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Column: A few factors favor KU vs. WSU

— Already having looked at the NCAA Tournament experience factor that favors Wichita State in a potential matchup with Kansas University, it’s time to take a look at what elements favor Kansas.

First, some of the intangibles that in many years or at certain times of the year that might favor Wichita State, don’t apply this year and/or this time of year.

One reason KU does not schedule the Shockers has to do with the idea that you never want to play a team that has so much more to gain from winning the game than do you. A victory over Kansas in a preseason game would do more for the energy of the Shockers fan base and the prestige of the program than any victory over any opponent could do for KU.

That doesn’t apply in March. Nothing in college basketball is bigger than winning an NCAA Tournament game, so everybody’s motivation is equal. Survive-and-advance does more for a program than any regular-season outcome possibly could do.

Another intangible in KU’s favor throughout the tournament, not just vs. Wichita State if the Kansas schools meet, has to do with playing without the burden of enormous expectations.

Nobody, repeat: Nobody on ESPN is picking Kansas to win it all. In most years, that’s not the case. It seems as if an inordinate number of analysts pick Kansas to get the Final Four every year. At least at the subconscious level, that might have something to do with Jayhawks coach Bill Self being friendlier, funnier, more interesting and more approachable than many elite coaches. It becomes wishful thinking to an extent. They pick Kansas because they want Kansas to win, to a small degree anyway. Plus, Kansas typically tears through a tough schedule with a series of blowouts. Not the case this season.

The most obvious reason for nobody picking Kansas to reach the Final Four has to do with the Kentucky Wildcats, the giants of this college basketball season in so many ways, standing in the way at the top of the Midwest region.

That’s just part of it, though. Other reasons for not picking a smooth post-season ride linger as well. Cliff Alexander remains ineligible and did not travel with the team. Alexander didn’t have a great season, but his athleticism translated better to elite competition than some who will play in his place. Perry Ellis, KU’s best player, has a sprained knee and it showed, especially in his second game in as many days in the Big 12 tournament. How much better is he with just shy of a week of extra rest? Starting wings Kelly Oubre Jr. and Wayne Selden Jr. have had big games, but neither player has produced consistently as an efficient offensive player.

The Jayhawks have the rare opportunity to overlook their No. 2 seed and embrace the nobody-believes-in-us mentality.

As for the tangible reasons to believe Kansas would defeat Wichita State, start with the premise that size matters. None of the Shockers’ seven players with double-figures minutes stands taller than 6-foot-7. They don’t block shots. Ron Baker, a 6-3, 222-pound junior from Scott City, leads the team with 0.8 blocked shots per game. He also leads the Shockers in scoring (15 points per game) and shoots .394 from three. Point guard Fred VanVleet and wing Tekele Cotton bring a wealth of tournament experience, and 6-7, 245-pound senior Darius Carter ranks third on the team in scoring (11.2) and first in rebounding (5.3).

They all can play, but Kansas will suit up three McDonald’s All-Americans (Ellis, Selden, Oubre), a junior, sophomore and freshman. Even if the size of Hunter Mickelson and Landen Lucas doesn’t bother the Shockers, the quickness of Ellis and Oubre, if he bucket hangs often enough, could be more than WSU is prepared to handle.

Reflecting on Selden’s performance in the Big 12 tournament, Self said, “His attitude has been so good the last two days, and he didn’t settle and he took the ball to the hole and was aggressive. I thought he played great over there, great. And we see that as a positive. Kelly Oubre was great one game. ... Frank (Mason) had his moments where he was really, really good, and Perry then didn’t have his balance. But if we can get those four guys playing well, we’ll be hard to deal with.”

Kansas at its best is better than Wichita State at its best.

Comments

Eric Dawson

Let's focus on New Mexico St first.

7 years, 8 months ago

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Suzi Marshall

Very bizarre/poor timing for this article.

7 years, 8 months ago

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Brandon Dey

Agreed. We could win anywhere from 0-3 games. We limped and crawled to a sparkling 7-5 record who knows what this team is going to do. They are never going to get by KY unless something biblical happens.

7 years, 8 months ago

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Clarence Haynes

Recent articles make me think that I have been reading the Wichita Eagle!

7 years, 8 months ago

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Arthur Ankeney

VERY disappointed with all the Witchita St. vs Kansas talk. This NMST team has won 13 in a row and is senior driven. They are no joke. Indiana isn't going to be a cake walk for WSU either.

7 years, 8 months ago

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JD Roth

Idiotic, bush league timing.

7 years, 8 months ago

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Mike Riches

Seriously. I hope that the players and coaches never get on this site to do any reading (actually I hope that for a lot of reasons). I get that some want to talk about a potential matchup with WSU, but our players and coaches need to be laser focused on NMSU. Many of us fans don't want to look past that first game as well. We remember Bradley and Bucknell all too well...ugh

7 years, 8 months ago

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Len Shaffer

You said it, Mike, and this is a very good, experienced NMSU team -- definitely not one to be taken lightly.

