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Why Wichita State’s early matchup with Kentucky was unjust

The snickering has begun, Wichita State is gone, the 1 seed that didn’t belong bumped early from the NCAA tournament by one of the sport’s blue bloods, despite its 8 seed.

The Shockers got a raw deal. The NCAA tournament committee can slice it any which way it chooses, but if any other No. 1 seed had drawn Kentucky as its 8 seed and second matchup — Arizona or Virginia, perhaps — the college basketball world would be up in arms. I can hear Dick Vitale’s voice in my head: (enter high-pitched voice) “It’s a travesty for those kids at Virginia, who worked so hard for a No. 1 seed, and they an underachieving Kentucky team, with Final Four talent, right away.”

I get the argument that if you’re truly the best, you’ve got to beat the best. But the whole point of a No. 1 seed is it’s supposed to be a reward for the regular season, there is supposed to be some sort of advantage. Wichita State would have been better served as a No. 2 seed. It would have rolled through every No. 7 seed in this field.

Or any other 8 seed. Think about it: Colorado and Kentucky were on the same line.

Kentucky probably deserved an 8 seed based on its body of work. Understood. But anyone who saw the Wildcats in November or in the SEC tournament, knew the potential was there for much more. This was, after all, the preseason No. 1, based on the most heralded recruiting class ever. So, either the talent is Final Four-caliber, or early rankings are abolished beginning today.

Pundits are fond of using the term “eye test” when judging college basketball teams, usually as a way to ignore the accomplishments of a mid-major. Kentucky wasn’t a No. 8 seed by the “eye-test” standard. If you want to punish great talent for grossly underachieving, that’s fine. But don’t punish the No. 1 seed. Put Kentucky on the 11 line, or put them in a play-in game, in the side of the bracket with the 3s and 6s. Or make them a 6. Not an 8. And, if an 8, how about in the bracket of the lowest No. 1 seed, Virginia?

And if you’re laughing at mid-major Wichita State today, you don’t know basketball or you didn’t watch a minute of the Shockers this season, Sunday included. That was a Final Four-type game. Kentucky, as it played Sunday, might have beaten every team in the NCAA tournament field, Florida, Virginia, Arizona and Michigan State included.

I’ve heard folks say Wichita State was just introduced to Big Boy basketball. Keep in mind, the Shockers were in last year’s Final Four, beating Gonzaga and Ohio State along the way, and pushing Louisville to the brink.

This year, they beat NCAA tournament teams Saint Louis, BYU, Tulsa and Tennessee, and also Alabama, and then pounded the Missouri Valley Conference, staying perfect through nine conference road games. Do you know how many Horizon League road games Butler dropped in its last run to the NCAA tournament final? Four. Conference road games in any league are a chore.

Wichita State would love to play Kansas, as Dayton would love to play Ohio State. The JayHawks and Buckeyes instead duck the matchup and count on the ignorance and snobbery of high-major fan bases to ignore the injustice.

When a school turns down an out-of-league game – and has open dates to play it – that ought to be on the record and taken into seeding consideration. The courage factor, we’ll call it.

I covered the mid-major world for six years, and have good friends who are fans of another Missouri Valley school. To walk in those shoes is to see a different perspective. Every high-major fan and reporter and talking head ought to spend a couple of years in that world and then come back. You’d see something closer to the truth. Something you don’t often get from the mouths of college basketball’s money.

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37 Responses to Why Wichita State’s early matchup with Kentucky was unjust

  1. avatar Steve says:

    This post is completely unjustified and apparently meant to just stir the pot. So here ya go…. MSU is a 4 seed and possibly the best team in the country. Does Virginia have a reason to be upset thats the 4 seed they get? No. Kentucky played like an 8 seed all year long. They dont deserve an 11 seed, they deserve an 8 seed like they got. Heck, they barely escaped a Kansas State team that probably shouldve won that game. Witchita State, being the great team they are, should’ve taken care of their business. Allowing 10 offensive rebounds and missing 6 free throws is the difference. Not to mention they shot 21 three pointers, making 10. They knock down 1 of those open looks and this article is obsolete. Bottom line, in ANY sport at ANY time ANY team can be beaten when playing one game. That should be blatently apparent in the last two years NCAA Tournaments. Witchita State is just as talented as Kentucky, with an advantage of having the NCAA tourney experience the freshman of Kentucky didnt have. Kentucky wanted it more and it showed. They were the more agressive team. They battled for everything they got. They deserved that win. The Shockers take care of their business, they win the game. They have no one to blame but themselves. They definitely cant blame the tournament committee for the seeding matchups. Thats ridiculous.

    • avatar Chip says:

      I agree with Steve’s comments, and I have been around and followed Mid-Major schools for over thirty years. They could cry about their ranking in the NCAA tournament but the player’s I knew at Western Michigan never complained – they looked forward to their competition, not whether they were an 8 playing a 2. If you want to be the winner you have to win at all times against who ever you play or go home. Witchita State could not do that and they went home – that should be the only story and Graham Couch should let it go at that. go green and white

    • avatar Spartan 81 says:

      Charles Barkley said the committee loaded the bracket against Wichita on purpose, Kellog said it was loaded but not intentional

  2. avatar reality check says:

    Totally agree just like MSU owns Hokes knows deep down that Michigan is the better team, on one day MSU just wanted it more, does not mean that Michigan would not dominate the next 6 out of 8 games,

    • avatar spartaninsc says:

      Are you saying U of M would beat MSU 6 out of 8 times going forward? I totally disagree. What will U of M look like next year? How many people return from their current roster? A split always seems reasonable.

