And with that...............
K-State's tournament run is done. A one and done shocker to upstart La Salle that had everyone dropping their jaws. The Wildcats literally played two games on Friday against the Explorers.
The first half was all La Salle, finishing the first half shooting 58 percent to K-State 28 and a 44-26 lead. The second half was all K-State, holding La Salle to just three baskets in 20 minutes and outscoring them 35-19. They just needed to outscore them 37 or 38-19 for the tie or the win.
K-State was set up for a big run but no longer. The sadness reigned down in the locker room and for good reason. Thomas Gipson sat on the floor in this extra area of the locker room, head in his chest. Angel Rodriguez sat at his locker room struggling to find his words. Martavious Irving just sat at his locker staring off into space, certainly in disbelief that his college basketball career was over. It was a hard moment for the players, coaches and everyone involved with the program.
We get slapped around when we mention how tough it is in the locker room with the players after a loss, because it's not life and death, it's just sports. I know in the grand scheme of things this is small. It will not impact his long term future but his short term, sure. But it isn't easy asking a player to open up to a bunch of strangers sticking microphones in his face after a loss that ends his or her season. For some, it ends their career.
The losing day is a hard one but I commend them for pulling themselves together for a few minutes and opening up to us. We appreciate it, and sometimes it makes them feel better about the loss.
Rodney McGruder is really the only one with a future in basketball. Martavious Irving could be a reserve guard somewhere in Europe and with his height, Jordan Henriquez will get a shot with the NBA. Wichita State head coach Gregg Marshall once told me that as far as the NBA scouts are concerned; if you are 7-feet tall - they will give you a look, elite talent or not. But McGruder has that great jump shot and has bulked up in his final season and has more room to be even bigger if he feels the need. I hope he gets a good look in the NBA but if not, he will no doubt have a great career playing overseas somewhere.
Our crew will remain in KC for the weekend to see if KU heads off to Arlingt.... or I mean North Texas for the Sweet 16. We are going to keep churning stories while up here, providing you the best coverage of the NCAA Tournament in Wichita.
Now, had KU lost we would have had ourselves a short weekend. Western Kentucky pushed the Jayhawks to the brink on Friday but couldn't close the deal. If they had finished off KU, they would have made history as the first 16 seed to beat a top seed in the NCAA's.
College basketball is all over the map this season. There is no one elite team, just a couple great and several good teams. Ole Miss took down Wisconsin before K-State fell to La Salle, and if Villanova holds North Carolina's PJ Hairston to a few less buckets, there would have been another "upset" on your plate. How's your bracket look after two days, eh?
Players are learning that it's better to go to a place with a smaller image on the national map and play for three or even four years instead of riding the bench for two and playing for one. Parity is happening all over and it's great for the sport. You've seen it in college football for so many years, it's finally starting to take root on the court too. Marshall Henderson of Ole Miss is one of those players, although his route is a littler different.
The point I'm making is when VCU won their way to the Final Four two years ago, it was a start that is going to keep rolling in College basketball. Hey, maybe La Salle could be the next VCU and run all the way to the Final Four. Western Kentucky could have made history and made KU stand up and take notice.
Sprint Center has been great for all of this and having the Power and Light district right next to the arena for all the games adds to the scene. It's a cool scene following the games. Win or lose, something is alwatys going on there.
It's a tall building and our media seats were set up high in the rafters but at least we had a clear shot of the arena for the games. Some places, I'm ducking a dudes head all game. It's not fun. Sprint Center, keep up the good work.
Finally, go Shockers and go Rams!