KUAD: Pregame Notes
#kubball game Sunday 415pm..pregame 1230-330..pep rally 3pm...Omaha convention ctr..#kualumni #ku #RCJH
Did some research. This KU win sets up a potential matchup with Wichita State. Did some research. Wichita isn't even a state.
Kansas leads the all-time series against Wichita State, 12-2. The Jayhawks have won the last five meetings.
Michael O’Donnell was driving in Wichita on Sunday afternoon when the state of Kansas shook loose from the ground and rocketed into the atmosphere. Or maybe that’s just what it felt like.
O’Donnell, a Kansas state senator, was steering his car down Kellogg Avenue when it happened. He was driving a little angrily, actually, because he had just heard on the radio that his beloved Wichita State Shockers had received a No. 7 seed in the NCAA tournament. Too low, he thought. Not fair.
That’s when O’Donnell’s best buddy, David, who was riding shotgun and furiously updating Twitter, offered up the following nugget of information: If Wichita State wins, he said, we play KU in the third round.
Sen. O’Donnell may or may not have swerved. He may or may not have screamed.
He definitely gave David a high-five and yelled, “We’re going to Omaha, bro!” He definitely started receiving texts, dozens of texts, that included the following characters: “LOL” and “!!!” and “$%&@@!*%”
“If this game happens, it’s the biggest game of my lifetime,” O’Donnell said this week. “It’s the biggest game Omaha has ever seen.”
He pauses, struggling to explain this to an outsider. It’s a pause I heard a lot this week, when I called Wichita State boosters, athletes and season-ticket holders and asked them to explain the importance of Sunday’s potential Wichita State-KU matchup. “Really,” O’Donnell says finally, “in some way, it’s larger than a game.”
Now, if you want to get all literal about it, yes, Wichita State vs. KU would be merely a basketball game, in the sense that they will use basketballs, and the rims will be 10 feet from the floor, and the Jayhawks and Shockers will generally receive points when they place said ball into said basket, just as Dr. James Naismith so intended.
But this is no basketball game, not in the larger cosmic sense. Not to the Shocker die-hards of Wichita, Kansas.
KU-Wichita State would be a phenomenon, an event that hasn’t occurred since Bill Clinton was a new president, Boyz II Men was a new band and everyone — moms, dads, the entire cast of “Full House” — was wearing mom jeans.
It would be a clichéd clash of cultures: Staunchly Republican Wichita vs. Staunchly Democratic Lawrence; country vs. indie rock; metallic-tasting Folgers vs. that $4 cappuccino made with fair-trade organic beans sourced from Burundi.
And it’s something even more important than all that, Wichitans say. It’s a chance to take decades of frustration — decades of feeling like a second-class citizen in more ways than one — and toss it into a CenturyLink Center trash can.
It’s the chance for Wichita State to take KU’s smugness and Wichita State’s own inferiority complex and two-hand tomahawk dunk it into oblivion.
“There are people at the University of Kansas that see us as knuckle-draggers, as Neanderthals,” says O’Donnell.
“We feel like we get treated unfairly,” says Spike Anderson, a former Wichita State baseball player and booster. “We feel like Kansas is the kid on Christmas morning that gets all the good stuff.”
“Big brother vs. little brother,” says Sheryl Wohlford, a member of Wichita State University’s board of trustees. “That’s how it feels.”
A brief history: Back in the ’80s, KU and Wichita State played every year, like you’d expect from two in-state teams separated by 160 miles. KU generally romped, winning eight of the last nine meetings by an average score of 83-61.
The series ended in 1993, after KU hung 103 points on the Shockers during an obscene 49-point win. It would be fair to point out, as many KU faithful do, that Wichita State fans weren’t exactly sad to see the annual game go.
…Bill Self, KU’s esteemed coach, has repeatedly said his team has everything to lose and nothing to gain from restarting the series. University leaders have ignored the public outcry for a game and shrugged off a widely publicized legislative push led by Sen. O’Donnell to force Kansas’ in-state schools to play annually. Self and KU have fair points, valid points, but it doesn’t much matter.
Because this is what Shocker Nation hears: We think we’re too good for you.
