When you start looking at where Kansas is today as a team and where they hope to be in a few weeks, it all boils down to one play. One play that has effectively changed the projection of this team and led to the Kansas Jayhawks being a bit of a skeptics dream when it comes to the NCAA Tournament.
Joel Embiid first sustained an injury to his knee dating back to the Jayhawks first game against TCU. The knee injury was initially believed to be a minor one, but it led to a more serious prognosis and was soon followed by the initial news of a back injury. This was the first sign of trouble for a Kansas team that looked to be on track for a pretty explosive trajectory heading through Big 12 play and into the NCAA tournament.
Now granted Kansas did win the league with ease and Embiid returned after a few games on the sideline, but Embiid is again injured with that nagging back injury that followed the initial knee injury. Is Embiid injury prone? Did one injury lead to another? Can Kansas get out of the first weekend without Embiid? These are several of the questions surrounding the 7-footer this morning.
Obviously it's a mixed bag when it comes to Kansas right now. Yes they still have talent and some experts have them going deep in the tournament. Still others are expecting an early fall as Embiid sits on the sideline. Now Kansas could easily survive and advance and perhaps they make a deep, deep run, but I don't think there's any question that the initial knee injury and subsequent back injury have been the two most critical moments for this Kansas basketball team this year.
If Embiid never sits, and Embiid gels with this team continuing the trajectory set early in conference play, Kansas could be REALLY good right now. Kansas is likely a one seed and Kansas is a much better defensive team. As it stands now, there are a lot of holes. If and when Embiid returns it would seem unlikely that he will have the impact he could have. You take him on the court when he's ready because he does impact the game, but not the way the 7-footer could have with a full year under his belt and a full slate of Big 12 games under his belt.