Cyclones psyched to be dancing again
AMES – Fred Hoiberg has the Iowa State men’s basketball team heading back to the NCAA tournament with its first back-to-back bid in 12 years, but it didn’t come without some drama.
The Cyclones had to wait to hear their name called for the final regional bracket while watching the NCAA selection show from Hoiberg’s basement on Sunday night.
Iowa State has earned a No. 10 seed and will face Notre Dame in Dayton, Ohio, on Friday at approximately 8:45 p.m.
The Cyclones (22-11) solidified their spot in the field by sweeping Oklahoma State and West Virginia to close out the regular season. ISU then rallied to beat Oklahoma in the Big 12 tournament before falling to eventual champion Kansas during the semifinals.
“I’m just excited to be back in the tournament,” said Iowa State senior Korie Lucious, who played in two Final Fours for Michigan State. “I’m just happy to be playing.”
Notre Dame beat Rutgers and Marquette before losing to Louisville, the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament, on Friday in New York.
“I’m excited we’re in the tournament,” said Cyclone freshman Georges Niang. “This is my first experience at this, so it was a little nerve-wracking until the last bracket to get in, but we’re going to be ready to go and shock the world.”
Iowa State beat defending champion Connecticut in last year’s NCAAs before falling to eventual national champion Kentucky. The Cyclones and Irish (25-9) have played just once before, with Notre Dame beating Iowa State 87-77 in South Bend in 1979.
The winner of Friday’s matchup will likely face second-seeded Ohio State – playing just down the road in Columbus – for a spot in the West regional semifinals in Los Angeles.
“It took a long time (to be announced), where last year I got spoiled in my first go-round because we were the second team called,” said Hoiberg. “I was nervous. I went up and shut the door in my room and watched it by myself. I was sweating there a bit, I was a little nervous there at the end.”
Notre Dame is among eight Big East teams in the tournament, most of any conference.
“We’ve played some of the best teams in the country in the Big East week in and week out,” Irish guard Eric Atkins said. “That is really going to get us ready for the tournament coming up.”
Coach Mike Brey, as much as anybody, wants Notre Dame to make a deep run. But he took a moment to acknowledge the achievement of just making the tournament for a fourth straight year.
“To show up in that bracket again… I never want to take these days for granted,” he said. “Our senior class, all they’ve known is the NCAA tournament. Quite frankly, they’re spoiled. They have no idea maybe how some other programs live.”
Notre Dame lost to Xavier in its NCAA opener last year. The Irish were bounced after two games in 2011 and were one and done in 2010.
Notre Dame will be facing an ISU team that makes a nation-leading 9.9 3-pointers a game and whose 79.8-point scoring average ranks fourth. Perimeter defense will be the key, Brey said. Notre Dame opponents are shooting 32 percent from long range.
“So far we’ve been pretty good when we’ve had to take away the arc,” he said.