Since 2005-06, Wichita State’s men’s basketball team has played in three NCAA Tournaments, twice advancing to the Sweet 16. It won the NIT in 2011 and piles up 25-win seasons with ease.
All without playing Kansas or Kansas State. This issue raises its head often, especially in a March when the Shockers are relevant. WSU fans renew their complaints and accusations. National media members wonder. Kansas and Kansas State coaches try to deflect the issue.
It is guaranteed to come up again next December when the Wildcats — dumped in the first game of the NCAAs by La Salle — play Gonzaga — eliminated by the Shockers — in Intrust Bank Arena.
Coach Gregg Marshall, after six years in the state, understands the situation. His job is to win big, regardless of whether or not the state’s other Division I schools are on his schedule.
“Our success or failure doesn’t have anything to do with Kansas or K-State,” Marshall said. “We would like to play them. They won’t play us. That’s their business.”
As with most issues, winning could change the situation. Should the Shockers remain prominent, the chances increase that outside parties — such as ESPN — will help pair the Shockers against the Jayhawks or Wildcats.
Marshall hopes all coaches in the power conferences are paying attention to the NCAA selection committee. It seems to send a message that it is important for at-large candidates to play challenging non-conference opponents.
“If we keep going to Sweet 16s, Elite Eights, Final Fours, it will behoove them to play us,” he said. “Right now, they don’t have anything to gain, I guess, so they want to avoid the potential embarrassment of losing to us.”
THIS WEEK IN SHOCKER HISTORY
Wichita State baseball won its fifth straight Rainbow Easter Tournament on March 31, 1991, defeating host Hawaii 5-2 in the title game. Jim Audley’s three-run home run in the ninth inning extended WSU’s lead from 2-1 to 5-1. Audley, Billy Hall and Mike Jones earned spots on the all-tournament team. Kennie Steenstra was named the outstanding pitcher.