So apparently, It's on.
The matchup that Wichita State has been almost begging for over the past four plus years is finally here.
Gregg Marshall on Jim Rome (Right click and open in new window to hear the audio):
"They've been the big brother for so long, and they just don't want the little brother who's now grown up to be able to compete with them and maybe win - they don't wanna give up that superiority in the household. If I were them, I wouldn't play us either. That's just my honest opinion. I would not play the game if I were Bill Self or Bruce Weber."
Another Gregg Marshall quote:
"I'm not going to just be bought. I'm not going to go to Allen Fieldhouse for a check."
And let's not forget the Great Chickenhawk Controversy of 2011.
This is a story that has only been gaining in intensity over the past few seasons. The NCAA Selection Committee decided to take it upon themselves to make it happen. OK, I guess. It's whatever. They (allegedly) like to do things like this, you know.
So the Jayhawks won't schedule WSU. It's a justifiable position for Bill Self and his AD. Of course as a KU fan, I - and I'm sure most of us at RCT - agree with that call. WSU just isn't on KU's level. Kansas gets much more out of playing Kentucky and Michigan State and yes, even Utah than they ever would out of playing WSU.
Could Wichita State ever get to KU's level? I suppose it's possible. Off the top of my head several things would need to happen. For starters, they would need to keep winning at this pace for the next 10-15 years. They would also probably need to change conferences. But that's a discussion for another thread.
Look, Kansas is better in every sense of the word. Let's compare:
|NCAA Tournament Appearances||11||44||KU|
|Current 5-Star Recruits*||0||5||KU|
|Current 4-Star Recruits*||0||3||KU|
|Current 3-Star Recruits*||7||2||WSU|
|Recruits named Wiggins||1||1||KU**|
|Players currently in the NBA||1||16||KU|
|2015 vs RPI Top 25||1-2||9-5||KU|
|2015 vs RPI 26-50||1-0||3-2||KU|
|2015 vs RPI 51-100||5-2||6-1||KU|
|2015 vs RPI 100+||20-0||8-0||??|
|2015 vs KP Top 50||1-2||13-5||KU|
|2015 vs KP Top 100||9-4||21-7||KU|
|SB Nation Page||No||Yes||KU|
|Cool College Town||No||Yes||KU|
|Awesome Color Scheme||God No||Yes||KU|
*Per Rivals. Does not include any incoming transfers.
** What can I say, our Wiggins had a higher rating coming out of high school.
So WSU isn't the historical program that KU is. WSU isn't the current program that KU is. There's no reason to think WSU has the horses to run with KU on Sunday in Omaha.
Or is there?
I heard Brannen Greene on the radio being interviewed after the New Mexico State game. I can't provide the exact quote because I can't find it anywhere (yet), but the gist was along these lines: He's from Georgia, so he hasn't really gotten into it. He knows it's a big deal for the fans. But they'll just play whoever is in front of them.
Point is, it definitely didn't sound to me like someone who's fired up for a rivalry game. He doesn't view Wichita State any differently than any other non-conference opponent. Who on KU will be fired up to play WSU? Maybe Perry Ellis? Probably Perry Ellis. But you see, WSU has spent the last several years talking Kansas. Kansas has spent the last several years ignoring WSU. Even back in 1990, KU player Jeff Gueldner said, "To us it was a big game, like they all are." So every game is a "big game" for Kansas. In other breaking news, the sky is blue.
Unfortunately for KU, these games aren't played on paper. Otherwise, we'd have a better record against Rhode Island, UTEP, Bucknell, Bradley, Northern Iowa, and others. But here's the kicker - those teams got up for Kansas, just as they would have Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina, or the like. But it's different - it just is - when it's in-state big-brother-why-won't-you-play-us Kansas.
So yeah, I think WSU is extra-extra-motivated for this one. Anyone who refuses to acknowledge that those kind of emotions don't affect how teams play is certifiable. But will that be enough to knock off "big brother?" I don't have any idea. But I am pretty sure it will be enough to give the Jayhawks a run for their money, because the Shockers definitely have the ability to knock off the Jayhawks even without the perceived slights. I've definitely seen Kansas lose to worse teams - even in March. But this is a different year, a different team. It will be interesting to see how this batch of Jayhawks responds.
Should WSU take this game, prepare for the Shocker fans in your life (if there are any) to become more annoying than this guy, this guy, or this guy. (Booooooo.) And that's a world I don't want to live in. Go ahead. See if you can find any classy Shocker fans. I dare you. (Stay classy, WSU cheerleaders.)
Even if Wichita State wins this game, it doesn't really change anything. KU remains the power basketball program in the state. KU remains a "blue blood." WSU doesn't start swiping recruits away from Kansas. It doesn't bring WSU to KU's level. It doesn't get them anywhere near in terms of wins, tournaments, Final Fours, or any of that other stuff.
But guess what? WSU fans won't care. They'll just say "Scoreboard!" and run away before you can respond. Fans aren't logical, reasoned creatures. So if you have WSU grads/fans in your circle of family or friends - I understand. We're in the same boat. But we'll get through it - together. Because KU basketball will last longer than Gregg Marshall's tenure at WSU.
So Rock Chalk. Let's hope Coach Self has some motivational magic up his sleeve. Let's keep little brother at arm's length. Go get 'em, boys. Do for yourselves, and almost as importantly, do it for your alumni and your fans. Avoid that first weekend exit.
But win or lose, we'll all hold our heads high. We're Kansas. They're not. (And they
probably never will be.)