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Archive for Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Column: Absence proved Embiid’s worth

March 25, 2014

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Maybe Fred Hoiberg was right. Maybe Joel Embiid was the best player in college basketball. Hoiberg seems to be right about a lot of things, such as how to get a team peaking for the postseason.

The coach whose Iowa State Cyclones enter the Sweet 16 riding a six-game winning streak made that statement about Embiid after KU’s 77-70 victory on Jan. 13 in Ames, Iowa. Embiid totaled 16 points, nine rebounds, two assists, five blocked shots and seven turnovers in that one, a great deal of activity for a 7-footer who played 28 minutes and fouled out.

Embiid’s combination of size, agility, footwork, soft touch and shot-blocking ability enabled him to change the game in so many areas.

Nothing about the way Kansas University played without the 7-footer disputed Hoiberg’s opinion.

In the final six games, after an MRI revealed Embiid to have a stress fracture of the lower back, KU was just another team, not one worthy of a No. 2 seed, even though center Tarik Black was the team’s best postseason performer. Embiid paired with Black would have been too much for Stanford to handle.

KU went 3-3 after the stress-fracture diagnosis, with victories at home against Texas Tech, in Sprint Center in overtime vs. Oklahoma State and by 11 points against Eastern Kentucky in St. Louis. The losses came at West Virginia, in Sprint Center to Iowa State and in St. Louis to a 10th-seeded Stanford team that demonstrates the slim margin between getting fired and gaining the respect and admiration of the entire university and alumni base.

Sixth-year Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins reportedly was told before the season that if he did not get his team to the NCAA Tournament for the first time, he would be replaced. Now, if Dawkins’ team can defeat No. 11 seed Dayton, he will be an Elite Eight coach from an elite university.

With such fine lines defining March, it pays to enjoy the journey, which for KU included a 10th consecutive Big 12 title and three first-year players who in different ways were equally entertaining to watch develop: freshmen Andrew Wiggins and Embiid, and Black, a senior who transferred in from Memphis and did everything in his power to extend KU’s season back to his hometown, site of the South Regional.

Comments

Brian Wilson 6 months ago

Embiid may have made the difference in the Stanford game but not in winning a championship. Reality is this is may be Bill Self's worse coaching season in quite a few years. Working with a very young team, he committed to Naa in the media early on and in the end could not see the forest through the trees. Even though Connor is a Freshman, he is a faster ball handler, and a better playmaker. He makes fewer mistakes, is a better shooter, and causes defenses to crumble. Hindsight is 20/20 but after his strong steady finish in the post season Connor deserves the shot at the job. The problems the Jayhawks were having were obvious and something should have been tried during the season. This year the Jayhawks averaged almost 1/2 the number of steals while increasing the number of turnovers. These issues are due to guard play and not Embiid being hurt. We should have changed the lineup half way through the schedule. I now dread another season without changing the point because I believe it's not Tharpe's natural position. I am hoping we move him to shooting guard alongside and behind Selden. I hate to harp on Tharpe but he had an entire year at the point to improve and didn't. At this time I have little faith things will change over the summer. Mark it down, if he plays the point next year the Jayhawks will have the same problems and issues.

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Robert Rauktis 6 months ago

Sorry. Tarik Black was all the big man they needed. The problem was elsewhere. Maybe it takes more than a year to learn to handle a zone defense. Why God invented upperclassman.

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Mike Anderson 6 months ago

Embiid might have helped getting by Stanford ... but not all that sure they would have gone on any further. There is a lot of potential talent on the KU squad but there is a big difference in playing at the high school level and playing NCAA Div I ... or even use an AAU game. If these guys stick around another year or two - they could dominate easily. The question is - are they looking for a quick pay check or to play in the NBA for a long time? One and done - works for some but the evidence suggests it isn't the best route to take.

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