For Kansas’ sake, the Jayhawks should beg to schedule Wichita State soon.
In eight years, Gregg Marshall took a program that was already a solid mid-major and built it into a national power. That much was already established before Wichita State's round of 32 game against Kansas.
With a nucleus of Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker, Wichita State went to the Final Four on year and started 35-0 the next. The Shockers have defeated Pittsburgh, Gonzaga, Ohio State and Indiana in the NCAA Tournament.
The last remaining white whale was in-state blue blood Kansas, a team that hasn’t played Wichita State since 1993. The Shockers spent 22 years waiting for Sunday's 78-65 win for Wichita State.
Kansas is conquered, and now maybe Marshall won’t be quite as vocal about wanting a matchup with the Jayhawks.
“I'm fine letting the series lay the way it is right now,” Marshall told the media. “The series is good with me at this point.”
Kansas, meanwhile, is left wondering what happened. This Jayhawks team isn’t a vintage Bill Self squad. Its best pro prospect, Cliff Alexander, is sitting while the school figures out his standing with the NCAA. But Kansas also won the Big 12 for the 11th consecutive season and managed to get a No. 2 seed.
Downplaying this Kansas team is a disservice to Wichita State. This also wasn’t the same Wichita State team from the last two seasons without Cleanthony Early in 2014-15. The Shockers didn’t pick up a signature win until their final game of the regular season against Northern Iowa. They lost twice to teams that didn’t make the NCAA Tournament, including Illinois State in the Missouri Valley tournament.
By avoiding Wichita State, Kansas put all the emotion in this game into Wichita State’s corner. Never mind that VanVleet, Baker, Tekele Cotton and Evan Wessel are all really, really good veteran players.
“They obviously were better prepared, ready for the moment better than us, and we didn't play very well,” Self told the media. “I obviously didn't get our guys to the point where we should play up to the ability that we should potentially play up to.”
Now, Kansas doesn’t have just a loss or just an NCAA Tournament loss or just an early exit. The Jayhawks won’t make it to the Sweet 16 because it lost to a program it long considered unworthy of its time.
It’s already started. Losses like this tend to magnify what evertyhing that happened before. Kansas has now lost in the round of 32 in each of the last two years, last year to No. 10 seed Stanford. Before that, a No. 1 seed Kansas lost to No. 4 seed Michigan in the Sweet 16.
Expect to hear Kansas’ Final Four in 2012 and national championship from 2008 mentioned a little less prominently.
By no means is this a program in turmoil. Kansas will be in a Final Four again soon enough and will keep cranking out Big 12 titles.
Wichita State, too, won't be the same program five years from than it was Sunday. Gregg Marshall, whenever he wants to leave Wichita State, will have his pick of places to go. VanVleet and Baker are juniors, and they have one more major thing to accomplish.
And it doesn’t involve Kansas.