A big Wichita thank you toESPN college basketball writer Andy Katz, who as part of an interesting Q&A session with Kansas basketball coach Bill Self asked the question that Wichita State basketball fans have asked a million times.
Why won’t KU play Wichita State?
I’ve asked Self this same question a few times, and always received the same answer. It’s generally the answer he gave to Katz. There is no big news to be broken here.
What’s different, though, is that a national basketball writer, one who is well known and respected, has asked the question. It’s not just me, some schlub in Wichita, whose voice doesn’t carry to Lawrence, or even much past the intersection of 53rd and Woodlawn.
Kansas exists in a vacuum. The Jayhawks’ most important media market is Kansas City, and none of the television, radio or newspaper guys there gives three hoots whether KU plays Wichita State. So Self and the KU administration is free to go about their business without concern about what’s going on in Wichita.
Before we get any deeper into the blog, I wanted to print Self’s reaction to Katz’s question. So here it is:
“Kansas hasn’t played Wichita State for years, way before I was the coach at Kansas. … Iowa plays Northern Iowa because the state legislature says you have to. If someone were to come and say something that it’s law, then we would have to. But you schedule to benefit your own school, not to benefit others. You have to benefit your own school. I want to play games that benefit us, and, from a financial standpoint, it’s hard to play games away from Allen Fieldhouse since that’s our main source of budget every year.”
I like Self. He’s one of the best guys in coaching. You ask him a question and he’ll give you an answer. And above everything else, I’m not sure there’s a better basketball coach in the world.
But on this issue, we strongly disagree. And he’s wrong about Iowa, whose legislature has never forced Northern Iowa, Drake, Iowa and Iowa State to play one another. They just do because it’s good for the state.
I do not understand how Self could say that playing Wichita State would not be beneficial to KU. Both are basketball schools and have been for decades. Nobody at WSU pretends that the Shockers have nearly the tradition of Kansas, but right now Wichita State is in a pretty good position to compete with the Jayhawks. A battle of wits between Self and WSU coach Gregg Marshall would be worth buying a ticket.
Historically, the Shockers haven’t always been capable of holding their own with KU. In fact, in the last five games between the two, played from 1989-93, the Jayhawks won all of them by an average margin of 32 points.
The teams have met 14 times, with KU holding a 12-2 edge. WSU won a 1989 game at Levitt Arena, 54-49, and beat the Jayhawks in a Sweet 16 game of the 1981 NCAA Tournament in New Orleans, 66-65.
It’s been nearly 20 years now since the two met and that’s ridiculous. Any reason given by Self of those associated with KU sounds ridiculous. (The same holds true for Kansas State, by the way, in case you think I’m giving the Wildcats a pass.)
I have long proposed a three-game series between Wichita State and Kansas that would look like this: One game at Wichita’s Intrust Bank Arena, one game at Allen Fieldhouse and one game at the Sprint Center in Kansas City).
KU would have a strong fan base at all three venues. And it’s impossible for me to believe that the series wouldn’t make great financial sense for both schools.
Self believes there’s nothing to be gained by playing Wichita State and everything to lose. I don’t buy it. Wichita State has a basketball program worthy of respect and has been a strong player for most of the past 12 years. The Shockers will never be a threat to KU’s basketball heritage. But if the Jayhawks were to lose a game to WSU, it wouldn’t signify the end of college basketball as we know it. KU fans wouldn’t call for Self’s head. There wouldn’t be a cancellation of season tickets.
A KU-WSU series simply would be good for the state’s basketball fans, of which there are many. But too often, I feel like a quiet voice in the woods as I make my plea. Thanks to Katz for giving this issue a louder voice. I’m sure Self didn’t like the question, but it’s one that needs to be asked until the day KU and WSU sign a contract to play basketball.