The next time we see Kentucky vs. Wichita State, it can't be in NCAA Tournament
Once and for all, for the last time, let’s sing it together: Putting Wichita State as a 10 seed was an embarrassing mistake.
The NCAA Tournament selection committee has to own that. The gaffe is something that will forever be referenced when egregious seed errors show themselves on Selection Sunday in the ensuing years.
“This is almost as bad as Wichita State getting a 10 seed in 2017.”
You’ll hear things like that.
“Remember when Wisconsin was an 8 seed and beat Villlanova?”
You’ll hear that, too.
But the loss for Wichita State will resonate loudest because we don’t know what could have been. The Shockers losing in competitive style on the final possession to one of the five best teams in college basketball doesn’t confirm the committee’s call. No. 2 Kentuckyon Sunday, an enrapturing 65-62 outcome that proved what many people knew: those were two top-10 teams on that floor in Indianapolis, two teams that had no business being shoved up against each other in the second round.
“This will just be more fuel for us,” Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall said. “This will be a three-point loss to Kentucky, a 2 seed. We know we can play much better. Basically, other than our two seniors who started as walk-ons, we’ve got everybody back.”
For the second time in four NCAA Tournaments, Wichita State lost by a bucket to Kentucky. But if Wichita State being placed on the wrong seed line was on the committee this year, then Wichita State’s standing next year isn’t only on the committee — it’s also on the coaches.
Some of the sport’s best better take Gregg Marshall’s calls and schedule Wichita State. (That is, if Marshall winds up staying. He will again have opportunities to consider.)
We can’t count on the committee to be flawless. Nor should we. With that in mind, here’s how 2017-18 shapes up, and it’s important to take note of this now. Let’s not just have a Shockers loss float off into the ether without recognizing how good this team was this season and how great it could be next year. A team that rated top-10 in 2016-17 isn’t losing anybody for 2017-18. This group is going to get even better. Scary thought. Landry Shamet looked like an NBA player against Kentucky. Shaq Morris offered shades of Big Baby Davis back during his LSU days. Markis McDuffie is about to make the leap.
So if Marshall stays, Wichita State shouldn’t have to go through this again, needing to pummel the Missouri Valley by an average margin of more than 20 points. If the committee isn’t going to seed fairly, it’s on college coaches to help fix the problem and better the sport.
“It really doesn’t matter what other people think, to be honest,” Marshall said. “It matters what we think. And we can’t change people’s perception of our program. We can’t change people’s perception of the Missouri Valley Conference or the talent level. It’s more important that we know what we’re about, and we sleep really well at night knowing what we have and what we continue to prove and what we continue to do as a program.”
It does matter what Marshall’s contemporaries think. It’s on them just as much as it is the committee. Can we have a really good team or two please schedule the Shockers in 2017-18? It’s the only way to avoid a mis-seeding, and college basketball’s non-conference will be better for it.
I have an idea.
If Kentucky doesn’t want to face Wichita State in the first weekend again, the most effective way to avoid that is for John Calipari to schedule the Shockers next year. Since Kentucky and Wichita State have developed an affinity for playing such terrific close games, how about Calipari makes a move for the betterment of college basketball and agrees to a two-for-one with the Shockers? Get Wichita State at Rupp next season, the Wildcats playing in the Roundhouse in 2018, then finish up the trifecta back in Lexington in 2019. It’d be fantastic, wouldn’t it?
If not that, how about an one-off at a neutral in Kansas City or Nashville?
Calipari is one of the games biggest influencers. He has the ultimate job security. Him pulling off a move like that would only prompt a couple of other really good coaches to do the same. Marshall’s program is worthy of home-and-homes with top-25 programs because, now, Wichita State is just that. It has reached this level.
“How many years do we have to do this to make people respect our program?” Marshall said. “I don’t know. That’s up to you guys.”
It’s not the media, Gregg. You’ve got just about every hack in your corner at this point. Your comrades in the business need to take your calls. The committee has already shown, multiple times, that it will not course-correct Wichita State’s seed because top-25 programs won’t schedule the Shockers on a level playing schedule. In theory, the committee should be the check-and-balance. In absence of that, we arrived at the point where Wichita State needs to start getting the respect within the business that’s afforded to another school that labored for years with this problem: Gonzaga.
You know the team with the appropriate seed next to its name, the team that’s now in the Sweet 16.