Leave it to the Division I men’s basketball committee to conjure up something nobody else can or will: bringing Kansas, Kansas State and Wichita State together under one roof.
As unveiled Sunday evening, the trio will converge at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis for games on Friday with the tantalizing possibility that the Midwest Region’s top-seeded Shockers will meet the ninth-seeded Wildcats on Sunday.
K-State first will have to get by eighth-seeded Kentucky (and Olathe Northwest’s Willie Cauley-Stein), a less-certain prospect than Wichita State beating the 16th-seeded winner of the Cal Poly-Texas Southern matchup on Wednesday in Dayton. Since the tournament field was expanded to 64 teams in 1985, no No. 1 seed has lost to a No. 16.
The only thing that could have jazzed up the scene more from a local perspective would have been having Missouri there, too, but the Tigers didn’t have the credentials to make the NCAA field.
Since Kansas, a No. 2 seed in the field, is bracketed in the South Regional, the Jayhawks wouldn’t have the possibility of playing the Shockers or Wildcats until the NCAA championship game.
But that doesn’t mean there won’t be time spent around each other, starting with what figure to be some moments between the Wiggins brothers, Nick of Wichita State and Andrew of Kansas.
When Kansas and Missouri were assigned in different pods to Omaha in 2012, for instance, the teams actually shared the same locker room.
Now, it’s tempting to think there was some mischievous maneuvering on the part of the committee to bring this all together.
Surely, they must actively concoct such scenarios along with, say, round of 64 games between UCLA and Tulsa (a rematch of a game in the same round won by Tulsa in 1994) or Ohio State and Dayton, which Ohio State doesn’t like to play.
The same had to be the case with potential round of 32 games between Philly schools Villanova and St. Joe’s or Creighton and Nebraska, right?
Not to mention a host of clashes between coaching trees and/or those who previously worked together.
But the truth is that the NCAA’s process of seeding and staying true to the numerous bracketing rules in a compressed time frame with new information coming in all along is way too intricate to allow for such whimsical considerations. If I learned anything from doing a mock draft conducted by the NCAA a few years ago, it was just that.
Moreover, college basketball is all about its history and six degrees of separation. Infinite matchups would have at least some enticing reference point, and it wouldn’t be hard to find connections between any number of programs that would make it appear there was some attempt to draw these things up.
So having KU, K-State and Wichita State convening in St. Louis is no more than a coincidence … but a fascinating one, nonetheless.