No. 7 Jayhawks figure out future without Azubuike vs. No. 25 TCU
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If something good can be made of a season-ending injury to Kansas junior Udoka Azubuike, it could be that the Jayhawks have previously experienced the loss of their 7-0 center.
The injury Azubuike suffered to his right wrist was identical to an injury he suffered 11 games into his freshman season to his left wrist. Two other injuries, including a sprained ankle that forced him to miss four games this season, have kept Azubuike from playing in 33 of 89 games since he first became eligible.
Time away will continue to increase with the No. 7 Jayhawks (12-2, 1-1 Big 12) scheduled to face No. 25 TCU (12-1, 1-0) at home on Wednesday. Kansas is coming off a humbling 77-60 defeat at Iowa State, a game Azubuike, who averages 13.4 points and 6.8 rebounds, missed after suffering his latest injury a day earlier in practice.
"It's frustrating to me when people assume he should be out there," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "That kid shouldn't have been out there. He wanted to try to be out there (against Iowa State) but there's just no way he could've gone."
The setback is further complicated by an ongoing NCAA investigation into the eligibility of sophomore forward Silvio De Sousa, who would provide some depth inside.
Kansas has voluntarily withheld De Sousa after a federal fraud trial last fall prompted allegations that De Sousa's guardian accepted payments as part of an illegal scheme involving Adidas officials.
"He is crushed," Self said. "And he will be more crushed now because his partner (Azubuike) can't play and he knows his role could be bigger."
The predicament will force Dedric Lawson, the Jayhawks' top scorer and rebounder, to play more on the low block. The 6-foot-9 forward has been effective in that offensive capacity, though the lack of inside depth will force him to play cautiously unless the Jayhawks can get more production from freshman center David McCormack.
Taking better care of the basketball is another concern. Kansas is coming off a season-high 24 turnovers it committed in the Iowa State loss.
"The thing that is good about getting beat rather than getting edged," said Self, "is it's very evident we have deficiencies and they need to be worked (on)."
Junior guard Desmond Bane leads TCU with a 14.4-point average. He also averages 5.5 rebounds and 3.2 assists. Sophomore forward Kouat Noi chips in 13.2 points on average.
Senior point guard Jaylen Fisher, who averages 12.1 points, continues to be slowed by an ailing right knee that has not healed completely since he suffered a meniscus tear last January. He missed the Horned Frogs' 85-81 victory over Baylor to open Big 12 play.
Forward Yuat Alok is out with a broken wrist.
TCU returned to the rankings this week after it sat at No. 20 in the preseason poll coming off an NCAA Tournament appearance last season, its first since 1998.
Third-year coach Jamie Dixon said he was unaware of the rating, saying that he prefers computer rankings that have "statistical breakdowns and is good for scouting."
--Field Level Media
Updated January 8, 2019