January 8, 2014

Bob Lutz: K-State’s Weber willing to talk about game with Wichita State

Don’t be quick to lump Kansas State basketball coach Bruce Weber into the “we have nothing to gain by playing Wichita State” club.

Don’t be quick to lump Kansas State basketball coach Bruce Weber into the “we have nothing to gain by playing Wichita State” club.

Weber said Wednesday that he is open to a Wildcats-Shockers game or even games, but that the timing has to be right.

“I’m not against it,” Weber said of potentially setting up a game with Wichita State, which so far this season is undefeated and ranked No. 6. “But scheduling is one of the most difficult things about coaching. I don’t think people have any idea how hard it is. It might be more difficult than even recruiting.”

According to Weber, it would not be wise to jump at a game with Wichita State unless the circumstances are just right.

He said he and K-State administrators talked last spring about the possibility of trying to set up a game with the Shockers at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

“Then (point guard) Angel (Rodriguez) left and I had to be smart about it,” Weber said. “I coached at Southern Illinois, where it was hard to get a game. We went from one side of the country to the other because no one would play us. Then I coached at Illinois and now at Kansas State and scheduling is different. It’s got to work out and make sense for everyone. I did all the scheduling at Purdue when I was an assistant there to Gene Keady and he told me then, when I was young, that scheduling was more important than recruiting.

“But I like things that are good for basketball.”

And Weber, unlike Kansas coach Bill Self, is at least willing to discuss playing the Shockers.

No. 25 Kansas State and Wichita State have played 31 times and the Wildcats hold a 20-11 advantage. K-State and WSU met 19 times from 1985-86 through the 2003-04 season, but haven’t played since. The two teams have met 16 times in Manhattan, 13 times in Wichita and twice on netural courts. One of those Wichita games was in the 1964 NCAA Tournament, when K-State upended the Shockers 94-86.

Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall has always said he would like to develop a series with Kansas State and Kansas, but that he’s not willing to approve of a two-for-one set up with either.

At this point, he shouldn’t be. I’ve long proposed a WSU-KU series that would involve one game at Allen Fieldhouse, one at the Sprint Center and one at Wichita’s Intrust Bank Arena. But nothing has happened to believe there’s any chance of the Jayhawks and Shockers playing.

With Kansas State, it’s different.

Weber understands how good such a game or even series would be good for basketball fans in Kansas. He just wants to make sure it’s good for Kansas State.

“It really depends on the year,” Weber said. “We have the SEC-Big 12 challenge and next season we’re playing in Maui and that field includes Missouri, Purdue, San Diego State, BYU, Arizona. It’s tough.”

Before Weber bulks up his schedule with a team like Wichita State, he wants to make sure the schedule isn’t already bulked up enough.

“For me, playing in Kansas City (against Wichita State) is my first inclination,” Weber said. “That’s what we were talking about last spring. It seats a lot of people and we drew 16,000 or 17,000 for our game against Florida there last season. So if you had Wichita State there, it definitely would become a demanded ticket. Again, it’s just got to make sense. Schedule-wise and season-wise. I understand something like that would be good for basketball, but you just have to be smart about it.”

Marshall, when told of Weber’s comments, said he was happy to hear them. And intrigued to see if a game or series with Kansas State could be worked out.

“Home and home, that would be fine,” Marshall said. “Sprint Center? I’d do that, probably. Two for one is where I draw the line.”

Marshall indicated that he would call Weber to talk more about scheduling.

Unfortunately, no such call is likely anytime soon between Marshall and KU’s Self, who has been adamant about not playing Wichita State since he became the Jayhawks’ coach in 2003.

Perhaps if Kansas State and Wichita State can work out a deal, Self would be more inclined to at least discuss the possibility.

Or not.

For now, I’m willing to be optimistic that Kansas State and Wichita State will find a way to play one another. Both teams are good now and look like they will continue to be good into the future. A game between the Wildcats and Shockers would be a big seller wherever it’s played. And it at least sounds like the two sides are willing to negotiate.

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