Kansas vs. Wichita State

This basketball game needs to happen. And it needs to happen in the Sweet 16 round of the upcoming NCAA Tournament.

Wichita State basketball coach Gregg Marshall has a team that could go far in the NCAA Tournament. Hopefully far enough to meet Kansas.

We need to resolve this thing once and for all, although most KU fans would dispute the notion that there’s a “thing.”

As co-host of a sports talk radio show and writing a newspaper column, the one topic I hear about more than any other, it seems, is a curiosity about how Wichita State would stack up against Kansas. This comes up, mind you, only when Wichita State has an outstanding team, as is the case this season.

The Shockers are rolling and at times look like they could beat almost any team in the country. Including Kansas.

But what would happen if the teams actually did play in the NCAA Tournament?

Kansas’ tradition carries weight. But Kansas has also lost NCAA games to Missouri Valley Conference teams Bradley and Northern Iowa in recent years. Just last season, VCU sent the Jayhawks home in the Elite Eight.

As good as the Jayhawks have been this season – and they have been surprisingly good given their lack of experience – I do not believe they are a far superior team to Wichita State. Nor do I think it would be a fluke if the Shockers beat KU.

I do think the Jayhawks have an edge with 7-foot Jeff Withey and 6-10 Thomas Robinson. Wichita State center Garrett Stutz would match up well with Withey, perhaps, but who do the Shockers have to battle the physically-gifted Robinson?

Then again, the Shockers are an outstanding transition team and would be able to keep up with the Jayhawks in the full court. Wichita State has more shooters and more ways to score.

When I think about this potential game, I get worked up. I want it to happen.

It apparently is never going to happen during the regular season – and you know how I feel about that – so all we can hope for is a postseason meeting between the Jayhawks and Shockers. It has happened only once, in 1981, and I believe all Wichita State fans remember how that one went.

Shocker basketball fans love their team, no doubt about it. But they can become obsessed with KU. I don’t really get it, but it’s real. Perhaps it’s all the success the Jayhawks have had over the years. Perhaps it’s a perception that KU fans think they’re a little better than the rest. Perhaps there is some class envy here.

I think Wichita State-Kansas could develop into one of the finest basketball rivalries in the country if the two schools ever decided to give it a chance. It’s KU, of course, that does the most to hold it back. And by “the most,” I mean the Jayhawks virtually ignore the fact that Wichita State even exists.

And that’s another reason WSU fans would love a shot at the almighty Jayhawks.

The best chance of it happening is for Kansas to secure a regional No. 1 seed and for Wichita State to be seeded No. 4 or No. 5 in the same regional. Two wins for each would put them against one another in the Sweet 16 and the Shockers would finally get their chance to back up their fan base’s tough talk.

I shouldn’t be looking this far ahead. But I can’t help myself. I’ve had an epiphany in the past couple of days. It’s time for a Wichita State-Kansas basketball game to happen.

How would it turn out?

I have no idea. I think WSU would be in the game, though. I can’t imagine it would be a blowout.

The Shockers are good. Really good. And there isn’t a Kansas fan – at least an honest one – who would tell you he or she wasn’t a little nervous about the potential of this game.

If the two teams played 10 times on a neutral floor, I think KU would win six. Maybe seven.

But there’s not that much difference in these teams. The Shockers would benefit from having such a veteran group of players, mostly seniors. There would be no intimidation factor.

Kansas has two great players in Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor. They would be clearly the two best players on the floor in this fantasy game. But they wouldn’t run over Wichita State, which would have an overall edge in guard play, I believe. Joe Ragland is playing at a high level, as is Toure Murry.

And what about the coaches? How much fun would it be to watch Gregg Marshall match wits with Bill Self?

Yes, this game needs to happen. At high noon, if need be. At 10 paces.