7 years, 8 months ago

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Greg Woolen

Keegan has now written 3 articles about a game that has 0.0% guarantee of happening and 0 articles about the game that WILL take place on Friday. I suppose that he felt he had so much to write about that the single day between Friday's game and Sunday's games wasn't enough to get all 3 articles published.

I am almost to the point of not even clicking on his links anymore because I know that I will get nothing from them.

7 years, 8 months ago

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Mick Allen

Agreed. One at a time, first things first. Come on Tom.

7 years, 8 months ago

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Cody Riedy

Come on people, Keegan wrote the article because its the game that is on everybody's mind. Sure, our players shouldn't be thinking about it. Sure, if as a fan, you are looking forward to it as a guaranteed thing, you could be sorely disappointed. But all that said, I don't think Keegan's articles are going to spark some kind of negative karma and cause our team to lose.

He's written three articles that went like this: 1) I hope KU v. WSU happens 2) if it happens, here are WSU's advantages, 3) and here are KU's. Sure, he could have saved the last two articles for Friday night or Saturday morning, but I don't think its that big of a crime for writers and fans to prognosticate and look ahead a bit before the games get underway. After all, a big part of the march madness is the anticipation and guesswork that 99% of us engage in filling out brackets, the looking ahead and hoping for certain match ups, worrying about match ups for your own team, etc etc.

7 years, 8 months ago

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Allison Steen

I don't think he shouldn't be writing the article because our players are going to read it or if we don't get the game as fans, we will be disappointed. I also don't think its going to jinx us. I don't think he should write another article about wichita state because I would like to read about new mexico state.

7 years, 8 months ago

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Allison Steen

Also, all 3 articles that were solely written by Keegan since the release of the bracket have been about wichita state (not including his double chin blog posts). Every. Single. One. Nothing about New Mexico St

7 years, 8 months ago

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Cody Riedy

I understand your point, but generally, the other staff writers provide the nitty gritty analytics and Keegan generally provides editorial work, which by definition are about what he's thinking and are not strictly reporting. In my opinion, the combined staff of writers (Tait, Benton, Keegan, etc,) have done a good job of facts (Benton), facts/analysis (Tait), opinion (Keegan).

7 years, 8 months ago

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Allison Steen

We have an amazing website to come to daily (or hourly, woops). I am not complaining about, say, the article itself, or that he is doing bad work. I am complaining that this is the only thing he is talking about. I just would think he could come up with SOMETHING related to New Mexico State, and not a game that could easily not happen. "What if" articles in March are sort of insane to me. Just as he can write 3 articles about WSU, he could write 1 about our opponent tomorrow. Just sayin. Agree to disagree, I suppose

7 years, 8 months ago

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Allison Steen

I ALMOST was tricked into thinking KU was playing Wichita State tomorrow. Has Keegan even written an article about New Mexico State yet? I want to say shut up, but that's rude, right?

7 years, 8 months ago

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Don Everett

It would be OK in this instance. I didn't even read the article, I skipped straight to the comments. They are exactly what I've been saying about Keegan all week, ridiculous. He wants to see this game so bad and I do believe he wants to see KU lose.

7 years, 8 months ago

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Doug Merrill

Cody - well put. There is seemingly always a weird number of comments by all the same people analyzing the writing or the writer, instead of the thoughts expressed and KU bball. As you say, this very likely game is already a topic of much discussion and it is magical thinking to imagine that anything written here would cause our players to overlook New Mexico State.

7 years, 8 months ago

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Caleb Wells

Ya'll don't need to worry about us until both of our programs get through the second round

7 years, 8 months ago

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Allison Steen

See, Keegan? Look what you've done! So many articles about Wichita State that now even their fans have to come on here to tell us to pump the breaks :)

7 years, 8 months ago

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Bryce Landon

What's the matter? Doesn't the Wichita Eagle provide a place for you Suckers fans to gather together?

7 years, 8 months ago

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Robin Smith

Why would Keegan write this article that I read and am now commenting on?????

7 years, 8 months ago

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Robin Smith

Also, I'm worried because the things I think about and the articles I read affect the team.

7 years, 8 months ago

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Allison Steen

Well, its either accomplish something at work or complain about another Wichita state article. So, complain it is!

7 years, 8 months ago

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Margaret Schadler

Write it now because it would go to waste unless both teams win their first game. Plus, if both do win, there will be other things to say and not much time/ to say them in.

7 years, 8 months ago

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Mike Riches

I don't know why everybody's worried about NMSU, there is NO WAY a double digit seed would upset a higher seeded Big 12 team in this tournament! :)

7 years, 8 months ago

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Rodney Crain

LOL no way that ever would happen you are right. Wait my upset alert is dinging............. Love your post.

7 years, 8 months ago

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Jay Scott

The Jayhawks are a nightmare matchup for WSU. They could go small and still dwarf the Shockers at the 3 and 4. They're longer, faster and have far more options.

7 years, 8 months ago

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