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Jan 18, 2014; Lawrence, KS, USA; Kansas Jayhawks center Joel Embiid (21) celebrates after the game against the Oklahoma State Cowboys at Allen Fieldhouse. Kansas won 80-78. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Kansas using behemoth Joel Embiid to pick up slack

Saturday saw the Kansas Jayhawks use some bad technicals (yes, there are some good ones) by the Oklahoma State Cowboys and ride them as well as good play to victory, 80-78. Although, the win is not the only hot sports take from the game. It is also becoming increasingly clear that this Kansas team is going to go how freshman behemoth, Joel Embiid goes.

It isn’t odd that Kansas really needs Embiid to be a good team. I mean, who wouldn’t rely upon a 7″ monster — who is leap-years better with his post offense than a guy with only a few years of organized hoops should be — to win games? The only thing strange about this whole Embiid is a gosh slam man-beast thing is the fact that it wasn’t supposed to happen so soon nor were the Kansas Jayhawks going to be Embiid’s team.

According to preseason hype, everyone and their respective mothers assumed Kansas would go as Andrew Wiggins went. Which isn’t untrue, but Wiggins’ play certainly isn’t dictating the outcomes of games for the Jayhawks to the level most thought. The OK State game being a perfect example. Wiggins scored only three points and managed to snag a measly two rebounds. If you said Wiggins was going to get those kind of numbers in the preseason, against such a quality opponent as the Cowboys, one would have just figured it resulted in a KU loss — and obviously, it didn’t.

That isn’t a knock to Wiggins either. It’s also not an attempt to resist giving credit to other Kansas players who deserve some props. Seriously, Bill Self does have more than Wiggins and Embiid at his disposal. Some of them, Naadir Tharpe and others, are pretty good players in their own right. We are just trying to highlight the fact that Ebmiid is, indeed, all that and a bag of chips.

What folks knew about Embiid coming into the season, that does not seem to be a factor at the moment, is his lack of actual basketball game experience. A native of Cameroon, Embiid’s low post offense is a marvel to watch. The move-set he possesses underneath the basket are far better than it should be. Players with a far less offensive skill set, but with a similar build, have been praised to a much larger degree in the past than Embiid has been. That is changing quickly, however.

Just take a look at Kansas’ last three games. All of which resulted in Kansas wins. Embiid has shot 17-21 from the floor, averaged nearly 10 rebounds per and has amassed an amazing 15 blocks (for those bad at math, that is 5 blocks per).

What does all of that mean? The simple answer, a ton. Like a (expletive) ton.

Embiid’s name is now being tossed around as being the number one pick in the next NBA Draft. Statements are also starting to be made that he might be the best freshman in the country as well. Then there is some awesome, possibly deserved hyperbole. That Joel Embiid — who has played less organized hoops than I have played hours of Mass Effect — is going to resurrect the center position in the game of basketball.

Listen, here is what I know. I know that Embiid is developing at such a rapid, unexpected pace that I wouldn’t blame a single NBA team for drafted him with their first pick. That Embiid’s floor — of just being a great off the ball defender — is worthy of enough praise to start making him a household name. Even with hyperbole being what it is (terrible), Ebmiid may very well be the best center to come along since Dwight Howard was still someone we liked, but before he opened his yap so much that we decided that the center position needed some saving — because, you know, a dude who can get 20/20 on any night has surely done a poor job of saving the position (sarcasm).

It is still strange, though. That this Kansas team could have the first two picks in the NBA Draft, but aren’t really expected or picked as the type of team who will make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. Some point to guard play, other to Wiggins not living up to the hype or some say that it is a combination of the two plus something to do with the stars lining up and astronomers calling for weird weather that prevents hoops from being made by players wearing Kansas uniforms or something — likely something, but screw semantics.

What we do now, at least going forward, is that Kansas is a Joel Embiid type team. That his quickly, ever developing offense is something that the Jayhawks should and will rely on. That they are likely to start running more offense through Embiid at the low block. All in an effort to win basketball games. All because Embiid might just be the best center that has come through the college level in a long, long time.

I don’t usually buy into hyperbole, but when I do it is for a seven-foot, behemoth type man-beast, who call Cameroon home.

I <3 you, Joel Embiid. Even if you make me use old, not funny anymore beer commercial jokes.

Now that’s love.


Tags: Andrew Wiggins Bill Self Joel Embiid Kansas Jayhawks

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