One year after the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament got canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Iowa State Cyclones have found themselves in the Tournament as a No. 7 seed.
The Iowa State women’s basketball team found out their ranking and who they will play during the NCAA Selection Show on Monday night on ESPN.
With the No. 7 seed in the Mercado Region, the Cyclones will take on the 10th-ranked Michigan State Spartans.
Head Coach Bill Fennelly said Iowa State exceeded the high expectations the Cyclones had coming into the season, especially given their schedule and the league they're in.
"For this team to be a seven seed in the NCAA Tournament this year, I think goes way above my expectations," Fennelly said. "... No way I thought this was gonna happen once we started the season and it's a credit to them."
Iowa State closed out the season with a 16-10 regular-season record and a 12-6 record in the Big 12.
Michigan State finished the regular season with a 15-8 overall record including a 8-7 record in the Big 10.
Notable wins for the Cyclones include a 75-71 road win over then-No. 6 Baylor, which ended a 61-game home court win streak for Baylor, as well as a 90-80 win over Oklahoma State, which was the Cowgirls’ first Big 12 loss of the season.
The Cyclones closed out the regular season winning their last four of five games, including a 85-68 win over then-No. 18 West Virginia.
Iowa State swept four teams in the Big 12 (Kansas, Kansas State, TCU and Texas Tech), but got swept by Texas as it was unable to get a win over the Longhorns in the regular season.
The Cyclones put up a better showing against the Longhorns in the Big 12 Tournament, but still lost to Texas 84-82 in an overtime thriller in the quarterfinals.
The Big 12 had five teams, including Iowa State, selected into the NCAA Tournament this year.
Fennelly said even though they don't know much about Michigan State yet, the Big 12 has prepared Iowa State for the Spartans.
"I don't know that we're gonna see a style that we haven't seen," Fennelly said. "We've seen some of the best post players in the country, we've seen full-court pressure defense... I think that does kind of give your team a sense of 'hey, they're good, but we've been playing against good a lot all year.'"
The last time Iowa State was in the NCAA Tournament was the 2018-19 season, when they fell to Missouri State 69-60 in the second round in an upset loss.
Junior guard Ashley Joens was just a freshman, and Joens said you can't dwell on the loss now but you have to learn from it.
With last year's NCAA Tournament canceled, Joens said being able to play every game this season and get into the tournament is an honor.
"Last year was devastating for all of us, especially the seniors," Joens said. "... To see our name on the screen going to the NCAA Tournament is such a great opportunity and a huge honor."
For the first time since 1983, the NCAA changed the metric for measuring a team’s strength. Rather than the Ratings Percentage Index normally used, the NCAA is using the NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET) instead.
Iowa State’s NET ranking is 26, and it “is determined by who you played, where you played, how efficiently you played and the result of the game,” according to NCAA.com.
Iowa State takes on Michigan State at 5 p.m. March 22. The game will be available to watch on ESPN.