OTC: Wichita State Is Undefeated And Unloved – Even Hated Maybe / KU’s Senior Night Remains Special

“It’s only happened 17 times that a team has gone into the tournament undefeated. And we’ve been playing this tournament since 1939!”
Mike DeCourcy, college basketball writer for SportingNews.com, on Wichita State having a chance to be an undefeated number-one seed next weekend, 810 AM

“The most intriguing name out there for everybody is Wichita State. I think people are really fascinated with this Final Four team from a year ago and what they’ve done. I think right now they’re the number-one story in college basketball.”
Kevin Harlan, 810 AM
GH: The Shockers are just down the road and they have done the undoable the past two months of March – displaced the Kansas Jayhawks as the state’s most talked-about basketball program. Now, not all the talk has been positive.

“In years past, the Shockers have entered the NCAA tournament as a fan favorite; they’re a hard-nosed, scrappy bunch that doesn’t necessarily have any stars but simply play fundamental, team basketball. But don’t expect that to be the case this year. Wichita State has taken the brunt of college basketball angst throughout their currently-undefeated season. Not Duke, not Kentucky, but the Wichita State Shockers. Why? Do people inherently desire something, anything, to despise? I’ll leave that to the psychologists, but several Shox-opposers cite the weakness of the Missouri Valley Conference as the source of their dislike.”
Peter Aiken, writer USA Today
GH: Wichita is home to many, many Jayhawk basketball fans – who also root fervently for their hometown Shockers. But there is now a dilemma up north in Lawrence. Little brother has grown to the size of a threat – at least the past two seasons. KU fans are not looking at WSU as a cute little story anymore. They are looking at the Shockers hoops program as if they were Kansas State. That is called progress, boys.

“If they get through the opening weekend, if they get through the first two games – they’ve succeeded in my mind. They’ve had a very successful season and they’re legitimate.”
Josh Klingler, on his expectations for Wichita State in the NCAA tournament, 610 AM
GH: I don’t think WSU’s team, fans or even their conference are going to be pleased if they bow out before making the Final Four. 31-0 kind of makes one a bit greedy. But a “good greedy” I might add.

“When Selection Sunday rolls around in March and Wichita State grabs the N0. 1 seed, don’t be surprised when a resurgence of Shox-related hate rears its ugly head for the duration of the season. Fans should take pride in the idea that the entire nation is waiting for them to fall flat on their face, simply to remark, ‘I told you so.’ It comes with the territory of being a preeminent college basketball program. Enjoy it.”
Peter Aiken, writer USA Today
GH: So if WSU goes and gets beat this week at the Missouri Valley Conference tournament in St. Louis all this is kind of moot, right? I am rooting for them to ride their zero as far as they can.

“I think there are some really good teams in this (SEC) league. I don’t think we get a fair assessment of how good our league is.”
Frank Haith, head basketball coach at Mizzou, 810 AM
GH: The SEC head coaches and maybe a player or two are the ONLY people I hear saying that SEC basketball is not getting the respect it deserves. Did Frank watch Kentucky and Bama last night? That game was uglier than Detroit’s cars in the 1980s.

“The last time I checked, we control our own destiny. There’s not a lot of teams that can say that. We can control our opportunity to play in the NCAA Tournament.”
Frank Haith, 810 AM
GH: A win at Tennessee on Saturday is an almost gotta-have-it-to-get-in game. And a win tonight at home against A&M needs to be a given. There is NO reason that MU should win at Tennessee but as crazy as this season has been I am thinking Haith and his band of misfits pulls the upset and goes dancing. Or not.

“There are certain traditions I believe are worth keeping. This is not ‘Freshman Night,’ or ‘Sophomore Night,’ or ‘Junior Night.’ Other people may do it differently but that’s not how we’re going to do it. I think our fan base would be very disappointed if we did something that took away from something that is one of the great traditions of our basketball team – and that is Senior Night.”
Bill Self, as KU says good-bye to their sparse senior class tonight at Allen Fieldhouse, 810 AM
GH: I have attended a couple of Senior Nights at Kansas and they are special. Part of me really would like the underclassmen who have contributed so much to the program’s success (and Self’s retirement fund) to also receive their deserved recognition. But Kansas is one of those hallowed places where tradition trumps just about every emotion. 