“KU doesn’t think we deserve to be on the same court with them,” says Anderson, the former Shocker baseball player. “And, yes, that is very frustrating.”
…It’s like Big Brother pummeled Little Brother for years. Little Brother didn’t like it. He started training. He pumped iron. He worked on his jumper. He waited, begged, for another chance to face Big Brother.
And now, after years of waiting, Big Brother finally has to step back on the court.
It’s breathtaking. It’s exhilarating. It’s ... terrifying.
Because, if you haven’t noticed, Big Brother can play. And the specter of waiting 22 years and then getting hammered by KU falls somewhere on the devastation scale between “beloved pet’s death” and “Armageddon.”
“I’m telling people ‘Be careful what you wish for,’ ” says O’Donnell. “Because if we beat them, the drumbeat will get louder for them to play us every year. But if we lose to them ... embarrassment.”
So, yes, this would be a basketball game. It would be a basketball game like “The Last Supper” is a painting of a meal. It would be a basketball game like the Statue of Liberty is a tall thing made out of steel and copper.
“It’s bigger than the Final Four appearance,” Anderson says of Sunday’s potential dream matchup. “I don’t know how to say it ...”
He pauses, like they all pause.
“The ultimate,” he says finally. “The ultimate.”
Omaha World Herald
“It will be one of the most talked-about games in state history,” KU basketball coach Bill Self said Friday after his team’s game, “which would be great.”
The Shockers got an unexpected boost toward the historical meeting on Sunday thanks to thousands of Jayhawk fans who remained in their seats for WSU’s game – a good portion of them up and cheering for the Shockers as they rallied against Indiana in the second half.
“I thought (the KU fans) doing that was a great show of support for the state of Kansas,” said WSU fan Art Davis, who sat directly behind the Shockers’ bench. “I’ve been a WSU fan all of my life. It’s exciting … and it’s nerve-wracking.”
Please pay close attention because we are about to describe one of the rarest events in modern sports. This is like spotting Bigfoot, or maybe like hearing a good Nickelback song.
We are firsthand witnesses to an authentic moment between an athlete and a small crowd of reporters.
This is shortly after Kansas’ 75-56 win over New Mexico State in the NCAA Tournament’s round of 64 on Friday. A few reporters are talking with Brannen Greene, who like all of his KU teammates has gone through the program’s media training, when out comes something we all probably assumed was true but would never expect to hear articulated out loud to the cameras and notebooks.
“We act like we don’t pay attention to social media,” he says. “But we see it, and our feeds blow up when people talk about it.”
…But the more important point here is that this is not a rivalry, at least not in any traditional way. There is no history here, neither long ago or more recently. Nobody on either team was out of diapers the last time these teams faced each other. The players know each other. They’re friendly.
Last year, each team had a Wiggins brother. Greene worked a summer camp with Wichita star Ron Baker. KU’s Perry Ellis and Wichita State’s Evan Wessel played together at Wichita Heights High. Conner Frankamp transferred from KU to Wichita State. KU’s Frank Mason and Wichita’s Rashard Kelly played together growing up in Virginia. They like each other. They text often.
Any added intensity comes from geography, and fans, and a recent push from Wichita and media in the state for these programs to play each other.
“We’ve never played them,” Greene says. “So there’s not much of a rivalry there.”
That’s not just KU talking, either.
“I don’t call it a rivalry,” WSU’s Tekele Cotton says. “I’m pretty sure in a rivalry the teams play each other often.”
…This is a game that will be a momentary national curiosity and a lasting local talking point for reasons that have nothing to do with basketball. It is not a rivalry, but it is also not an empty matchup.
It will be a memory, either way. A memory that will be decided by two groups of young men — united by age and talent, divided by uniform, and without any inherent reason to dislike the other side — who understand they’re expected to decide something just a little bit bigger than a typical NCAA Tournament game.
KC Star Mellinger
Meanwhile, Wichita State, which won an 81-76 shootout against Indiana, is the last No. 7 seed that Kansas wanted to see in the second round. Not only because the Jayhawks have avoided scheduling the Shockers in the regular season, but also because Wichita has one of the few tourney point guards who's better than Frank Mason (Fred VanVleet, who had 27 points and committed just one turnover in 37 minutes against IU), and because Wichita's defense is nearly as good as it was last season when the team went 35-1.
