KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall may finally get his wish.
Marshall has been trying for years to schedule a game against Kansas, the basketball powerhouse just a couple hours’ drive from the Shockers’ campus. The Jayhawks have balked, insisting they have nothing to gain from a series against the Missouri Valley school.
But if the seventh-seeded Shockers take care of Indiana, and the second-seeded Jayhawks beat New Mexico State, the schools will meet in the third round of the NCAA Tournament.
“You get ready to play Indiana,” Marshall said, when asked for his reaction to the road ahead. “If we’re fortunate enough to play in the third round, if it’s Kansas or New Mexico State, we get ready to play them. We take it one round at a time.”
Kansas coach Bill Self follows the same approach. But that doesn’t mean he was oblivious to the potential matchup when the bracket flashed on the screen Sunday night.
“How in the world they’re a seven seed blows my mind,” he said, pointing to the Shockers’ 28-4 record and regular-season conference championship. “I thought the Missouri Valley, to be honest, deserved a little more credit than what they got. I thought they’d be a higher seed.”
Depending on how things shake out, the tantalizing matchup between Wichita State and Kansas isn’t the only possible third-round game sure to spark some interest next weekend.
STEVE FISHER VS. COACH K: If top-seeded Duke handles its opening game against the winner of North Florida-Robert Morris, and No. 8 seed San Diego State beats St. John’s, it would set up a rematch of the coaches involved in the 1992 national championship game.
Mike Krzyzewski is still in charge of the Blue Devils, and Steve Fisher is with the Aztecs after he coached Michigan in that title matchup. Duke won that game at the Metrodome, and the Wolverines later had to vacate their runner-up finish following a series of NCAA violations.
Fisher was fired as a result of the scandal. Two years later, he took over San Diego State, and has led the program to six consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances.
NOTRE DAME VS. BUTLER: Sure, the Hoosiers are in the tournament, too. But all eyes in the Hoosier State would be on this matchup between the Fighting Irish, the ACC Tournament champions from South Bend, and the Bulldogs, who call Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis home.
Despite playing numerous times, the schools have never met in the NCAA Tournament.
Notre Dame would merely have to take care of Northeastern to reach the next round, but the Bulldogs face a taller task in Texas — and its imposing front line of Myles Turner, Cameron Ridley and Prince Ibeh. But hey, the Bulldogs have chopped down plenty giants this time of year.
“We really didn’t focus on what our seed was going to be,” said the Fighting Irish’s Jerian Grant. “It was all about just seeing our name there, and especially last year not being there, we wanted to hear our name and we didn’t care who we matched up.”
VIRGINIA VS. MICHIGAN STATE: Once again, the Cavaliers did enough in the regular season to earn a top-two seed. Once again, their road to the Final Four could include Michigan State.
The Spartans were a No. 4 seed when they knocked off top-seeded Virginia in the regional semifinals last season. This time, Michigan State is a No. 7 seed and will have to beat Georgia in its opening game for the chance to play the second-seeded Cavaliers.
Virginia would have to beat Belmont to set up the rematch.
EASTERN WASHINGTON VS. STEPHEN F. AUSTIN: Both will be underdogs in their openers, but the potential for a high-scoring, up-and-down clash in the South Region is alluring.
The No. 13 seed Eagles, who play Georgetown in the second round, are third nationally in scoring at more than 80 points per game. They’re led by Tyler Harvey, a sophomore guard who led the nation in scoring, and Venky Jois, a 6-foot-8 forward who is just as effective.
The 12th-seeded Lumberjacks, meanwhile, were ninth nationally in scoring behind the potent duo of Thomas Walkup and Jacob Parker. Stephen F. Austin opens up against Utah.
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