Against TCU? The ‘Barney Fife of the Big 12?’ No need to play Embiid, Coach
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Games aren’t won on laptops, or iPhones, or tablets, or whatever the hell they use in Sochi. But it’s worth noting that numbers guru Kenneth Massey gives the Kansas Jayhawks a 98 percent chance of winning Saturday at home against Texas Christian, the Barney Fife of Big 12 basketball.
Massey’s expected score? 82-57. Sounds about right.
The folks at TeamRankings.com, meanwhile, have set KU’s ‘Win Odds’ for Saturday at 99.5 percent. Which, coincidentally enough, is the same rate that NFL kickers have converted extra points — 3,691 out of 3,709 — since the fall of 2011.
So playing the Horned Frogs at home is, more or less, like kicking an extra point.
And did we mention NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is talking about doing away with the extra point because it’s too much of a layup?
Don’t play Joel Embiid, Coach.
In hoops, the stars often align in a bad way, at the worst possible time. A star player whiffs on a grade, twists an ankle, pulls a hammy, sticks up a Burger King, just when things were starting to get interesting.
Well, here’s a change. Embiid — the Jayhawks’ 7-foot freshman center who’s suddenly the talk of Milwaukee, Orlando, Philadelphia and anywhere else where tanking for the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft is a popular topic — has a bad knee, a sore back and could use some rest. And, hey, lookie here: From a basketball perspective, here comes the absolute least interesting Saturday of the conference slate.
To put it another way, you couldn’t time a weekend off better than this one if you tried.
"Of course, you think long-term, but you also know that he’ll have a better chance to perform in games in the future the less time he’s off now," KU coach Bill Self told the Associated Press on Thursday. "We’re not going to do anything to jeopardize him at all, but based on the doctors and the trainers, they’ll make the call along with Joel on him being honest with us and how he’s feeling."
If JoJo can walk, he’ll want to play. Who wouldn’t? MRIs came back negative, which is good, although Embiid didn’t practice Thursday, which is … mixed. Self said the Cameroon native would have to be able to suit up today for the Jayhawks (18-6, 9-2 Big 12), and comfortably, to even get a sniff against the Froggies (9-14 overall, 0-11).
The last time these two teams met, down in Fort Worth on January 25, Embiid sprained his knee. Why tempt fate again?
Whether it’s the knee, the back, some combination therein, or something else, the big lug hasn’t been the same since returning from the Metroplex. In four February games, Embiid is averaging 7.5 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.75 blocks while shooting 9-for-24 (37.5 percent) from the floor. In the five games prior to that, he’d averaged 13.6 points, 8.4 boards and 4.0 blocks.
With a (presumably) healthy Embiid patrolling the back of the lane January 11, Kansas State shot 44 percent from the floor at Allen Fieldhouse. On Monday at The Octagon of Doom, as a gimpy Embiid tried to play through pain, the Wildcats shot 49.2 percent and pick-and-rolled the visiting Jayhawks to death.
"He’s looking around to see if he’s going to get hit," Self told the AP, "as opposed to initiating contact because he’s sore and hurts in different areas. So yeah, I think there’s certainly some signs he hasn’t been himself."
So why risk it?
Lighting up Barney Fife at the Phog doesn’t help Embiid’s stock. It doesn’t help Embiid, either.
"A lot of times, there’s no reason to hold guys out if they’re healthy, too," Self told the AP.
Here’s one: Tarik Black.
Here’s another: Landen Lucas.
And another one: The big picture. The long game. There’s a lot of basketball left, Lord-willing. And the healthier JoJo is in March, the more basketball there’s probably going to be.
You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter @seankeeler or email him at email@example.com.