The national perception of the Shockers has changed—they've ceded center-of-tourney-attention status to Kentucky—but they remain a threat to make a deep run. Maybe even a run all the way to a rematch with Kentucky in the Elite Eight, which would be appropriate given the bracket the Shockers were dealt last season. They're still on the second tier of college basketball's caste system. As Gregg Marshall said Friday, "We're not the 'blue blood,' so to speak" that teams like Indiana, Kansas and Kentucky are, but the NCAA tournament is the great leveler.
The bluebloods are all there waiting for the Shockers, a team that might be more dangerous as a spoiler than an unbeaten.
SI Luke Winn
“Never called them,” clarified WSU coach Gregg Marshall. “They know we want to play. It’s not something I want to bother them with. I did mention it in passing one time to Bill (Self). He was in Wichita for some (charity) deal.”
Click here for more in-depth coverage on Marshall finally admitting he had fabricated the three-game pitch to Kansas
[Apparently Sean Keeler isn't convinced by Marshall's "clarification' that he never contacted KU about playing, because he put it in his article again. Today. Derp.]
Fox Sports Keeler
No offense to Wichita State, but why would Kansas ever go play there? It’s a lose-lose from a perception standpoint. If you win, you defeated the lowly mid-major like you were supposed to. If you lose, then you can’t beat a lowly mid-major. There’s no benefit for KU.
It makes far more sense to travel to places such as Washington D.C. (Georgetown), Los Angeles (USC) Philadelphia (Temple) and Florida (Florida) for true road games. It’s great for recruiting and can often be a “thank you” to a recruit who hails from one of those areas. Playing neutral site games in New York or at tournaments is also a better sell because the level of competition is guaranteed to be better. (Wichita State has been a fine team, but only over the last few years.) And then there are the semi-home games in Kansas City that establish Kansas as the team of the state.
…But it’s here where the whole thing gets interesting: Kansas fans are deathly afraid of playing Wichita State on Sunday. A quick look at the message boards and a phone chat with a longtime Kansas alum makes that clear. First, this isn’t a great Kansas team. Second, they’ll never hear the end of it if they lose. On the other hand, Wichita State fans can’t wait. They’re playing with house money and finally get a chance at the big boys. And, sure, the balance of power won’t swing if the Shockers win. Kansas will still be Kansas and Wichita State will still be Wichita State. But, once again, it’s another lose-lose for Kansas, except that this time, the season is on the line.
Kansas — the state of Kansas — can’t wait for Sunday. The rest of America should be pretty excited too.
So WSU enters this one looking KU square in the eye. This isn’t about 1993. It’s about 2015. Kansas won’t give the Shox a game. So here’s their chance to prove they belong.
Actually, Wichita State did that back in 1981, when it beat KU in the NCAA tournament. The Battle of New Orleans. I wonder if an NCAA loss to WSU sticks in the craw of the Jayhawks?
As for Wichita State’s Baker, he looked like he’d already been through a Battle of Omaha.
After their formal press conference, the gamer from Scott City, Kansas, trudged back to his locker room. He limped, with a bag of ice taped to his right shin.
And that’s another very possible reason the Shockers looked somewhat subdued in this biggest of moments: It took all they could muster to tame Indiana.
Wichita State laid it on thick. Bodies flew everywhere. The Shockers led with 39 rebounds, six blocked shots and 10 first downs.
The Big Ten Hoosiers are used to physical teams. They took all the bruising Shockers could dish out, led at the half and played the game of their season.
It was a fabulous game, with point guard generals VanVleet (27 points) and Yogi Ferrell (24 points) trading big shots like punches. Finally, the Shockers ripped away the lead and hung on at the free-throw line.
Finally. You could lead a Shocker to KU ... and make him drink. And finally he could talk, quietly, about getting to play Kansas.
“I’d be lying if I said that didn’t happen in this locker room the last couple years,” Cotton said. “But we never really wanted to play just them.”
Omaha World Herald
VanVleet’s not supposed to be quick. And he doesn’t jump well. His shooting is spotty. And he certainly can’t defend another team’s outstanding and quick guard.