“I don’t ever want the emphasis to get away from those kids who have exhausted their eligibility here.”
Bill Self, 810 AM
GH: Rolling Wiggins and Embiid out on the court tonight would definitely take the spotlight off of KU’s departing four-year seniors, Niko Roberts and Justin Wesley. These two will get more court time during tonight’s ceremony than they have in their college careers. And the KU fans will treat them both like they were Danny Manning. Yeah, Senior Night in Lawrence is pretty damn special. 

“I think sports gambling should be legal in all 50 states. But I don’t gamble.”
Mike DeCourcy, 810 AM
GH: Should we allow sports gambling on college games and pay the college kids as well? I think we are heading that way whether the NCAA likes it or not.

“Find ‘em. Sign ‘em. Develop ‘em. And play ‘em. That’s got to be this (Chiefs’) front office’s credo.”
Kevin Harlan, on John Dorsey’s and Andy Reid’s philosophy with personnel, 810 AM
GH: Harlan does not believe this Chiefs front office will be very active in signing developed free agents. He believes they are far more interested in draft picks and young castoffs from other organizations.

“One warm spring night in 2011, a young man named Travis Hughes stood on the back deck of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity house at Marshall University, in West Virginia, and was struck by what seemed to him—under the influence of powerful inebriants, not least among them the clear ether of youth itself—to be an excellent idea: he would shove a bottle rocket up his ass and blast it into the sweet night air. And perhaps it was an excellent idea. What was not an excellent idea, however, was to misjudge the relative tightness of a 20-year-old sphincter and the propulsive reliability of a 20-cent bottle rocket. What followed ignition was not the bright report of a successful blastoff, but the muffled thud of fire in the hole.”
Caitlin Flanagan, The Atlantic
GH: The first paragraph of this article about college fraternities was so good I wanted to share it with you. I do not think I will think of the phrase “fire in the hole,” the same ever again.

GregHall24@yahoo.com and Twitter @greghall24

About Greg Hall

Software guy who has been writing my Off The Couch column in KC newspapers, publications and websites since 1994. Has been bounced from some of the finest media establishments this side of State Line Road. Dad first and everything else second...and there are a lot of everything elses.

36 Responses to OTC: Wichita State Is Undefeated And Unloved – Even Hated Maybe / KU’s Senior Night Remains Special

  1. tony muser says:

    saying that kansas fans are looking at wichita sate as if they are k-state is sort of an insult to the shockers in the context of basketball

  2. Gavin says:

    With all due respect to Klingler, Shox have to play in the Elite Eight for them not to be considered a fraud. They have pretensions of a national championship and think this undefeated season means something, they have to do more than beat an eight. That’s not WSU hate, that’s just realism. No one outside Philadelphia remembers St. Joe’s either.

    • Kyle says:

      Gavin, I don’t think they can be considered a fraud no matter what happens. 31-0 is impressive even if it’s against weaker competition. When you watch them play, you can see how good they are. The fact that they went to the FF last year validated this season for me at least. Will it be a disappointment for them if they lose in the 2nd round? Yes. But I would still not consider them a fraud.

      • Gavin says:

        That’s a fair point, Kyle. All I’m saying is that they’ve set themselves up to be viewed as a fraud if they don’t have a deep run. KU isn’t setting them up thusly, nor is the national media. Wichita State is demanding that they be respected. Greg Marshall is going around making comparisons between himself/his team and AKC dog show winners and how his team doesn’t need to have their “papers” to win a national championship. No one is forcing him to make those comparisons but if he wants to do it himself, he needs to put up or shut up.

