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Embiid, Wiggins wow, make big statement in win at Iowa State

By Matt Norlander | College Basketball Writer

Joel Embiid. (USATSI)
Joel Embiid has people debating if he's the best player not only on Kansas but in the country. (USATSI)

How maddening it must be to support a Big 12 program and have it not be Kansas.

To see the Jayhawks come into your place -- say, Hilton Coliseum -- and win for the ninth time in 10 years. To see another decision go to KU in such convincing style. To see Bill Self's youthful, fledgling team -- once at 9-4 and with a foolish, emerging horde of doubters -- now at 3-0 in the Big 12 with its next two games against two more upper-echelon teams in the conference (Oklahoma State and Baylor) at the comfort of home. And therefore, with two wins in the next week, Kansas could be on the precipice of essentially eliminating all the drama from what could be the best major-conference chase in college basketball.

How frustrating that's got to be, not to be a Kansas fan yet still fly your colors within the Big 12.

How angry some fans must get to see a highly touted recruit, a future top-three pick like Andrew Wiggins stroll into your gym -- say, Hilton Coliseum -- and casually, quietly snag a career-best 19-rebound performance, combining those 19 boards with 17 points, three assists, a steal, a block (and six turnovers). You've never seen a bulky double-double from a future lottery pick on the road against a top-10 team be so run-of-the-mill.

You've never seen a guy go for 19 and 17 in this kind of spot -- becoming only the second freshman in the past 15 years to do so -- and think he didn't have the best showing of the night.

But this is what Kansas can do. These are its spoils. It is the 1 percent. Because it was KU's Naadir Tharpe who led all scorers with 23 in the Jayhawks' 77-70 win at 14-2 Iowa State Monday night. And Tharpe was a total afterthought. How can a team be so lucky?

How annoying it's gotta be to watch Kansas do this year after year and look as fertile with talent this season as it has in god-knows-how-long. How irritating, to see your team reduced to jacking up 20-footers thanks to a second lottery pick patroling the paint, a lanky guy named "Joe-el" who's legend grows with each week thanks to the fact he "only started playing basketball three years ago."

Going 4-of-25 from 3-point range is a surefire way to lose. It's what Iowa State was reduced to on Monday night. This game was tied at the half following a big 3 from DeAndre Kane. The second 20 minutes seemed mostly recreational. How does that happen?

Joel Embiid is how. He's who flared up Twitter and caused the announcing crew on ESPN to invoke the name "Hakeem" and cue up pro potential and cause a guy who knows a thing or two about the NBA to say he's the best player in college basketball right now. There's burgeoning talk of Embiid swapping spots with Wiggins at No. 1 overall come June. The center who plays like a guard and is built like a muscular Gumby. He's something else to watch; a different kind of visual experience than the also-ridiculous Wiggins. Embiid finished with 16 points, nine rebounds, five blocks, seven turnovers and a foul-out that included a flagrant for tossing an elbow.

Yes, he scored less than Wiggins. Despite being listed four inches taller than Wiggins, he had less than half the amount of rebounds. And more turnovers. Yet still undeniably offered the latest evidence of his ascension in the minds of NBA scouts and general managers everywhere. He was that good.

Both he and Wiggins were that good. This is the empire of Bill Self, and once again it looks like he's got no interest in others gunning for his throne in this conference.

How must it feel for everyone else? Helpless.

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