Mitch Lightfoot and freshman Silvio de Sousa was effective enough to help the Jayhawks prevail.
But with the Ivy League-champion Quakers going 24-8, they aren’t a typical No. 16 seed. And Kansas isn’t in a position to lose like they theoretically could have last week. So Azubuike and the Kansas staff are optimistic that he can at least see a few minutes against Penn — especially if the Jayhawks need him in a tight game.
“We feel and the docs feel that he’s making unbelievable progress,” Kansas coach Bill Self said to reporters. “We do not want to have a setback. His availability (Thursday) will probably be a game-time decision, but certainly we feel he’s getting better each day, and each day certainly played out to be a pretty big improvement from a rehab standpoint.”
According to a report from Matt Galloway of the Topeka Capital-Journal, Azubuike wouldn’t comment when asked about a pain scale or how the injury happened in practice. Azubuike would like to try to see some action on Thursday, if only to help gain confidence for Saturday’s potential second round game.
Kansas would obviously love to have Azubuike in the lineup but they showed they’re still a top team without him by marching through the Big 12 Tournament. If Azubuike doesn’t play much during the Penn game, it might not mean much if the Jayhawks don’t need him. The subplot will come if Azubuike is prepared for the second round or if Kansas is in a tight game and needs him inside.