It was a story line that took off almost immediately when the Midwest region was announced, even before the other three regions were revealed. If Wichita State and Kansas both won their first round match ups, they would meet to play each other for the first time since 1993. The match up that Wichita State fans have been foaming at the mouth for what seems ages. No matter how true, the idea has long been perceived that a victory over KU would add legitimacy to the often overshadowed program from south central Kansas.
Only around two hours on I-35 separate the two schools, but to the surprise of most who don’t know the statistic, the two schools have only played a total of 14 times dating back to 1908. This isn’t a rivalry, and it never has been one. The time between games is too far, but Sunday could be the start of something beautiful. It could prove to all involved that this type of excitement could exist in the state of Kansas and nationally every year. It could be something to look forward to at the beginning of every basketball season. The annual match up for bragging rights in the state of Kansas could bring some finality to an echo chamber over the last few years. But one thing that separates this year from any other between 1993 and 2013 is that the test of legitimacy for the Shockers isn’t here. The Jayhawks don’t validate anything this year for the Shockers.
The Shockers are legitimate in their own right with consistent and perpetual growth in success since Gregg Marshall took over the reins in Wichita. The trophies and accolades have been added up starting with an NIT victory, followed by four straight NCAA tournament appearances, back-to-back regular season conference championships, a conference tournament championship, a Final Four trip and an undefeated regular season with a couple All Americans and a National Coach of the Year award thrown in for good measure.
On Sunday, the match up will be a spectacle for the ages in the state of Kansas, but more than that, it will be one of the best tournament match ups so far in the 2015 NCAA Tournament. For the Shockers it’s just gravy on an already full plate, and for the players and coaches it will be just another game with the same mentality they take into every other tournament game. Survive and advance.