This week's Big 12 Championship in Kansas City just became that much more important, as Kansas will need all the games they can play to adjust and now prepare for the NCAA Tournament without center Joel Embiid, who will now be out indefinitely with a back injury that has been diagnosed as a stress fracture.
Embiid reinjured himself during the loss at Oklahoma State on March 1. He had also missed some time earlier in the season. Now, the Jayhawks prepare for tournament life without their man in the middle.
"Based on that, this weekend is out," Self said. "Next weekend, we feel like is a longshot, but the doctors are hopeful that if Joel works hard in rehab and progresses that it is possible that he could play in the later rounds of the NCAA Tournament if our team is fortunate enough to advance."
The loss especially hurts, because Embiid improved defensively at a rapid pace throughout the season, arguably becoming the team's best defender and basket protector. He broke Kansas' all-time freshman block record with 72 shots blocked. He was also named to the 2014 All-Big 12 Second Team. Embiid led the Jayhawks this season with 8.1 rebounds per game and averaged 11.2 points per game.
Senior forward Tarik Black will continue to start in Embiid's place and be joined on the frontline by Jamari Traylor and redshirt freshman Landen Lucas. Kansas hopes that Embiid will heal in time to help with KU's tournament run, but will not risk the center's health at an expense.
"Everyone is 100 percent confident that Joel will heal and be back to normal soon, but the most important thing is that he gets well," Self said. "We're certainly not going to put him out there unless the doctors, his family and Joel are ready for him to go. I know how bad he wants it, and that he will work his butt off to put him in a position where if our team is successful and fortunate enough to advance, he could return in later rounds."
The Jayhawks begin play at the Sprint Center, Thursday afternoon against either Oklahoma State or Texas Tech in the Big 12 quarterfinals.