Those Wichita State Shockers have got people thinking now. Thinking how good they are and how that program is ready and willing and able -- and deserving -- of a game against Kansas every season. After all, did you know that the state of Kansas only has three teams in Division I for men's hoops? Just K-State, the Jayhawks and the Shockers.
Makes sense to have the two most successful Sunflower State schools as of late be aligning themselves for seasons to come.
But that won't be happening. KU coach Bill Self already schedules aggressively, and in his opinion, lining his program up to play Wichita State every season doesn't serve much purpose for the sake of improving Kansas basketball.
Here's what Self told the Kansas City Star this week.
“This isn't knocking Wichita State,” Self told The Star on Tuesday. “But if it was best for our program, I would reach out to them about scheduling them. But it's not. I've heard a lot of talk about them wanting to play us so bad; Gregg Marshall's never contacted me about playing.”
Marshall drew a little attention this week when he told Fox Sports Kansas City that he wanted to play Kansas but that he wasn't interested in going to Allen Fieldhouse for a one-off guarantee game. “I'm not going to just be bought,” Marshall told Fox Sports Kansas City. “I'm not going to go to Allen Fieldhouse for a check.”
This is coming up now not only because Kansas and Wichita State have been in the rankings every week so far this season, but also because Marshall said he wouldn't go to Allen Fieldhouse "for a check." What Marshall means: Wichita State's now at the level where, it believes, it's good enough to play a home-and-home with Kansas.
But Kansas is the big brother here and it'll be deciding how things are. And, in my opinion, Self took a minor shot at Marshall when he was informed of his comments. Back to the Star's story; check the second graf.
“The one thing about being in coaching a long time and coaching at different schools and different levels is the fact that you understand that coaches schedule what's in the best interest of their program,” Self said. “Nowhere does it say that they are obligated to schedule in the best interest of somebody else's program that wants to play them.”
Self said he ran into similar issues while coaching at Tulsa in the late 1990s. He wanted to play Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Arkansas and other bigger programs in the region. “And they wouldn't play,” Self said. “But I didn't blame them. And I didn't make a big deal of it.”
I'd love to see them play, but Self is right. Fans of the game benefit when coaches can put ego aside and schedule in a way that helps the sport -- but what good does it do if it brings no tangible service to Kansas? Self is doing this for similar reasons (with less of a grudge, however) as he is with not scheduling Missouri after that longtime KU rival left the Big 12 for the SEC.
In an ideal world we'd have college coaches able to see the bigger picture, see how local games against respectable competition would be good for the sport every year. If Bill Self loses three straight seasons to Wichita State he's not going to lose his job. But it goes beyond that. Coaches are very competitive and very strategic about who they play and when. And when you're Kansas, you get the pick of the lot. Wichita State is fledgling but in need of a few more years of big-time winning before this conversation becomes realistic.