All of the above have been knocks against VanVleet since he arrived at Wichita State, criticisms made mostly by national basketball “experts” who are paid to know the game.
But if you watch VanVleet play more than a couple of times a year, you come to realize that his best attribute is his brain.
VanVleet has the smarts to make up for anything he lacks athletically. He might not be the quickest guy, but he’s still quick. He might not be the best shooter, but he’s a good shooter.
And when VanVleet decides he’s going to the basket, good luck stopping him.
“I was getting in there to pass, really, and the first couple of times I went in there to pass and I noticed I could have shot it, I started to be more aggressive,” VanVleet said. “I was trying to get into the lane and get to the free-throw line.”
VanVleet made 9 of 10 free throws and his 159 for the season are more than any other Shocker. He’s not content to sit on the perimeter and hold up a hand to run a play. He’s always in the middle of the action, especially if it involves contact.
Wichita Eagle Lutz
Marshall gladly contributed to the hyperbole Friday afternoon, less than hour after the Shockers beat Indiana, 81-76, to advance. He called Sunday’s game the Battle of Omaha, a riff on the 1981 N.C.A.A. tournament game renowned to fans from the state as the Battle of New Orleans. The Shockers, with the future N.B.A. players Cliff Levingston and Antoine Carr, won, 66-65, in the round of 16, with the backup Mike Jones hitting the winning jumper with four seconds left.
Before that, the teams had not played in 25 years. They met nine times from 1984 to 1993, with Kansas winning eight. But not since.
“I’m not going to lie,” Self said. “I think there are certain games that are big, and I think this is one of those games that is bigger. I’m not going to sell it that way to the players or anything like that, but they get it. They know it’s a big game. They know it’s bragging rights in the state.”
And here is the crazy thing: Wichita State, the lower seed, may be the better team. Fred VanVleet, who tied his career high with 27 points against Indiana, and Baker are among the best guard tandems in the country. Ellis has not been the same player since returning last week from a sprained right knee. He had only 9 points and 2 rebounds Friday against New Mexico State, when the Jayhawks rode nine 3-pointers to win by 75-56.
“It’s obviously very emotional for our fans both ways, a great atmosphere for college basketball in general, and great for our state,” Wessel said. “But as far as the players go, it’s a chance to go to the Sweet 16, and that’s how we’re going to treat it.”
New York Times
“This was by far the best,” Bragg said of the rivalry spirit between the teams. “I love the experience, the atmosphere. It was crazy. I had to keep my composure.”
Pardon spoke on his team’s willingness to endure their opponents’ physical and verbal shots.
“We take peoples’ best shot, and we go along with it,” he said. “We see a lot of adversity, and we just go through it. Because we’re one of the best teams, we have a bull’s-eye on our backs.”
After swapping figurative blows with their opponents en route to a 32-23 halftime lead, the Vikings exploded out of the gate in the third quarter, opening on a 14-0 run.
Midway through the third, Bragg put an exclamation point on the run with a block that led to a thunderous tomahawk slam. On the next Ursuline possession, the 6-foot-10 McDonald’s All-American tipped away a crossover from Irish senior Mark Hughes, gathering the ball and hammering home a windmill jam that left jaws on the floor throughout the Canton Memorial Fieldhouse.
Bragg said the reaction from the crowds may have provided the punctuation for the game, not just a good run.
“When the crowd got with us, after those two dunks, I think it was over after that,” he said. “I was feeling it, my adrenaline was going. I just took it and did my thing.”
The Villa Angela-St. Joseph boys basketball team faced a familiar foe March 21 in the Division III regional championship game.
A mere 364 days after losing a heartbreaking Division III state championship game, 64-62, to Lima Central Catholic, the Vikings stared adversity in the face at historic Canton Memorial Fieldhouse and said, “No. Today, you don’t win.”
...The win gives the Vikings a shot at redemption next weekend at Value City Arena, the location at which they came up short of their dreams last season.
...Not only did the Vikings score the first 14 points of the third, quarter, including a pair of highlight reel dunks by Bragg, but they also tortured Ursuline with their defense.