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Bob Lutz: It took a selection committee to get everybody together

  • Published Thursday, March 20, 2014, at 8:47 p.m.
  • Updated Friday, March 21, 2014, at 7:33 a.m.

ST. LOUIS – We’re all here, everybody who plays for, coaches, writes about, talks about or administrates one of the three Division I basketball teams in Kansas.

And it’s cool.

Many fans of Wichita State, Kansas and Kansas State are here, too, and more are on the way. I don’t know how many people are struck by the historical significance of these three teams being in the same place for the second and potentially third round of the NCAA Tournament. But it’s never happened before and it might never happen again.

That’s history in the making.

St. Louis is trending crimson and blue, purple and white and black and yellow this weekend, overtaken by basketball fans with high hopes and apprehension brought about by a season that could be over in a split second.

The NCAA Tournament is a basketball high wire with no net.

To help mark the occasion, the three coaches – WSU’s Gregg Marshall, K-State’s Bruce Weber and KU’s Bill Self – agreed to pose for a picture before they stepped into a tournament meeting Thursday afternoon.

Marshall showed up first, followed closely by Self.

“What’s up Mr. Marshall?” the Jayhawks’ coach asked.

Marshall smiled and said a few words.

Then Weber arrived. He and Self, whose teams split two games during the Big 12 season, briefly exchanged words before Weber shook hands with Marshall.

The coaches took their places for the photograph. Marshall stood stiffly with his arms folded across his chest. Self stood stiffly with his hands folded near his waist. Weber just stood stiffly.

It was not a comfortable minute. No Chamber of Commerce will use the photograph to illustrate the close friendships among the state’s basketball coaches. But the picture was taken and afterwards the coaches shook hands and went about their business.

It was good of them to participate and a sign that all understand the significance of this weekend.

“As a state, the Jayhawk, Shocker and Wildcat faithful should all be proud in a state not populated by many,” Self said. “I do think it speaks volumes for the quality of ball in our state.”

Of course, what many would love to see is a Wichita State-Kansas State or Wichita State-Kansas matchup.

WSU-KSU could happen as soon as Sunday if both win second-round games Friday.

Unbeaten Wichita State, the top seed in the Midwest Regional, Cal Poly. You might want to pencil that one into the win column for the Shockers.

Kansas State, though, has Kentucky. Anything could happen in that one.

As for a WSU-KU game, that one is possible. But to get to that game, both teams would have to win five, setting up a national championship showdown at Cowboys Stadium on April 7.

That would be crazy. And it’s not all that far-fetched, which makes it even crazier.

Kansas State is being counted out by most. But the Wildcats, who play a group of Wildcats from Kentucky on Friday night, don’t want to be the first to exit this Kansas party.

Neither do the Shockers or Jayhawks.

“It’s pretty good with all of us being over here,” KU junior guard Naadir Tharpe said. “We played Kansas State, of course, but we didn’t really get to see Wichita State play much. But for all of us to be in the same arena for these games is good for all of us. And I know we’re all going to have a lot of fans here.”

Weber also likes the Kansas flavor in St. Louis.

“I’m hoping the Wichita fans and the Kansas fans will cheer for us,” Weber said. “I know Wichita State will have a big group here. I told a couple of their fans to put a purple shirt on under their yellow and as soon as their game is over, flip it over and give us an advantage.”

Will Shocker fans do that?

They might.

Will they show up in crimson and blue to cheer on the Jayhawks in the game before Wichita State meets Cal Poly?

I don’t know. But perhaps they should. Friday is a day for basketball unity in Kansas. Three teams, three games. Three wins?

Reach Bob Lutz at 316-268-6597 or blutz@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @blutz.

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