7 seed Wichita State will face off against 2 seed Kansas tomorrow, and this game will have huge implications. Not only will the winner get to go on to the sweet 16, but they will also get state bragging rights for a very long time. Normally a game like this wouldn’t be very important, because the teams would play every year or two. This is not the case with Kansas vs. Wichita State. The Shockers have repeatedly tried to schedule a game with the Jayhawks, but Kansas has no intention of making that game happen.
Why? My guess is because Kansas is afraid to be embarrassed by their instate Little Brother team. They run the state, and don’t want to risk their title. This is exactly why tomorrow’s matchup will be so epic! WSU will surely bring everything they got at Kansas, because the chip is most definitely on their shoulder. They have been belittled and disrespected by the Jayhawks for years, and it is now their time in the spotlight.
No one could argue that Wichita State has a better program, or basketball history than Kansas, but recent history is far less one sided. Both teams have made the past 4 NCAA tournaments, with Kansas losing in the National Championship to Kentucky in 2012 and Wichita State losing in the Final Four to Louisville in 2013. In those 4 seasons, including this one, WSU has won 121 games, while KU has won 115. This shows that even with the lower competition, the gap between the teams is fading.
The individual matchups in this game are also very intriguing. Both teams are ran by great point guards in Fred Van Vleet (13.1 PPG, 5.3 APG) for WSU and Frank Mason (12.5 PPG 4 APG) for Kansas. Wichita State also has the wings to battle, or even surpass Kansas’. Ron Baker is a wooden award finalist, and Tekele Cotton is battle-tested veteran. Kelly Oubre, Wayne Selden Jr., and Brannen Greene are all long and athletic wings for Kansas, but do not have the accolades or experience of Wichita state’s. In the paint, the battle isn’t as equal. Darius Carter tries very hard for Wichita state, but Perry Ellis and Jamari Traylor are just better talents, and need to impose their will if Kansas wants to come out victorious.
Van Vleet should probably be the best player on the court tomorrow, with great court vision, scoring ability and leadership, but he stands for something much greater. He was and still is the only ESPN 100 recruit on Wichita State, and though that hasn’t hindered their success, it does give room for them to grow. If they can pull out this win, it could give a recruit a legitimate reason to play their college basketball in Wichita, rather than in Lawrence.
This game is the classic underdog matchup. The Jayhawks want to go in and impose their will and assert their dominance verse the supposedly inferior Shockers, but this is no easy task. WSU only has 4 losses this season, and this game should be most emotional by far. This is their chance to prove their program’s relevance, and put Kansas in their place. Wichita State has everything to gain and nothing to lose with the game. If they win, they get the bragging rights of the state, and if they lose they keep their position as the second best team. For Kansas, a loss would be very embarrassing and delegitimize the programs persistence on not scheduling a game against Wichita State. Both teams are going to leave everything on the court, and if this game isn’t an instant classic, I would be very surprised.
The rivalry between these two teams has seen 14 games played dating back to 1908, with KU winning 12 of those meetings. In fact, Wichita State hasn’t beaten Kansas since 1987.
My prediction is Wichita State winning by about 5 because they will be putting 100% effort into taking down the big bad Jayhawks, and should play their best game of the season.