Players experience Selection Sunday, prepare to hit the road to San Antonio

Georges Niang, left, Dustin Hogue, back center, and Melvin Ejim, right, celebrate after it was announced that Iowa State will be a third seed in the NCAA tournament. Iowa State will play March 21 in San Antonio, Texas.

Alex Halsted

Dustin Hogue sat in his coach’s family room with teammates Sunday evening filled with questions.

The junior forward wasn’t sure how Selection Sunday fully worked. He knew Iowa State, after winning eight games against top-25 opponents and the Big 12 Championship, would pop up as the bracket was announced.

The rest was a mystery.

“I’ve actually never looked at any of this before. This is probably my first time even watching this,” Hogue said. “I was asking so many questions, because I didn’t even know how it worked. Definitely a learning experience for me.”

When all was said and done, Iowa State finally popped up on the screen as a No. 3 seed in the NCAA tournament’s East Region where it will play North Carolina Central on March 21 in San Antonio.

The long wait — the Cyclones appeared in the final region announced — wasn’t quite like it was a season ago in ISU coach Fred Hoiberg’s home. Hoiberg had no need to shut himself in his bedroom and wonder if Iowa State’s name would appear on the tournament bracket.

This season it was a matter of when, and that was a new experience for many.

“We never watched the selection show,” said senior DeAndre Kane, who spent three seasons at Marshall before transferring in this season.

Kane will play in his first NCAA tournament for the Cyclones this season. Huddling around the television — and answering text messages from his girlfriend who couldn’t find the channel — was all part of the experience for Kane.

“I had no reason to watch it. I watched the tournament, but I didn’t watch the selection show because we weren’t going to make it,” Kane said. “This feeling right here is a little different than back then because I knew we were going to make it. It’s a good feeling, but now we turn the page.”

The seeding is Iowa State’s highest since 2001, when the Cyclones were placed as a No. 2 seed in the tournament. Hoiberg has now led his team to three consecutive NCAA tournament appearances, joining Tim Floyd as the only other coach to accomplish the feat in program history.

Iowa State has won its first game in each of the past two seasons in the tournament before dropping its second. The Cyclones head to Texas and the tournament this season on a four-game winning streak after winning the conference tournament.

“You can have momentum and you can have confidence,” Hoiberg said. “When you play three games in three nights against three great teams and win all three of them, that does breed confidence.”

N.C. Central will enter its matchup with Iowa State on a 20-game winning streak and the winners of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. The two programs have never met, but Hoiberg was already on the phone gaining information before meeting with the media Sunday evening.

By then, the Cyclones were looking past what, for some, was an interesting viewing experience. Hogue had no more questions, instead he stood at the short hoop in Hoiberg’s basement, blocking each shot Hoiberg’s son, Charlie, would attempt on him.

“That thing is way too much suspense, it’s kind of scary,” Hogue said of the selection show. “Seeing our name coming up there, I’ve never felt anything like this before, it’s kind of crazy.”