* I always love covering the high school state basketball tournaments – this year I stayed at 6A for four days – because I believe this is a great hoops state, from the colleges on down. Kansas stands for basketball. That isn’t meant to diminish other sports or the way Kansans play them. It’s just an honest assessment. Basketball is king at Kansas and Wichita State. And it’s made a great rebound at Kansas State. City League basketball cannot be matched. And this was another great year around the. In Kansas, basket rules.
* That said, it would be nice if the Kansas State High School Activities Association made such an acknowledgement. The state tournaments are badly in need of a fix and eliminating third-place games would be my first step. I also think the KSHSAA should institute a shot clock at all levels, probably a 30- or 35-second clock.
* The 6A boys championship game, won by Heights over Blue Valley Northwest, was tight throughout. And a fun game to watch. Except for the 60 fouls called by the officiating crew, which is a ridiculous number of fouls. Consider that both teams played a zone defense for much of the game. Yet the whistles never stopped coming. I don’t know who evaluates officials, but I hope the three guys who worked the biggest game of the season in the biggest class heard from somebody.
* Now on to some NCAA Tournament thoughts. First, I wonder how many fans are going to show up in Portland at the Rose Garden, which is where Wichita State goes for its first-round game Thursday against VCU? The lack of a regional team in Portland will undoubtedly hurt at the box office. I know Shockers fans gobbled up their 520 or so tickets made available from the NCAA and would guess that another 500 or so from Wichita State might make it to Oregon, despite the expense of the trip. But Wichita is 1,413 miles from Portland and that’s closer than five of the other seven teams that have been sent there. Long Beach State is the closest to Portland at 988 miles. Albuquerque is next at 1,365 miles, followed by Wichita, Las Cruces, N.M., (1,584 miles), Bloomington, Ind., (2,236 miles), Louisville (2,312 miles), Davidson, N.C. (2,768 miles), and Richmond, Va., (2,868 miles).
* Given those mileage numbers, I sure hope Oregonians are excited about these six upcoming games.
* On a personal note, I have never been to Portland. Or Oregon. So I’m excited about crossing that state off my list. The only remaining states I have not visited are: Maine, North Dakota, Idaho, Montana, New Hampshire and Washington.
* The weather in Portland the rest of this week is forecast to be not so good. Rain and highs near 50, while in Wichita we have early summer-like weather. Oh well, I’ll be indoors most of the time, anyway.
* I’ve been on record saying Wichita State cannot beat Kentucky. So what? It doesn’t mean I wouldn’t love to see that game – a potential Sweet 16 match-up – and perhaps be proven wrong. It wouldn’t be the first time.
* Missouri and Kansas together in Omaha. I hope that city has beefed up security for this week. I’m not saying things will get out of hand between those two fan bases. But isn’t it best to be prepared, just in case they do? Was this really a good idea to put those two teams in the same first- and second-round site? I’m guessing the bar owners in Omaha don’t mind.
* Missouri is one of those teams that could flame out early with a second-round loss or get to the Final Four and even win a national championship. There are other teams in that category, possibly including Kansas. I have KU reaching the Midwest Regional championship game against North Carolina and losing. The Jayhawks look to have some clear sailing until that game. But the Jayhawks are also famous for losing games in the NCAA Tournament they shouldn’t lose.
* The more I look at the East Region, the more I realized just how loaded it is. Not only are Syracuse and Ohio State the top two seeds, but SEC tournament winner Florida State is No. 3. And Vanderbilt, which handed Kentucky only its second loss of the season, is a 5-seed in the East. Cincinnati made a deep run in the Big East tournament and Texas did the same in the Big 12. This is a loaded field.
* The last time Wichita State went to Portland during the NCAA Tournament, in 1965, it was for the Final Four. My how things have changed in the 47 years since.