        I don’t disagree that 31-0 is quite a feat, even against somewhat lesser competition. They showed up to play every night and that says a lot about their fortitude. I applaud them for that. But I still think that if they don’t play in the Elite Eight this will end up being more of an historical oddity than a truly revered accomplishment. Can anyone here, without Googling, name any starter from that St. Joe’s team other than Jameer Nelson? I know I can’t. If Wichita State doesn’t make a deep run, in five years no one at the national level will be able to name anyone except maybe Cleanthony Early and that’ll be because he has such a damn cool and memorable name in the first place.

        Again, I don’t have anything against Wichita State. I don’t love them and I’m not cheering for them, but I don’t hate them either. But they’re the ones seeking all this validation and I really think the only way they get it is with a deep run. If they don’t make one, I guess time will prove whether I’m correct.

        • Kyle says:

          Well said. I agree with you on Marshall. He has brought a lot of venom WSU’s way with his comments over the past couple of years.

        • nkkc says:

          Delonte West. No Google needed.

          • Gavin says:

            Excellent catch. I still think the larger point is correct in that no one outside Kansas will remember Fred VanVleet in five years, but I’m willing to be proven wrong. And if they make a Final Four of win the whole damn thing, I most certainly will.

  3. Jim says:

    Enough of the “athletes should be paid” nonsense. Scholarship athletes ARE paid. Are they cashing a check every week? No. Are they paying for books, tuition or room and board? No. How is it possible to pay for these things if they aren’t getting paid? It’s a stupid argument. Should they choose to take advantage of it, they are trading athletics for a free $100K+ college education. How is this unfair?

    • Gavin says:

      So your problem isn’t that they should NOT be paid? You think that they ARE paid, right? You don’t truck with the principles of “amateurism” and the fabled “student-athlete,” so much as you feel t hat they are already being compensated and that should be enough, is that your point?

      So, if you don’t concern yourself with issues of amateurism, then why not allow them to convert the value of their college education to cash and pay them with that instead of the education if that’s what they would prefer? I mean, if you agree that they are being compensated, then why not let them choose the form of compensation?

      • Jim says:

        Gavin, for 95% of college athletes on scholarship this is their last stop. The bargain this 95% chose was: I’ll play for you and you provide me a free college education. You actually think that a viable option would be for them to eliminate the scholarship, pay them cash instead and let them keep up with their own tuition costs? Let’s face it, when all the talk about paying athletes comes along, said athletes are the uber-elite, one and done, first round draft picks in the NBA and NFL. Nobody is talking about the kid that rides the pine and averages 1 minute of playing time or runs down on special teams and nobody even knows who they are. Anybody think those kids are making “millions” for their university or their coach and should be compensated EXACTLY the same way as the uber-level athlete? Hell no. Those are the kids that get the MAX benefit out of a scholarship. The other 5% are going to make their bones when they go to the next level anyways.

        • Gavin says:

          Well, first, Jim, you’re not answering the question and I’m genuinely curious. What is your problem with paying athletes? Is it because of amateurism? Or do you really think “they should just be happy with the free education”? And I’m not being snotty. I really would like to know. Because, while I might disagree with you, that doesn’t mean your point of view isn’t valid.

          But if your problem is with amateurism, amateurism doesn’t exist. It’s a cynical hoax created by NCAA member institutions to enable them to make billions of dollars off the labor of an unpaid workforce. (I stole that line from Taylor Branch, who put it better than I ever could.) If we were truly concerned about amateurism, then why are the schools, the coaches and the NCAA profiting so much from it? The NCAA’s TV contract just for the basketball tournament is worth $1 billion. That doesn’t include sponsorships, individual school’s contracts, league contracts, coaches’ contracts, etc. But we’re concerned with amateurism? Why? Because amateurism would somehow pollute this otherwise pristine and money-free environment?

