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Bill Self: ‘When Joel Embiid Comes Back, It Will Just Be A Bonus’

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(Credit: Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

(Credit: Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

It’s a question that has boggled John Feinstein’s mind for decades:

Why is the University of Kansas called KU?

“You know what? That’s a question that I really haven’t given a ton of thought to in the last 11 years,” Bill Self said on The John Feinstein Show, laughing. “Maybe because Kentucky calls themselves UK? We can’t have two of those. I don’t have any idea.”

Whether you call the Jayhawks the University of Kansas, KU or UK, they figure to do quite well in the NCAA Tournament – with or without center Joel Embiid, who will be out for at least the first weekend of the tourney as he deals with a back injury.

“We’re preparing like we won’t have him (at all), and then when he comes back, it’ll just be a bonus,” Self said. “But it is a little different. It kind of leaves your kids in limbo a little bit.”

It doesn’t help that all of the major sports networks are saying that Kansas has no chance of winning a national title without Embiid.

Or maybe it doesn’t hurt at all. In fact, maybe it helps.

“We’ve kind of used that as a rallying cry with our guys,” Self said. “‘Hey, we’re good enough,’ which we are. We’re good enough to have success without Joel. We’d love to have him, but if we don’t, we shouldn’t alter our expectations or our goals.”

As Feinstein noted, injuries are devastating in basketball. Not only do you lose a key starter, but it also changes the rotation, the bench and the offensive and defensive packages that you employ.

“You’ve got a situation where you go from being an unbelievably deep team inside to now, ‘Oh gosh, if this guy gets two early (fouls), how are we going to play?’” Self explained. “So now we get a small package in there. You’re spending time preparing for that when you really haven’t done that (too) much this year because you knew two of the best five out there for your team was going to be two of the bigs.

“It’s a little bit different, no question,” Self continued. “It’s a little bit different, but hey, coaches adjust on the fly all the time. Players adjust all the time, and there’s always situations that happen during games that are weird and unexpected, so this is just preparation for that.”

Kansas, the 2-seed in the South, plays No. 15 Eastern Kentucky in the first round and, assuming victory, the winner of No. 7 New Mexico versus No. 10 Stanford in the Round of 32.

Even without Embiid, Kansas will have the best player on the floor at all times this weekend. That would be Andrew Wiggins, who averaged 17.4 points per game this year.

And no, Self isn’t concerned that his best player is a freshman – especially not in this era.

“These guys,” Self said, referring to Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Julius Randle and others, “have been through so much more by the time they get to school from an exposure and pressure standpoint than what kids were 15, 20 years ago. They’ve all been the leader of their respective teams from Day One to now. You’d like to have more experience in a lot of ways, but I do believe (Wiggins) is prepared because of all the things he went through this year.”

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