The storied history of college basketball in the state of Kansas is legendary, going back to the inventor of the game, Dr. James Naismith, to storied head coach Phog Allen, and arguably the biggest recruit in hoops history period, Wilt Chamberlain.
But what all of those things have in common is one thing….the University of Kansas basketball. One of the Top 5 elite programs in college hoops history, boasting 3 National Championships, 14 Final Fours, and is one of only 3 programs to have won more than 2,000 games.
The Jayhawks play at the intimidating Phog Allen Fieldhouse, have produced some of the greatest coaches in NCAA history in Naismith, Allen, Adolph Rupp, Larry Brown, and Roy Williams, and have seen hundreds of talented players play for the program like Chamberlain, Jo Jo White, and Paul Pierce.
But in recent years, their mid major little brothers, the Wichita State Shockers, have been making their own noise emerging as a Missouri Valley Conference juggernaut, regularly making some deep NCAA Tourney runs under coach Greg Marshall.
In 2013, the Shockers were the darlings of the “Big Dance”, advancing to the Final Four, and oh by the way, it was Wichita State that began the 2014 season on a 35 game winning streak, before losing to Kentucky in last year’s NCAA Tournament.
The brass at Wichita State has been trying to schedule a game against their in-state rival Jayhawks for more than 20 years, ultimately falling on deaf ears, as Kansas doesn’t see value in playing the Shockers.
For an iconic program like Kansas, there has been little to gain, since if they beat Wichita State, it was expected, where if they lose, “Rock Chalk” would never hear the end of criticism for losing to a mid major rival. Head coach Bill Self also claims that scheduling non-conference tilts against teams in bigger markets like Philly(Temple), Washington D.C.(Georgetown) and Los Angeles(USC) can only help in recruiting.
But thanks to both the Shockers and Jayhawks winning their opening round games, the nation, and more importantly the state of Kansas will finally get to see a rivalry game 22 years in the making on Sunday as Kansas takes on Wichita State in the Round of 32.
Who ya got…Rock Chalk or Wheat Shock?
Allen Moll has been a lifelong NBA and NCAA College Basketball fan who watches and studies games religiously, and coaches youth basketball in his native Lehigh Valley region of Pennsylvania. Allen has also provided content to Bleacherreport.com, Upperdeckblog.com, Cleveland.com, CSN Philly.com, Buckets Magazine, Balltribe.com, in addition to being a tenured NBA and NCAA columnist for TheHoopDoctors.com.