Notebook: Cyclones’ matchup against Creighton a result of increased parity


Ashley Joens smiles as she watches her three point attempt during 67–44 game against Georgia on March 20. 

Aaron Hickman

Following a 67–44 win over Georgia on Sunday, the Cyclones will be leaving home for the first time in this year’s NCAA Tournament to take on the Creighton Bluejays in Greensboro, N.C.

With Emily Ryan now having the most assists in a single season in program history and the team as a whole becoming the winningest team in Iowa State history by picking up a 28th win this season, expectations are high ahead of the Sweet 16.

With more upsets than usual happening in the first two rounds, the Cyclones will try to stave off a Creighton team who made it this far by winning two games in which it was the lower-seeded team and pulling off an upset.

With the health of two particular players being something to watch as the team gets ready to face a unique offense, there is plenty to keep an eye on leading into the second weekend of the tournament.

Increased parity

There have been more upsets and wins by double-digit seeds in this year’s tournament than in years past.

Creighton is one of those underdog teams, upsetting No. 2 Iowa to pave the way to the Sweet 16. Teams like Belmont, Princeton and South Dakota have also provided plenty of madness in March.

In terms of the madness aspect, the men’s basketball side of things has typically provided more unexpected outcomes. However, it appears that the women’s side is trending more and more in that direction.

“I think what we’ve all learned in these tournaments is, you’re probably not surprised by anything,” Iowa State head coach Bill Fennelly said. “There’s been a lot more of those games on the women’s side than in the past. You always see it on the men’s side. I think this year with the women, the tournament has become that way.”

As for why things are trending that way, Fennelly pointed to two significant reasons, with the transfer portal being the first.

Fennelly believes that with players being able to transfer and become immediately eligible, that has helped out programs that would otherwise have to wait a year to have a very good player at the ready.

The second thing Fennelly talked about is the extra eligibility that has been awarded as a result of the pandemic.

“If you look at a team like South Dakota, they’re really good and they’re old,” Fennelly said. “The COVID year allowed teams to get old and stay old. I think if you look across the country at the Princetons and the Belmonts and the South Dakotas, those teams have been in the system for a while, and their ability to play with each other with that extra year has made a huge difference.”

Health and availability

With Nyamer Diew and Beatriz Jordão suffering injuries in Sunday’s win over Georgia, depth in the post for the Cyclones could be taking a significant hit as the tournament progresses.

Fortunately for Iowa State, it looks like that shouldn’t be the case.

“Ny has a broken nose, so she’ll be wearing her mask,” Fennelly said. “She looks like Batman or something.”

For Jordão, it’s a rib injury that moves around and causes problems with her breathing. Because of the blowout fashion of the game against the Bulldogs, she didn’t see any more minutes. Jordão will be practicing less due to comfort, but Fennelly believes she’ll be good to go against Creighton.

If either one of the aforementioned players is affected by their respective injuries against the Bluejays, though, the team feels good about where they are with redshirt freshman Izzi Zingaro.

“You think about a kid that really hasn’t played much at all and got thrust into a situation that we really needed her,” Fennelly said. “She comes in and gets seven rebounds, got a basket for us, and I’ve told our kids many times that there’s a lot of situations where the number one thing you’ve gotta do is eat up minutes. I thought she did a really good job of that.”

Getting ready

Iowa State hasn’t really played a team like Creighton so far this year. And actually, playing the Bluejays themselves, well, that hasn’t happened since 2008.

“That’s the beauty of this tournament,” Fennelly said. “You run into teams that you don’t see, and maybe a style you don’t see that often.”

Fennelly described Friday’s opponent as having “very interchangeable parts offensively.” Creighton runs sets that are very difficult to guard and quite different from the Big 12.

Using an inverted offense often, with guards posting up and post-players away from the basket, will pose a challenge to an Iowa State team that is used to the physical grind of Big 12 play.

One thing that the two sides have in common is strong three-point shooting.

The Cyclones are second in the country in three-point percentages and made three-pointers. Creighton is 11th in the country in percentage and fourth in makes.

“They’re a three-point shooting team,” Emily Ryan said. “They had 20-plus threes in a game earlier this year. They’re definitely a great shooting team and we take pride in our shooting, as well, so that’s something that’s similar.”

As far as rest goes, another late tip means the team will continue to follow the same schedule as last week.

One particular player has been singled out more than once now in how much the late games affect her schedule.

“You’ve gotta wake up a little bit later, go to sleep a little bit later,” Morgan Kane said. “Hard for Emily Ryan, because she sleeps so early.”