by Bill DiFilippo

Kansas will have to compete in the Big XII Tournament without star freshman center Joel Embiid, and likely will be without his services for the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Embiid tweaked his back earlier this year and was shut down for the remainder of the regular season on March 3. Jayhawks coach Bill Self had previously said that he couldn’t envision a scenario in which Embiid wouldn’t play in the NCAA Tournament.

However, after Embiid was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his back, Self said in a release that he would keep his star center out longer than he originally anticipated.

Via The Kansas City Star:

“Based on that, this weekend is out,” Kansas coach Bill Self said in a statement released Monday night. “Next weekend, we feel like is a long shot, but the doctors are hopeful that if Joel works hard in rehab and progresses that it is possible that he could play in the later rounds of the NCAA Tournament if our team is fortunate enough to advance.”

Embiid has already missed two games and is halfway through the recovery process, according to KU. But the latest developments cast a long shadow on the Jayhawks’ chances in the NCAA Tournament.

“We’re all very disappointed for Joel,” Self said. “He’s worked so hard and improved so much. He’s been one of the most improved players in the country in such a short amount of time. The most important thing is for Joel to get healthy. We were hopeful, Joel was hopeful, the doctors were hopeful that his body would respond more rapidly to rehab and that has not been the case.”

Embiid has been a revelation for the No. 10 Jayhawks this year, averaging 11.2 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game en route to being a likely top-5 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft.