The Kansas Jayhawks are coming off a tough overtime loss to the Kansas State Wildcats and are dealing with injury issues to their starting lineup. Center Joel Embiid has been playing through a back and knee injury for the last few games, which has corresponded to a drop in production for the talented freshman, and has not practiced all week leading up to the game against the TCU Horned Frogs on Saturday. Bill Self does not know what Embiid’s availability for the game will be on Saturday but the Jayhawks should turn to freshman Landen Lucas in the game against TCU to allow Embiid time to get healthy.
Embiid has blossomed this season into a key piece of the Kansas attack and will be a huge asset to the team come NCAA Tournament time. But since injuring his back in a bruising contest against the Texas Longhorns, the 7-footer has seen his production and minutes drop over the last three games. On the season, he’s averaging 10.7 points, a team-high 7.8 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks in 22.3 minutes per game but has seen those averages drop to 7.5 points and 1.3 blocks in 17.3 minutes in his last three contests (though his rebounds have gone up to 8.3).
Self has done the prudent thing by giving Embiid time off of practice this week and should continue to let him heal through the TCU game. Lucas is another young big-man for the Jayhawks who has not gotten much of an opportunity to shine this season. He’s averaging just 4.6 minutes per game with 1.7 points and 1.3 rebounds. Against TCU, he would have a chance to stretch his legs and show what he can contribute to the club as they look for depth off the bench heading into March. The 6-foot-10 Lucas can hold his own against the Horned Frogs who have yet to win a Big 12 game this season.
In the interest of getting his best players healthy for March and finding a little extra depth on his bench, Bill Self should rest Joel Embiid this weekend against TCU and send Landen Lucas out to show what he can do. It will help to ensure Embiid is as healthy as possible heading into the NCAA Tournament and give Lucas some valuable experience to come off the bench with confidence.