For What it's Worth: The more maddening—the better

Published On: Mar 19 2014 08:49:28 AM CDT
Bruce Haertl: For What It's Worth...

Four of the top ten favorites for the entire NCAA Tournament are in the Midwest Region, which, apparently never happens. According to one Las Vegas bookmaker the Midwest is the most stacked region in the history of the tournament.

So what?

The more I think of this murderer’s row in the Midwest the more I think it fits right into Wichita State’s world. The selection committee has given them another chip to foist up on the shoulder. The Shockers have flourished in doubt, they seem to thrive on proving people wrong and this run will give them that opportunity in abundance. Besides, people need to stop worrying about playing the tradition of Kentucky and look at the Wildcats for what they are—a largely talented but undisciplined group who’s yet to figure out how to play for one another.

I’m not even sure that Kentucky will beat K-State…I think they will, but not enough to bet on it. Frankly, Shocker fans ought to pull for Kentucky, as a matchup with K-State brings all sorts of intangibles to the table. Intangibles in an interstate game can have the effect of skewing the physical matchup by bringing up emotional factors which otherwise might not be there. The Shockers would be a slight favorite over Kentucky and a slightly bigger one over Kansas State, but I think KSU would be harder for them to beat.

What we really want to see (sure, I’ll go ahead and speak for you) is the knockdown, drag out, street brawl that would be Wichita State versus Louisville in the Sweet 16. Talk about two tough minded teams that give no quarter …I think it would be the game of the tournament previous to the Final Four.

Upping the ante---

It’s no surprise that Wichita State wants to continue to improve their schedule and they’ve certainly done that with a neutral court date with Memphis next year. The Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, South Dakota is a brand new building opening in the fall and they were willing to pay to bring two teams to showcase the facility. The game will get an afternoon tip as part of ESPN’s Tipoff Marathon, it fits Gregg Marshall’s model of playing anyone, anywhere on a neutral floor. Gregg has been steadfast about not playing single away games for a check. In other words, Florida wants them to come in for a one time game in Gainesville, for a huge payday, with no return (actually happened)—the Shockers simply won’t do it.

WSU already has Alabama, St. Louis and Tulsa making return trips to Wichita next year, they’ve had very active conversation with UConn and Purdue this season and there are other very intriguing possibilities in the mix. The bottom line is that Wichita State has become enough of a national brand that the possibility of losing to them no longer carries the stigma it once did. Marshall and senior associate Athletic Director Darron Boatright, who handles most of the conversations regarding scheduling, have been…irritated… by the national discourse on their schedule (which was dragged down considerably by Valley opponents), expect that to help produce one that’s beyond reproach for next season.

Good timing---

I’m no fan of Bruce Pearl, but I think that Auburn scored with his hiring. With apologies to Charles Barkley, the Tigers have a long suffering program that’s withered in the immense shadow of their football program (it is, after all, the SEC). Pearl is a master promoter, ok, self-promoter, who’s had to have been humbled from his transgressions at Tennessee. He isn’t stupid, this is a tremendous chance at redemption for a guy who needs it and he’s long since proven that he can recruit and coach. Auburn had nowhere to go but up, the hire of Pearl fits theirs and his needs.

Of course---

I’ll be watching, with pride, KWCH’s coverage of the goings-on in St. Louis. There are no fewer than 12 journalists making the trek to the Gateway City and that team will produce the most complete local coverage of March Madness perhaps ever.

You have no idea how rare it is to have the type of emphasis and support for local sports that KWCH provides. I’m not overstating it to say that KWCH Eyewitness Sports is the envy of local TV sports departments across the country.

Enjoy their hard work.