Gov. Sam Brownback won’t be taking sides in a possible matchup between Wichita State University and the University of Kansas in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
The governor has previously expressed his desire to see the Shockers take on the Jayhawks, but he plans to be a nonpartisan observer if that happens. Each team would need to win its first game in the tournament Friday to advance to that matchup on Sunday.
“The governor is very happy to have two strong teams in the ‘Big Dance.’ He just wishes there were three,” said Eileen Hawley, the governor’s communication director. “He’s not taking any sides. I think you’ll see both lapel pins and appropriate colors for each game.”
Lawmakers, however, are wearing their loyalties. Rep. Steve Huebert, R-Valley Center, has a WSU pin on his suit coat these days. He said he and Rep. Tom Sawyer, D-Wichita, might take a bipartisan trip to Omaha to see the Shockers play if they can scrounge up tickets.
Other lawmakers have decorated their desks to show their loyalty to the school of their choice.
Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, a diehard Shockers fan, hasn’t been shy about making predictions for a possible game against KU.
“I think on Sunday we will play each other and I’m pretty excited,” Wagle said. “And I think in that round, WSU will be victorious.”
Last year, there was a possibility of WSU facing Kansas State University, but both teams were dispatched by the University of Kentucky, who went on to play in the National Championship game. Wagle noted that WSU lost to Kentucky by only 2 points.
Kentucky is also in the Midwest bracket with the Shockers and a possible rematch could happen in the Elite Eight.
“It’s our time. We’re rested and we’re ready to go,” Wagle said.
Huebert said the focus right now is on WSU’s first opponent, Indiana, and after that, KU. He contended that the game would be a nightmare for KU Coach Bill Self, who he said had been avoiding a matchup against the Shockers.
Rep. Ron Ryckman, Jr., R-Olathe, who supports KU, disagrees.
“I think if they both meet, Wichita State will finally get what they’ve been asking for and they’re going to regret the fact that they got it,” Ryckman said.