March gloom came early to KU fans last night, as the news broke that Joel Embiid will not be available to play until, likely, the second weekend of the NCAA tournament after being diagnosed with a stress fracture in his back.
Devastating news for a team that needed him on the court and at full-speed in order to have a chance for a deep NCAA run. If KU does survive the first weekend of the tournament, which is in serious question considering their youth and defensive deficiencies, the question becomes how effective can Embiid be after nearly a month off. And that’s if he is cleared to play.
As I wrote yesterday, I do not have high expectations for this year’s team. But, man, without Embiid…it’s looking pretty bleak.
The only silver lining is that ten years ago, to the day, UConn center Emeka Okafor was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his back and was expected to miss the opening game of the Big East tournament. A month later Okafor was named the Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA tournament as UConn won the national title.
Obviously Okafor’s injury was either not as serious as Embiid’s, or he was farther along in the healing process, as he played through the NCAA tournament without issue. In fact, he played in the Big East tournament. But his recovery gives KU fans hope that if Embiid can get back on the court this year, he can be a contributor. It’s just a glimmer, but it’s something.