Sports

Sparse populations, shallow recruiting pools no deterrent for teams from America's breadbasket

  • Wichita State's Cleanthony Early, left, and Fred VanVleet celebrate after the team earns a No. 1 seed during an NCAA college basketball Selection Sunday watch party, Sunday, March 16, 2014, in Wichita, Kan. (AP Photo/The Wichita Eagle, Jaime Green)

    Wichita State's Cleanthony Early, left, and Fred VanVleet celebrate after the team earns a No. 1 seed during an NCAA college basketball Selection Sunday watch party, Sunday, March 16, 2014, in Wichita, Kan. (AP Photo/The Wichita Eagle, Jaime Green)  (The Associated Press)

  • Tulsa players hold up a championship sign in celebratioin of their Conference USA Tournament championship game victory  over Louisiana Tech Saturday  March 15, 2014 in El Paso, Texas. (AP Photo/Victor Calzada)

    Tulsa players hold up a championship sign in celebratioin of their Conference USA Tournament championship game victory over Louisiana Tech Saturday March 15, 2014 in El Paso, Texas. (AP Photo/Victor Calzada)  (The Associated Press)

Bill Self was born in Oklahoma, played at Oklahoma State and cut his teeth in coaching at Kansas. Now, he's leading the Jayhawks in pursuit of another national championship.

More than just about anybody else, Self can appreciate the rise of hoops in the heartland.

All three of the Sunflower State's programs are back in the NCAA tournament this year, and all are ninth seeds or better, led by No. 1 seed Wichita State. There are three schools from Oklahoma in the dance. Two from Nebraska. Two more made it from Iowa. Saint Louis is in the field, too.

Not a bad showing from America's breadbasket, those sparsely populated "flyover states" that are supposed to be lean on talent. "It is interesting," Self said of the Midwest representation.