We interrupt the usual policy and legislative talk that dominates this space for some serious bragging about basketball. Not only is Wichita State University among the three Kansas teams to land in the NCAA Division I men’s tournament, but Wichita’s Heights and Kapaun Mount Carmel high schools each won matching his-and-hers state championships over the weekend. Amazing.
About the only thing that could make this season sweeter would be strong play by WSU, the University of Kansas and Kansas State University and, April 2 in New Orleans, the sight of a Kansas team hoisting the NCAA championship trophy high.
Because we’re The Wichita Eagle editorial board, our hearts are with the hometown Shockers and Gregg Marshall. Coming off last year’s NIT triumph, WSU has played all year like a seasoned team in a hurry for NCAA glory.
“Fear the wheat,” warned NPR correspondent Mike Pesca, picking WSU to win it all – after a conversation mocking the anthropomorphized wheat stalk that is WuShock.
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That will be good advice for Virginia Commonwealth, which plays the Shockers at 6:15 p.m. Thursday in Portland, Ore., and any other teams that find themselves in WSU’s way. As Marshall said Sunday on NPR, of the first WSU team to reach the tournament in six years: “This group of guys are very talented. They’re very team-oriented. They have a lot of character. They share the basketball.”
But the cheering needn’t stop there. For the first time since 1988, when “Danny and the Miracles” won it all for KU, the state’s three Division I men’s teams made the cut.
Playing Detroit on Friday night in Omaha, the Kansas Jayhawks will make an astonishing 23rd straight NCAA Tournament appearance – the longest active streak in the nation. It will be their ninth time in the tourney with coach Bill Self.
And the scrappy K-State Wildcats will return for the fourth time in five years under coach Frank Martin, playing Southern Mississippi in Pittsburgh on Thursday.
Martin said of the triple NCAA bids, “Not bad for the little, old state of Kansas, huh?”
Not bad at all.
Meanwhile, praise is due Heights High School coaches Joe Auer and Kip Pulliam and Kapaun Mount Carmel coaches John Cherne and Marvin Estes for their championships Saturday in Class 6A and Class 5A, respectively. In the end, the Heights boys and stellar senior Perry Ellis won a whopping four state titles in a row, as the Heights girls took home two straight championships and perfect seasons.
Congratulations to the Heights and Kapaun student athletes for their championship seasons, and cheers for the trio of Kansas teams preparing for NCAA play. We’d say “Make us proud,” but they already have.
For the editorial board, Rhonda Holman