      • avatar reality check says:

        Most basketball experts think Izzo’s guys are too robotically trained to play Izzo’s system, that they can’t just PLAY with freedom and abandon. In essence, Spartan basketball has become more about Izzo than it is about the players, and the players lock up. Michigan, on the other hand, is about the players and the team and the players find a flow together, and that is all Beilein cares about. I bet if you asked Beilein who he is greatest role model is, he would say it is The Wizard of Westwood

        • avatar MSU Owns Hoke says:

          Izzo has a national title and 6 final fours, what does Beilein have again? how many MPG does that focus get?

    • avatar MSU Owns Hoke says:

      totally agree Mark knows deep down MSU is the better team, on one day Michigan made a lucky field goal, does not mean that MSU would not dominate 5 out of the next 6 games.

  3. avatar msu76 says:

    You’re right, Graham. Wichita State was a good team. They would have finished 4th in the Big Ten.

    • avatar AAsparty says:

      yup

    • avatar Graham Couch says:

      Totally wrong, MSU 76. Wichita wins the Big Ten this year, hands down. Watch the games, the basketball. Not the brand on the jersey. Nobody thought Nebraska was going anywhere in Mid-February. I saw them play MSU and new that was an NCAA tournament team. How many Wichita State games did you see this year? Listening to Bob Knight right now call the Shockers the best team in college hoops all year long.

      • avatar MSU Owns Hoke says:

        Couch, your mid major love is coming out, no way they win a major conference. They would have finished 4th behind MSU, M and Wisconsin, and maybe even OSU. KY is a super young team with a lot of talent no doubt, but if WSU was as good as you said, they win that game going away.

      • avatar msu76 says:

        On second thought, I am wrong: they would have finished 5th! Come on, Graham, a mid major is a mid major. Their players and their opponents aren’t nearly as good. Since moving from Michigan in 2001, I’ve lived in the Pacific Northwest, where for years, all I heard was how great Gonzaga was and it was only a matter of time before they’d win it all. Not gonna happen, and I think people are finally waking up to that.

        And come on, Graham, you’re covering the Spartans. Enjoy life in the big leagues. And just a word of advice: make your next column about a team still in the tournament, not the recently beaten Bearcats or Shockers. So, let’s talk about Tony Bennett, which team has the better Harris, or how cool it would be to attend a university founded by Thomas Jefferson (spent a week in Charlottesville a few years back- gorgeous campus). And let’s forget about the vanquished. GO GREEN!

  4. avatar jerseyjohn says:

    i hate kentucky but we may need them to beat scUM. here’s my beef. anyone notice that scUM has all of their games on CBS in primetime? meanwhile we are on TBS again close to midnight. this whole tourney is crooked.

  5. avatar Jerrod says:

    so last year this guy must have written an article about how it was unfair 1 seed Gonzaga had to play 9 seed WSU in the second round.

  6. avatar Big Jon G says:

    Graham, right on. I was really rooting for Wichita. They got hosed, pure and simple.

  7. avatar FactCheck says:

    Unjust, they didn’t deserve that? Come on, it is the NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP TOURNEY. You have to beat everyone you play, whenever they come up.

  8. avatar Cmoney says:

    Whatever. I wish we were playing Tennessee rather than Virginia… give me a break. Go back to Kansas on the same plane as the jayhawks. Win and earn your right…

  9. avatar jerseyjohn says:

    that racist jemelle hill is up to her old tricks. she says izzo should go to the pistons and we should hire shaka smart. how does she keep her job? i know and you all know. she’s a hack.

    • avatar msu76 says:

      Careful, Jemele is a Spartan!

      • avatar jerseyjohn says:

        that’s my point. what true spartan would repeat the rumor that jalen rose started on national TV? it is the scUM agenda to stir up trouble.

        • avatar reality check says:

          Izzo knows Michigan will dominate the next ten years he is on a fast train out of Dodge

        • avatar msu76 says:

          Can’t you disagree w/her without calling her racist? Pretty ugly & serious allegation.

          • avatar jerseyjohn says:

            it’s been well documented that she stirs up trouble everywhere she works. when called on it, she always pulls out the race card. just google her. she fits right in at ESPN. the network who hires criminals who know nothing.

          • avatar witless chum says:

            Time I met her, she seemed very nice and didn’t noticeably recoil from my blinding whiteness.

            And I see we’ve gone from “she’s a racist” to “she plays the race card.” Sounds like bullshit to me, though I question the sense of people who say racism is an “ugly and serious allegation.”

            Truth is everyone in this country tends to be at least a little bit racist, because that’s probably more American than apple pie at this point. The people who insist they’re pure as the driven snow, hehe, tend to be the same ones who think it doesn’t count as racism unless you do it while wearing a white sheet.

        • avatar reality check says:

          Now don’t disrespect Jalen Rose he’s bailed Hoke out of jail on numerous occasions

          • avatar MSU Owns Hoke says:

            Hoke knows Dantonio will continue to dominate him, he is on the fast track out of dodge, against his will, cause he will be fired after this year, of course Brandon seems to accept mediocrity so hopefully he lets Hoke stick around. Hey Mark, MSU 69 Beilein 55, that is domination, right dumb ass lol

  10. avatar Jmac says:

    I think UK, Louisville and MSU were all under seeded badly, and were in positions to take out 1′s relatively early. Unfortunately for Wichita, they get two of the three. Oh well, not much pity from me after Marshal’s mighty Spartans comment.

  11. avatar jody says:

    I agree. WSU had a rougher path than many lower ranked clubs. It made no sense.

  12. avatar MSU Owns Hoke says:

    Mark, it’s too bad Rose only went to the county lock up with all his drunken escapades. I know some fellas who would have taken real good care of him in prison. You’re the one who needs to be bailed out not me, I enjoy taking care of michigan fans in prison, they have no clue. so how is that focus running?

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