MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — A West Virginia basketball team still harboring longshot aspirations of an NCAA berth won’t have to cope with aching Kansas star Joel Embiid in the season finale. Jayhawks coach Bill Self said Monday he plans to rest his sore-backed 7-footer for this week’s final two games.
“We’ve spoken with experts with this particular injury and have been told the same thing we were told before—rest is the best remedy,” Self said.
With the Big 12 crown locked up, No. 8-ranked Kansas faces Texas Tech on Wednesday before visiting West Virginia on Saturday. The news of Embiid taking time off came as the desperate Mountaineers (16-13, 8-8) were preparing for Wednesday night’s game at No. 23 Oklahoma. Upset wins over the Sooners and Jayhawks could once again make West Virginia appealing to the selection committee.
Projected as the No. 1 overall pick in the June NBA draft, the long and agile Embiid has posted 11.2 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game. After a slow first half against West Virginia on Feb. 8, he closed with 11 pints, 12 rebounds and three rejections as Kansas won 83-69.
“It should not be an injury that keeps him out for the rest of the season,” said Self, who suggested his Cameroon-born center could return for next week’s Big 12 tournament. “It’s a similar thing as before, lower back strain basically. … Last time he was off five days and that worked very nicely for him and he was able to come back and be 100 percent.”
Few teams in college basketball can match up against Embiid, but West Virginia’s inexperienced and largely ineffective frontline is at a particular disadvantage. Plus WVU has been missing its own player of late, with third-leading scorer Terry Henderson too sick to practice the past two weeks.