What's in Kansas?
From the outside looking in, wheat fields and basketball courts would be anyone's best guess. And they wouldn't be far off. True enough, you can find some rolling hills and a few rivers. There's baseball diamonds and we have our fair share of football stadiums as well, but if you're a kid growing up in Kansas that hasn't practiced your game winning buzzer beater...well then you're part of the minority. And, if you're a kid in Kansas, you've undoubtedly sworn your allegiance to one of a few schools. For me, it was the Jayhawks. An easy choice.
I grew up just a short drive from campus, a long jog if you're in to that kind of thing, and my parents were alums. Every other school? They're just little brothers, I told myself. But after this years NCAA tournament I learned two things: my beloved Jayhawks aren't as invincible as I always want to believe, and more importantly, the Wichita State Shockers are nobody's little brother. In fact, they never have been. A consistent force in the MVC for longer than anyone's cared to notice, if this seasons team was a surprise to you then you haven't been paying attention for the last few years.
The ease and efficiency with which they executed their strategy is the unmistakable mark of a team that believed wholeheartedly in their coach, their philosophy, and each other. My biggest regret as not only a college basketball fan, but as a son of Kansas, is that I didn't watch them play more often.
A reflection of all they stand for, their final game was the best the tournament had seen up until this past weekend's big time games as teams fight for a coveted spot in the Final Four and was everything you could want sports to be. In what should unquestionably be remembered as one of the best seasons in college basketball history, Wichita State fell short of it's ultimate goal. However, if they lost the game that day, they won the heart of an entire state and the respect of the whole nation.
Record books keep a lot of stats but what goes unwritten are the thousands of kids practicing their Cleanthony Early dunks on their living room goals. The high school gymnasiums with Ron Baker's shooting pull up 3's as the clock winds down. And the playground VanVleets throwing pinpoint passes. In short, the influence of this team will always mean more than the wins and loses and everyone should be looking forward to watching this program continue to grow. I just hope there's room for a few more on the bandwagon.