Archive for Thursday, March 15, 2012

Instate NCAA games were special

March 15, 2012

Sunday gave fans of all Kansas Division I basketball programs joy as Kansas University, Kansas State and Wichita State were invited to play in the NCAA tournament.

It’s the fourth time all three teams have been invited to the tournament. The number of times two of the state’s schools have been invited are more numerous, so it shouldn’t be surprising that the teams have crossed paths through the years. As it now stands, the three teams have 1-1 records against in-state rivals in the tournament.

Looking back, an impressive role call of players were involved in those three games. Players involved include Danny Manning, Darnell Valentine, Mitch Richmond, Willie Murrell, Antoine Carr, Cliff Livingston and Dave Stallworth and those working the sidelines include Lon Kruger, Larry Brown, Tex Winter, Ted Owens and Ralph Miller.

As a K-State fan, one of my three most painful moments in sports (any Wildcat will have no trouble guessing another of those moments, and the third was the Royals fifth-game, ninth-inning collapse to the New York Yankees in the 1978 American League Championship Series) was the 1988 Regional Finals in Detroit when the Richmond-led Wildcats were upset by the lowly Jayhawks of Manning. The winners may have gone on to do something in the Final Four, but I don’t know. For my peace of mind, I have erased the following two weeks from my memory.

KU felt the sting of losing to an in-state rival in the dance in 1981. The loss came at the hands of Wichita State, which started future NBA forwards Livingston and Carr, and involved a blown late layup by Valentine, who — in one of those sport’s ironies — was from Wichita and a high school teammate of Carr. As I remember in the final seconds, Jayhawk coach Owens designed an inbounds play that resulted in some Shocker plowing over Valentine under the WSU basket. You see that done from time to time and often, as in this case, results in a no -all despite the obvious charge. I spent some time in Wichita in those days. For several years after that game, even after WSU was placed on probation, T-shirts celebrating the victory were common.

That year was probably the high-water mark for the three schools as a group in the tournament with KU making the Sweet Sixteen, and K-State with All-American Rolando Blackman and WSU advancing to the Elite Eight.

K-State’s victory against an in-state rival was in the 1964 Midwest Regional Finals against Wichita University (the institution’s name before being known as Wichita State) on the Shockers’ home floor. In a game I remember watching on a black-and-white Philco in Woodbine, Kan., the Wildcats with All-American Murrell lead from start to finish, winning, 94-86. I wasn’t yet EMAW then. In fact because our antenna pulled in Wichita stations, I had watched Wichita State and its All-American Dave “The Rave” Stallworth all year and was surprised with the ease with which Winter’s Big 8 champions handled what would be Miller’s last Shocker team. K-State beat Texas Western (now Texas-El Paso) in the opening round — two years before the Miners would defeat Jo Jo White and Kansas (another game I watched on the Philco) on their way to a national championship.

With the three teams in different regionals, it would not appear as if an in-state match-up is in store this year. KU and K-State would both have to advance to the Final Four before they played, and could only play Wichita State in the championship game.

Maybe next year, the committee will provide a little more local interest.

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