Wichita-K-State basketball series still on table, but Shockers-Jayhawks? Not so much
Any negotiations between Kansas State and Wichita State for a basketball series are hypothetical at this point, but at least they're friendly hypothetical -- and within the realm of possibility. But don't expect to see a KU-Wichita State game on the schedule anytime soon.
Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall (center) would like to schedule games against Bill Self's Jayhawks (left) and Bruce Weber's Wildcats, but at this point only Weber appears to have interest.
John Rieger-Peter G. Aiken-Kevin Jairaj / USA TODAY Sports
By Sean Keeler
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- So now Georgia is officially in, if you're keeping score, and Texas A&M is expected to be, too. Kansas State will likely hook up with their old Big 12 pals, the Aggies, on the hardwood at Sprint Center downtown Kansas City this upcoming fall.
On Tuesday, the Wildcats officially announced a two-game, home-and-home, December-and-December men's basketball series with the 'Dawgs, starting this winter in Manhattan. It's a chance to reunite with former Wildcats assistant (and Garden City, Kan., native) Mark Fox, now Georgia's coach, and maybe snatch a few onion rings down at The Varsity restaurant on the return leg in 2015.
And hey, while we're on the subject: How exactly ARE those reported talks with Wichita State going, anyway?
"We have intentions of considering some sort of series with Wichita State in the future," Casey Scott, K-State's senior associate athletics director for operations, tells FOXSportsKansasCity.com. "It's not going to happen in (2014-15), because our schedule is pretty much down the road here. And it has to work for them.
"They've sent some parameters as to how they (would) agree to a series, and we've set some parameters that we want. But from (Wildcats coach) Bruce Weber's point of view, he's certainly willing to consider playing Wichita State at some point.
"I think you've got to find the series that everyone would be amenable to. Is that starting home-and-home? Does that include neutral games in downtown Kansas City or Wichita?"
The Wildcats are trying to continue to lock down a game in either Sprint Center in downtown Kansas City or Intrust Bank Arena in downtown Wichita in alternating years. As to whether one of those games might actually include the nearby Shockers, well ...
"I think we would discuss that," Scott says.
Short answer: We're in the hypothetical stage, still. But at least it's a friendly hypothetical stage.
"It's something that, when everybody gets their programs stabilized exactly where they want it, it'll become more of a conversation," says Darron Boatright, senior athletic director for external operations at Wichita State. "And hopefully, it's something that gets worked out. They've been open to (discussions), and I understand how complicated these things are."
Complicated? The Wildcats and Shockers haven't played since 2003. Wichita State hasn't met "big brother" Kansas on the court since 1993.
"Kansas hasn't been engaged as much," Boatright says.
"And again, I hate to sound like a broken record -- I understand (why that is)," he continues.
"When I was on the coaching staff at the University of Alabama, we didn't play UAB. Nor will they now. When I was at Murray State, as a student and as an administrator, (we) played Louisville regularly; Kentucky (would) not play. So this is not some anomaly. It's out there, and I get it. It's not something that I'm upset about or something that I've spent time being that concerned about it.
"Would we like to? Sure. But it has to be the best for everybody. And sometimes it's easy to say what you would do if you were in the other (person's) situation, but you don't know all the facts. So I get it -- they have to do what is best for their program, and they have very intelligent people there who are making those decisions."
Boatright, who has helped to craft a series of sneaky-good nonconference schedules for the Shockers since they crashed hard onto the national scene three seasons ago, says he hasn't had any talks with peers at KU, because "I know that (coach) Gregg (Marshall) and coach (Bill) Self have discussed it. And I know that (athletic director) Eric Sexton has discussed it with their administration. ... I haven't, personally, but it's because I know the conversations have happened with others.
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"I don't think anyone ever says a flat, 'No.' It's more of a 'Not at this time.' Sometimes those things change quickly. And sometimes, not so quickly."
Which is a tad more diplomatic than saying you're "not going to go to Allen Fieldhouse for a check," but the point still stands. Don't hold your breath.
Kansas and K-State aside, nonconference scheduling is serious business for the Shockers, who need quality out-of-league opponents -- not necessarily "name" opponents, but quality ones -- in order to present the best overall resume possible to the NCAA tournament selection committee.
And given the end of the BracketBusters series and the departure of former rival Creighton to the Big East (which accounted for, at worst, three games against teams in the Top 100 of the Ratings Percentage Index, including at least one on the road), a feisty nonconference slate for the Shox -- the Gonzaga of the Great Plains -- is more important than ever.
"I never spent any time worrying about RPI, strength of schedule, any of those things, until about the second week in February," Boatright says. "By that time, your nonconference games have merit. And you know how good they are and (whether) maybe you've missed one and had a weak spot."
The Shockers have a series with Utah coming up, and will be playing Memphis -- a former Missouri Valley Conference stalwart -- at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, S.D., on Nov. 18. They're also headed to the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu on Dec. 22-25, as part of a field that includes Colorado, Nebraska, George Washington, Hawaii, Ohio, DePaul and Loyola Marymount.
Saint Louis and Alabama will soon trek to Koch Arena in "return" games, and the Shox will visit the University of Detroit to complete an outstanding BracketBusters obligation.
From November 2011 through December 2013, Wichita has played 11 RPI top 75 nonconference opponents on road or neutral courts during the regular season. They've gone 8-3 overall in those tilts -- and 7-1 since November 2012.
"I don't care how 'sexy' the names are," Boatright says. "Our goal is to assemble a nonconference schedule that, if our team would manage that nonconference schedule appropriately, and they're good enough, that nonconference schedule will allow us to get an at-large berth (in the NCAA tourney).
"We've played North Carolina Central the last two years because our intel told us they should compete for a league championship. That's more of (the) approach we have to take."
You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter at @seankeeler or email him at email@example.com.