          And if you say that your problem is that they should be satisfied with getting the scholarship and that’s enough, well, isn’t that kind of paternalistic and patronizing of you? I mean, who are any of us to say what another person should earn and how much is too much if they should happen to have the skills to earn more? You say that 95% chose this deal. Well, maybe. But that’s because this deal was the only one being offered. How many of them would choose to play for money if that was being offered instead? How many of them would choose to play for $50k a year in cash versus the $100k per year room/board/books. Tuition deal you referenced in your earlier post? Certainly some would choose the scholastic deal but I have a sneaking suspicion that a lot of them would figure that their personal interests would be better served by taking the short-term cash and working on their game and not their grades. Some guys, like, I dunno, Matt Kleinmann (anyone remember him?) would almost certainly choose the academic deal. Kleinmann got recruited by Harvard but chose to play at KU. Kleinmann’s professional future did not lie in basketball and that scholarship would have helped him a lot more. But Ben McLemore? His family was in abject poverty and it was pretty much accepted as fact that he was splitting KU as soon as he could because he could possibly go.

          You have a point that most of them are going to ride the pine for most of their time in school, but so what? If Texas or Alabama want to give a kid $20k to do nothing but work out and serve as a tackling dummy and the kid wants to take it instead of actually go to class and study for his biology mid-term, what do you care and why is that a bad thing?

          • Jim says:

            G-Man, I’m not under any illusions about the whole student-athlete/amateurism thingy-ma-jig. Hard to complete the student part when you are a one-and-done kid. 4 months of college doesn’t qualify as being a student. To my greater point, those who think these kids AREN’T getting paid are dead wrong. They might not agree with the METHOD of payment, but it’s payment nonetheless. Hey, you don’t HAVE to go to college if you think the bargain is unfair and is exploiting your talents for the benefit of the University. You don’t have to play college football to play in the NFL if you are that good. You don’t have to play basketball in college to play in the NBA or overseas. You can chose to set out the allotted amount of time and try your luck at making a squad, right?

            Universities and athletes scratch each other’s backs. Free showcase and free training for those going to the next level. Free education and a college degree to those that aren’t elite enough to go to the next level. My opinion that nobody is getting screwed in the deal. But hey, it’s just my opinion.

            • Gavin says:

              Well, you pretty much do have to go to college if you want to play in the NFL. You can’t go straight from high school and there are no minor league or overseas opportunities, but I see your point about basketball. At least there you can make money if you want to make money. We can quibble about whether the chances are strictly analogous, but you’re right. They can make money.

              But that really leaves me wondering. Again. Still. Whichever. If your problem isn’t with “amateurism” (and on that canard we appear to agree), then what is the problem. You don’t object to them getting paid conceptually, so why the gripe about them getting paid in cash instead of books and a diploma? I mean, it doesn’t affect you one way or the other. You aren’t being asked to give up some fake virginity about your school’s purity with regard to paying players. So what does it matter if they get paid in education, cash, free underpants for life, Kenny Rogers’ beard hair, Krugerrand or free passes to Disneyworld?

            • Gavin says:

              I hit enter too early. I understand that you think nobody is getting screwed in the current system, but what if both parties agree that they want to pay the kid? They’d both agree that nobody’s getting screwed there too, right? So would it be okay then?

              • trajan says:

                I would agree that many college football players give more than they get when you compare the long term health ramifications and the obscene amount of money universities make off them. But how would the pay scale work? Certain players on same team get more$ than others and what about schools that make much more off sports than others? And would title nine cause female athaletes to be paid as well even though those programs typically don’t make money? Would recruiting just come down to another form of free agency?

  4. PJ says:

    “So if WSU goes and gets beat this week at the Missouri Valley Conference tournament in St. Louis all this is kind of mute, right?”

    Moot, not mute.

    Also, isn’t Tarik Black a senior as well?

    • Jim says:

      TB is a senior and will start tonight. Graduated from Memphis and will complete his master’s degree this semester at KU. Playing basketball the whole time? Now, that’s a pretty good gig!

