'Shocker Nation' moves closer to reality
Perhaps Sen. Michael O'Donnell, R-Wichita, simply was looking for some respect when he introduced legislation to force both the University of Kansas and Kansas State University men's basketball teams to play Wichita State. Senate Bill 144 would have had the Shockers on the court each year playing nonconference but regular season games against the Jayhawks and the Wildcats.
The bill never emerged from committee. In perhaps a fitting bit of irony, neither KU nor KSU made it to the Final Four of this year's NCAA tournament. But Wichita State did.
They weren't supposed to, of course. Of the 8.15 million brackets ESPN received, 0.24 percent of them had the Shockers going this far. Most had them losing their first game.
The Wheatshockers didn't. Pittsburgh was just the first tourney team to discover how much talent WSU possesses. The nation's top-ranked team, Gonzaga, was next. This weekend, the Shockers topped LaSalle and Ohio State.
"I don't think we're Cinderella at all," said Coach Gregg Marshall. "Cinderellas usually are done by this stage. If you get to this point, you can win the whole thing."
Wichita State will attempt to do just that this weekend in Atlanta. Saturday they'll face high-flying Louisville. A win would put the Shockers into Monday's championship game against either Syracuse or Michigan. Being crowned national champs would be no more improbable than the team's stellar performance already. At 30-8, the Shockers have set a school record for wins. Wichita State has been to the Final Four once before, losing to eventual champion UCLA in 1965.
But the school with fewer than 15,000 students is more renowned for its bowling teams. The men and women pinstrikers have won 19 national titles since 1975.
This year's basketball team will change that reputation. Or at least will have earned the respect so that lawmakers won't feel compelled to legislate future schedules. The Sunflower State is being represented in this year's Final Four of the Big Dance; it's just not the Jayhawks or Wildcats.