Wichita State probably won’t play early rounds in Omaha

03/06/2012 5:00 AM

04/13/2012 6:29 PM

Omaha is rarely mentioned as the preferred destination for Wichita State University basketball fans. This month, Shocker fans would love a game or two in the CenturyLink Center.

Unfortunately for those on a travel budget, that city doesn’t appear to be a likely destination for WSU in the NCAA Tournament.

WSU season-ticket holders must make their requests by today for tickets purchased through the athletic department. Omaha is the site of the second- and third-round games beginning March 16.

Omaha, a 304-mile drive from Koch Arena, is by far the preferred destination. WSU is allotted 400 tickets and it had 500 requests for games in Omaha as of early this week. Omaha is also the only one of the eight sub-regional sites already sold out.

That, perhaps, is the bad news. The good news, perhaps, is that WSU is unlikely to be assigned to Omaha when the tournament selection committee unveils the 68-team bracket at 5 p.m. Sunday (KWCH, Ch. 12).

While it is too early to make firm plans, Shocker fans might want to educate themselves on Albuquerque; Portland, Ore., and Nashville, Tenn.

The NCAA assigns its highest seeds to the nearest host city. Kansas and Missouri, as probable No. 1 or No. 2 seeds, are on target to land in Omaha and bring a combination of seeds 7, 8, 9, 10, 15 and 16 with them. WSU is projected as high as a No. 4 seed, which would likely keep the Shockers out of Nebraska.

ESPN.com’s Joe Lunardi projects WSU as a No. 4 seed in Portland. Andy Glockner of Sports Illustrated agrees with that seed, sending WSU to Albuquerque. Jerry Palm of CBSSports.com projects the Shockers as a No. 6 seed in Nashville.

In addition to Omaha, other sites can be ruled unlikely because of their close location to expected top seeds. North Carolina and Duke will almost certainly land in Greensboro, N.C., where WSU started its 2006 NCAA Tournament run. Louisville should get Kentucky as its No. 1 seed, with Michigan State and Ohio State candidates for a No. 2 seed there.

Syracuse appears headed to Pittsburgh as a No. 1 seed. A No. 2 seed from the Big Ten or Big East might fit well in Pittsburgh or Columbus, Ohio.

Portland and Albuquerque, cities located far from projected high seeds, and Nashville appear to be likely destinations for No. 4 and No. 5 seeds. Lunardi, Glockner and Palm place all of their No. 4 and No. 5 seeds in those three cities.

Among WSU season-ticket holders, Albuquerque, Nashville and Louisville followed Omaha as the most-requested destinations. Albuquerque, 594 miles from Wichita, is the second-closest location. Louisville is 709 miles and Nashville 749.

In the WSU ticket office, this week is calm. On Sunday night, that will change.

Season-ticket holders will receive tickets based on the department’s priority points system. Russell Wilkins, assistant athletic director for ticket operations, said his office will e-mail ticket confirmations late Sunday night, after the bracket is announced and NCAA guidelines are followed.

“Things will happen very quickly,” Wilkins said. “We’re not getting overwhelmed with phone calls about it yet. Monday morning, we will.”

Depending on the site, WSU may have some tickets available for sale to the public on Monday. Fans who don’t want to go through WSU can order from the sites.

As of Tuesday, all arenas except Omaha had tickets for sale, according to the NCAA. In Omaha, fans willing to pay a premium could purchase tickets through a third-party vendor, primesport.com.

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