Kansas freshman center Joel Embiid will not play in the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament, coach Bill Self confirmed Wednesday after arriving at the team hotel.
The decision to hold Embiid out follows the same plan that Self outlined before the Big 12 tournament. Self held out a tiny bit of hope that Embiid, battling a stress fracture in his back, might return for No. 2 seed Kansas’ opening weekend, which begins against Eastern Kentucky at 3:10 p.m. Friday at the Scottrade Center. But barring some sort of unforeseen development, Embiid will remain on the sideline through the weekend.
“He’s not going to play,” Self said. “I’m not saying there couldn’t be a miraculous act occur, but we’re certainly not planning on that or expecting that.”
Self said Embiid has continued to make progress in his rehab, but he has yet to get back out on the practice floor.
“He’s doing really well,” Self said. “We’ve told him that we were not going to put him on the practice floor until he does really, really well in rehab. And that’s what the doctors told us, and that’s what we were going to do all along.
“He’s not far away from being out there in some form or fashion, but probably not contact.”
After Kansas’ traveling contingent arrived at its St. Louis hotel on Wednesday evening, Self appeared pleased with the Jayhawks’ landing spot for the early rounds. Last year, the Jayhawks played their first two games in Kansas City, and Self believed the close proximity to Lawrence added an element of pressure.
“I actually like the fact that we’re close but we’re not (too close),” Self said. “I like the fact that kids will get away; I like the fact that their college friends can’t get here near as easy.
“This is about perfect for us.”
No. 1 seed Wichita State and No. 9 seed Kansas State, who also play in St. Louis this weekend, arrived in St. Louis on Wednesday evening as well.
“The bragging rights on the streets will probably be at an all-time high,” Self joked.