It’s easy to see why Kansas and Wichita State should play each other. They are two of the three best basketball programs in a basketball-obsessed state. They are physically separated by less than 200 miles. They have played each other 14 times, most recently for a short run between 1989-93, and the Shockers are far better now than the teams that fell to the Jayhawks by at least 20 points in each of those meetings. Their histories – one a cultural monolith and longtime juggernaut; the other a historically mediocre Division I program – make for an excellent in-state, big brother-little brother dynamic that’s unique in college basketball. There are politicians who want these teams to play each other so badly that one went as far as to introduce a bill, later defeated, that would have forced them to play. Many others have tried to fan the flames of what could be one of the best rivalries in college basketball. Wichita State fans are vehement: They want nothing more than for their Shockers to get a shot at the Jayhawks. For crying out loud, Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall once called Kansas the “chickenhawks”. I could go on, but instead of laying out the obvious, sensible reasons why Kansas and Wichita State should play each other, I’ll get into the more timely question of whether the two teams are any closer to actually playing each other.
Sadly, it seems that they are not. Bill Self has long held that a game against Wichita State would not benefit Kansas, and that his program schedules games solely that are in its best interests. He argues that a potential match-up with Wichita State – despite all the seemingly logical reasons listed above – just isn’t worth it. “This isn’t knocking Wichita State,” Self told The Kansas City Star on December 17. “But if it was best for our program, I would reach out to them about scheduling them. But it’s not. I’ve heard a lot of talk about them wanting to play us so bad; Gregg Marshall’s never contacted me about playing.” Marshall reportedly reached out to Kansas officials to propose a three-game series that would comprise one meeting at Allen Fieldhouse, one at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, and one at Intrust Bank Arena in downtown Wichita (not Wichita State’s home court). Whether Marshall has spoken directly with Self about the proposed series is beside the point, because Self doesn’t seem like he’s willing to budge. He simply doesn’t want this game to happen.