      • Jayhawk '97 says:

        That’s why Self used the term “exhausted eligibility”… Black can’t play anymore… so even though he’s been on the team as long as Wiggins, Embiid, he’ll still get a start/speech (although with Embiid being hurt, he’d be starting anyways)

  5. Fred Flintstone says:

    Greg, you missed the funniest snipped on the radio yesterday…on KK’s program. He had on some “big time” radio personality from the SEC, who’d done his program live from the WHB studio’s, and had earlier in the day, spoken at the Tiger Club Meeting.

    KK was gushing about how he’d be interviewing Mr Big Shot (I honestly forgot his name). The interview was relatively short, and at the end, Mr Big Shot told KK, “Thanks Greg” KK IMMEDIATELY went to commercial, and didn’t bother to mention anything about the dis by Mr Big Shot. I can guarantee you that maybe the interview is on WHB’s Podcasts, but “Thanks Greg” will be edited out. No way KK’s ego could handle having that up for everyone to hear.

  6. Hot Carl says:

    “Niko Roberts and Justin Wesley. These two will get more court time during tonight’s ceremony than they have in their college careers.”

    Definitely true for Roberts but Wesley actually logged important minutes on a not particularly deep Kansas team that played in the 2012 Final Four in New Orleans. Stats say he appeared in 38 games and played nearly 9 minutes a game. I always felt bad for the kid that he ended up at the wrong end of the bench his last two years.

  7. I don’t despise the Shockers, but Peter Aiken may be a different matter. Got overstatement, there, Pete?

  8. P says:

    My fraternity had a deck on the the top of our three story house…..how no one died during my years or since is a mystery to me.

    Lots of stupid brainless shenanigans during my days but no near death experiences or major injuries.

  9. Mark says:

    Wesley played minutes in the national championship game in 2012. There are A LOT of great Jayhawks who can’t say that.

  10. nick says:

    The ’96-’97 Jayhawks had pretty much an identical regular season to this year’s Wichita State team, minus a double OT loss (at Missouri). That KU team was ranked #1 and seemed destined for a Championship. That team had Jacque/Raef/Pollard/Haase/Pierce and was amazing and thrilling to follow from November to March. But because of the kick-in-the-gut loss to Arizona in the Sweet 16, it’s not a team KU fans like to think about much.

    For Wichita State fans, anything short of the Final Four will dramatically lessen the accomplishment of going undefeated. It’s maybe not the right way to think about it, but that’s how they’ll feel.

    Like KU in ’97, they’ll have a HUGE target on their backs and the teams they play will play with a nothing-to-lose mentality. They won’t sneak up anybody this year.

  11. nick says:

    Sigh. Both freaking stations are already getting baseball-heavy. ‘Cause it’s not enough to hear Ned and the athletes say NOTHING of relevance all through the summer.

    Local radio guys go hang out in Phoenix for weeks at a time, thinking they’re doing the listener a favor. They’re not. March Madness is likely the most entertaining month of the year in the sports world, full of great story lines and, especially this year, has TONS of local interest and back-and-forth of local fan bases. Wichita State, KU, MU and K-State are offering up tons of drama, not to mention the possible 5 other Big 12 teams who might make the NCAA.

    I think both stations could spend EVERY segment of every hour talking college basketball until late March.

    • Gavin says:

      Word.

      I like baseball and everything, but Jesus there are actual sports right now. I turn off 810 because they’re talking about which guy is going to be a middle reliever only to go go 610 and I hear Steve Physioc calling a meaningless spring training game that holds all the allure of listening to my mother retelling her latest game of Mah Jongg. Again, there are ACTUAL SPORTS.

    • Kyle says:

      x100. Nice job Nick.

    • Zed says:

      I always switch the station when there is talk about pre season baseball. Pre season football and baseball are worthless waste of time.

  12. Ron says:

    Everything that could possibly be said about KU, K-State and MU basketball has been said to exhaustion weeks ago. There is no new news until the tournament starts. The college basketball season is waay too long. When do that happen, and whose idea was it? Even the players and coaches have to be sick of regular season basketball by now.