Wiggins and the Jayhawks open Big 12 tournament play this afternoon against a tough Oklahoma State team. The Jayhawks are also missing 7-foot freshman centre Joel Embiid, who is touted as a possible No. 1 overall NBA pick, after he suffered a stress fracture in his back. Now with Embiid on the shelf for a while, it’s all on Wiggins. That will certainly be a challenge for the 19-year-old, but coach Bill Self is impressed with his maturity.
“His demeanor has allowed him not to have highs and not to have lows. He’s been pretty steady. He’s had a few highs, but his lows haven’t been low,” Self told reporters of Wiggins. “He’s been pretty steady in large part with how he’s handled the situation, because he doesn’t really care about anything going outside. He only cares about what’s going on inside.”
Wiggins finished the regular season averaging 16.8 points and Sports Interaction has Kansas set as a slim 2.5-point favorite vs. Oklahoma in today’s NCAA basketball odds.
Word has it that Embiid could come back after the first weekend of play in the NCAA Tournament, but many wonder whether the Jayhawks can survive without him. Embiid averages 11.2 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game. He controls the paint and is critical to Kansas’ inside-out attack.
When the Jayhawks traveled to West Virginia for their final game of the regular season without their big man, Wiggins stepped up with a tremendous effort. Wiggins finished with 41 points on 12-of-18 shooting. He also grabbed eight rebounds, had five steals and swatted four shots to go along with a pair of assists.
Wiggins did all that and Kansas still lost 92-86 as a 5-point favorite, dashing the team’s hopes at a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
“It’s a good thing, but we lost,” Wiggins told reporters of his big day. “I’d rather score five points and win than 40 and lose. It’s not really something really that great. We lost.”
Kansas’ odds had the club as a +450 favorite to win the NCAA Tournament at the end of the regular season but without Embiid, Wiggins is going to have to go on a huge hot streak just to get the Jayhawks to the Sweet 16.