Minutes before the Kansas Jayhawks dispatched New Mexico State 75-56 Friday afternoon in their opening game of the NCAA Tournament, social media was abuzz with the fact that Sunflower Showdown 2.0 was well on its way to being half complete.
Once Wichita State knocked off Indiana, it brought to light the fact it has been more than two decades since the Kansas-based schools clashed on a basketball court.
Wichita State gets the game its coach — and fans — have been craving. Shockers-Jayhawks on Sunday in the most compelling game of the week.
— Jeff Eisenberg (@JeffEisenberg) March 20, 2015
Former Michigan Wolverine and five-time NBA All-Star Chris Webber, who was part of a CBS three-man crew calling the game, took it a step further during the broadcast when he said Bill Self and the Jayhawks were "scared" to schedule Gregg Marshall and the Shockers.
Excuse me while I try to decide if Webber was just clueless or trying to be funny.
All that really matters though, is that assumption is false.
The last time the Shockers defeated Kansas was the 1986-87 season. Now, they have only played 14 times in all, but take a look at KU's last five games against WSU.
Jan. 25, 1989 - KU 86, WSU 66 - Lawrence
Jan. 4, 1990 - KU 93, WSU 66 - Wichita
Jan. 23, 1991 - KU 84, WSU 50 - Lawrence
Jan. 8, 1992 - KU 81, WSU 51 - Wichita
Jan. 6, 1993 - KU 103, WSU 54 - Lawrence
I think it's safe to say the Jayhawks didn't end the series because they were scared of anything, unless they were worried about how Shocker players and fans would handle losing so badly.
The Wichita Eagle's Kirk Seminoff summed it up pretty well in an article breaking down the all-time series (KU leads 12-2). He wrote the following in regard to Kansas' stance on the series after the '93 blowout.
By now, (Roy) Williams had said that KU wouldn't continue the series without a two-for-one deal or better. WSU athletic director Gary Hunter said he wouldn't do that to coach Scott Thompson, who was trying to rebuild the program. At that point, not many Shocker fans disagreed.
Obviously the teams from the 90s have nothing to do with the current teams, but Self subscribes to the same adage as ‘ol Roy.
He has said time and time again it doesn't make good business sense - and it doesn't - to play the Shocks. He also has publicly stated he hasn't been contacted, at least recently, by WSU about playing. Last year, in a Matt Norlander CBS Sports article, he took a swipe at Marshall who earlier said he "would not be bought" with a two-for-one similar to what Williams suggested.
From the article:
Self said he ran into similar issues while coaching at Tulsa in the late 1990s. He wanted to play Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Arkansas and other bigger programs in the region. "And they wouldn't play," Self said. "But I didn't blame them. And I didn't make a big deal of it."
Apparently he thinks that is exactly what Marshall is doing.
Playing WSU would only be a lose-lose situation for KU. Win a non-conference game in December -- ho-hum -- no one cares because you were "supposed" to win. Lose it, and it follows you around all season. And you better believe WSU will use it for recruiting purposes. (Who knows how much that would really help?) But, as Self has reiterated, Kansas is not in the business of helping out other schools.
The Jayhawks routinely schedule the best non-conference teams they can that help their program. It has worked, as they have had the toughest schedule the past two years, and this year's was the hardest any team has played in a decade.
Despite nine losses last year and eight this season prior to the tournament, Kansas ended up with a two seed both times. WSU, which won two more games than KU prior to selection Sunday, ended up with a seven seed, mainly due to a schedule ranked 120th.
This season alone Kansas has played 26 games against teams ranked in the top-100 of the RPI. Of the eight that were not, five were against Big 12 teams who found themselves on the Jayhawks' schedule whether KU wanted them to be or not.
This isn't to say that Wichita State can't beat KU -- because the Shockers certainly can. However, for Jayhawk fans it has to get old hearing, after WSU has a few amazing seasons, that one of the most storied programs in the country is shaking in its boots as it prepares to play them.
Webber and CBS have enjoyed playing up the "scared" narrative, and I guess it makes for good TV, but here's to hoping Sunday's game does as well.
On a side note, Webber also said WSU's mascot looks like "Spongebob's angry twin brother."
I won't argue with that.