Cyclones, Big 12 close in on NCAA tournament bids

Caitlyn Diimig

The next two games will help determine Iowa State’s fate regarding the NCAA tournament.

The NCAA will announce the teams capturing a bid to the tournament on March 12 at 7 p.m.

Coach Bill Fennelly said he has high hopes the Cyclones will make it for the sixth straight year.

“Well 7-9 teams have made it, so why wouldn’t an 8-10 team make it when two of your losses are probably to a team that nobody can beat?” Fennelly said at Monday’s news conference.

“When you look at the landscape across the country I think it would be shocking and disappointing and slightly unfair if our league isn’t very well represented in the NCAA tournament based on what the league has done over the entire course of this season.”

Iowa State is currently 8-8 in conference play and fifth in the Big 12 standings.

The Cyclones will play Kansas State (18-10, 9-6 Big 12) on Wednesday and No. 1 Baylor (29-0, 16-0) on Saturday to round out the regular season.

“We’re in fifth place right now in by far, by far, the best conference in the country,” Fennelly said.

The Big 12 currently has nine teams in the top 64 in the nation, according to NCAA RPI rankings. The Big East also has nine teams and the Southeastern Conference has eight.

Iowa State is currently ranked No. 46.

“When you’re playing 18 [conference] games against the best and you look at what people have done against the top 50 — no one in the country has played as many top 50 teams as people in our league,” Fennelly said.

Senior Chassidy Cole named many reasons why the Big 12 stands out against other conferences.

“We have a lot of really good coaches and they’re recruiting really, really well,” Cole said. “They’re understanding of how the game is played and what needs to be done.”

Cole said the coaches in the Big 12 tend to build their programs around one player.

“Like Brittney Griner — Baylor’s built their program around her,” Cole said. “She’s really standing out.”

The BU junior is ranked first in blocks, second in field-goal percentage and seventh in points per game in the country.

Cole said Iowa State built last year’s program around Kelsey Bolte and the year before around Alison Lacey. Both teams were successful in making it to the NCAA tournament.

Kansas State also has a similar approach in recognizing the talent of junior Brittany Chambers.

“Their team really revolves around Brittany Chambers — she’s a great player,” said senior Lauren Mansfield. “I think that’s what we’ve really got to concentrate on: trying to get her out of the game.”

If Iowa State wins against Kansas State, it will improve its chances of getting a better seed into the tournament, but many of the players are not concentrating on NCAA seeds.

“I’m just mainly focused on beating them,” Cole said.