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HCS Op-Ed: Kansas Prepares for Little Brother Wichita State in NCAA Tournament

My mother used to always tell me that I should be nicer to my little brother because one day he’ll be just as big as me, if not bigger. I never really took that to heart and picked on my little brother relentlessly growing up. Well, looking back on it today, I definitely should have listened to my mother a little more closely. My “little” brother, already 6’1, gets revenge, with interest, every time we play backyard football.

The Kansas Jayhawks have been picking on their little brother, the Wichita State Shockers, for a very long time. In fact, the Jayhawks have refused to play the Shockers since their last meeting in 1993 when the Jayhawks pounded them with a 49 point victory.

I must admit though, being a big brother myself, I am biased in believing that the Jayhawks are a superior team to the Shockers. However, the Jayhawks have quite a resume to support my opinion. The Jayhawks have appeared in the NCAA Tournament 44 times. Yes, count them, 44 appearances in the NCAA tournament. Out of those 44 appearances, 28 times the Jayhawks made it to the sweet sixteen, 21 times to the elite eight, 14 times to the final four and 9 times to the championship game, with 3 of those trips resulting in championship trophies. This is why the Jayhawks are the big brother.

Now, onto the little brother. The Shockers have only 12 NCAA tournament appearances. Of these appearances, they have never won a championship game or even been in one. They have been to the sweet sixteen 5 times, the elite eight 4 times and the final four only twice. However, little brother is getting bigger. The second Final Four appearance just so happened to be in 2013. The Shockers appearance in the tournament this year marks their 4th straight, meaning that a third of the Shockers total NCAA tournament appearances have come in the last four years. Little brother is getting bigger.

Now, thanks to the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee, and whether they like it or not, the Jayhawks have to give their little brother the time of day. The 2nd seeded Jayhawks face off against the 7th seeded Shockers Sunday night in Omaha, Nebraska at the CenturyLink Center. In this matchup, big brother has all the experience and the skill. The Jayhawks have been on this stage time and time again and are more than capable of handling the pressure. The Shockers are new to this stage and have, only in the last four years, started to develop the reputation of being a legitimate contender. Every top recruit across the country has been wooed by the Jayhawks and they have a power lineup full of hopeful NBA stars. The Shockers leading scorer of the regular season is a walk-on (Ron Baker). Every book in Vegas lists the Jayhawks as a favorite to win. This matchup is starting to have all the makings of a David and Goliath storyline. But…

Yes, there is a “but” because as you well know, in this case it is the heart and dogged determination of the Shockers. The one characteristic that has been constant of the Shockers over the last four years has been to “play angry”. This line was made famous by Shockers head coach Gregg Marshall. This was clearly visible in their first round victory over Indiana. The Shockers were diving after every loose ball, throwing their bodies to the wayside for any chance at a rebound, and running with the energy of fresh players despite being drenched in sweat after keeping up with one of the fastest teams in the NCAA.

Meanwhile, the Jayhawks looked like the cool and confident big brother in the first round as they coasted to a 19 point victory over New Mexico State. As long as the Jayhawks can keep the Shockers from showing that big brother can bleed, then they’ll carry the day. But if little brother lands a punch, the Jayhawks will have a tough time keeping up with the energy of the relentless Shockers. The Jayhawks must stay in control of the game and use their superior skill to simply outplay the Shockers. If the Shockers start to build momentum, then they will simply “outheart” the Jayhawks.

This matchup has been a long time in the making and has both fan bases buzzing with excitement. I sat in on a brief family discussion about the upcoming game with my in-laws and I think it typifies both fan bases fairly well. When asking the die-hard Jayhawk fan in our family what she thought of the matchup, she said “What do you think?” It was a very typical big brother comment. Meanwhile, my sister-in-law said that “(the Shockers) don’t have as much talent as KU, but they work so hard. They really deserve some good stuff coming their way”, which embraces the persona of the little brother Shockers.

I think the best comment of all came from my brother-in-law: “I just want it to be a good game”. So here’s to family quarrels and what should be one of the most exciting games of the 2015 NCAA tournament.


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