LAWRENCE — Kansas coach Bill Self believes that unbeaten Wichita State deserves a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament — if it beats Missouri State on Saturday and then wins the Missouri Valley tournament.
That doesn’t mean he’s changed his stance on scheduling the Shockers.
The subject is brought up at least a few times every year, and was broached again Thursday. Self said he’ll continue to schedule games solely in the best interest of Kansas, which means home games to pad the coffers and road games in places advantageous to recruiting.
So rather than a dangerous game just down the road from Lawrence, the Jayhawks prefer to face marquee names such as Duke and Georgetown in places such as Chicago and New York.
“I don’t want to say never, but I mean, we’re pretty locked into what we’re trying to do from a scheduling standpoint, and that’s not a knock on anybody,” Self said. “We’re going to schedule strictly based on what we feel is best for us.”
It sure would be an enticing matchup this season.
The fifth-ranked Jayhawks are 22-6 and have already wrapped up a share of their 10th straight Big 12 title. The No. 2 Shockers are 30-0, and with one more win will become the first team since St. Joseph’s in 2004 to enter their conference tournament with an unblemished mark.
Both teams are firmly entrenched in the top 10 of the latest RPI, the Jayhawks on top by virtue of their brutal schedule and the Shockers at No. 9 thanks to their perfect record.
“They’ve had an unbelievable year, and I personally believe they deserve a one seed if they run the table,” Self said. “Pundits say, ‘Well, their schedule’ and this and that. Hey, it’s hard to win on the road, especially when you’re everybody’s Super Bowl game. I respect that. All I want is to put us in a more favorable position.”
It’s not as if the two programs have never met, it’s just that they haven’t since 1993. And in the viewpoint of some, that’s about two decades too long. That’s why an occasional politician will float legislation in Kansas designed to force them into playing each other.
That would be fine with Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall, who told The Associated Press earlier this year that he offered what amounts to a two-for-one proposition: one game in Lawrence, one in Kansas City and one in Wichita.
The suggestion was met by crickets.
So, the NCAA tournament remains the best hope of bringing them together. Some believe the Shockers and Jayhawks will be in the same region, where they could conceivably meet for a spot in the Final Four — a place visited by both schools in the past two years.
“I would say this, if that were to happen and both teams met in the tournament, it would mean both teams have done quite well to get to that game,” Self said. “But I’m not the least bit concerned or consumed by this.”