‘It’s March, so why not?’: Cyclones ready to roll through NCAA Tournament


Jacob Rice

Denae Fritz drives the ball forward at the Big 12 women’s basketball championship game, Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, MO, Mar. 12, 2023.

Christian Royston, Sports Editor

After a successful Big 12 Tournament, the Cyclones move on to the final tournament of the year with high hopes.

The first team that stands between the Cyclones and a deep tournament run is Toledo. Although Toledo is a 12-seed, the team has a lot of momentum.

When asked about how dangerous Toledo can be, Iowa State head coach Bill Fennelly said Toledo is “playing with an amazing amount of confidence right now.”

Toledo is on a 16-game winning streak, as it most recently won the MAC Tournament by a decisive amount. However, the Cyclones are coming off a conference tournament win of their own.

The Cyclones look to be peaking at the right time, and they are as confident as ever.

“We’re a confident team, and we just know how good we can be,” Nyamer Diew said.

By far, the most confident player on Toledo is Quinesha Lockett. Fennelly noted she is the player that the Cyclones are going to have to worry about the most.

Lockett is the MAC player of the year and a large part of Toledo’s offense. Similar to how most plays for the Cyclones go through Ashley Joens, most plays for the Rockets go through Lockett.

If the Cyclones want to stay alive in the tournament, they have to find a way to shut down Lockett.

“She’s really good,” Fennelly said. “You’re not the MAC Player of the Year without being pretty dang good.”

Although the Cyclones were excited to be seeded as high as No. 5, selection Sunday felt weird for Fennelly when Toledo popped up. It was a bittersweet feeling for Fennelly, as his time in Toledo and the connections he has to the school give it a special place in his heart.

“I’m not a conspiracy guy, but I’m sure the committee has a little sense of humor,” Fennelly said.

Fennelly first started his head coaching journey at Toledo, where he spent seven years at the helm. Jodi Steyer was also on Fennelly’s coaching staff at Toledo, and Latoja Schaben played under Fennelly at Toledo. 

Now Fennelly has to go up against his old team and take them down if he wants to push through the tournament.

Selection Sunday was also interesting for Denae Fritz, who saw that she would get a homecoming of sorts as the Cyclones will travel to Knoxville, Tennessee, to play Toledo. Fritz is from Tennessee and played high school basketball there before becoming a Cyclone.

Although the Cyclones will be on the road, Fritz will have around 50 people cheering her on in the stands.

“It’s kinda been exciting knowing that I can see all my friends and family, and they can come watch us play in a big environment,” Fritz said. “I’m just really excited.”

All the intrigue of the first round aside, the Cyclones seem more ready than ever to hit the ground running in the first game of the tournament. It’s March, so the Cyclones have to be prepared for anything.

“I do think we are getting into a rhythm at the right time,” Diew said. “We’re all coming together, playing as a team very, very well at this time. Hey, it’s March, so why not?”

Iowa State faces off against Toledo at 2:30 p.m. Saturday in Knoxville, Tennessee. The game will be streamed live on ESPN2.