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Iowa State Seeded 5th, Stays Close to Home in NCAAs

By Jason Van Arkel, March 13, 2017

For Iowa State, winning the Big 12 tournament title appears to have paid immediate dividends in their NCAA Tournament seeding and placement. Now it’s up to the Cyclones to capitalize.

The Cyclones earned the #5 seed in the Midwest Region of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday, and will face 12th-seeded Nevada in the first round on Thursday. Unlike their last couple of trips to the Big Dance, ISU will have the late game on Thursday, with tipoff scheduled for 8:57 in the evening.

Geographically, it couldn’t have worked out any better for the Cyclones and their fan base. Iowa State will play Thursday (and Saturday, if they win) in Milwaukee at the Bradley Center, which is the closest of any of the first-round sites to Ames. Furthermore, since ISU is in the Midwest Region, they would return to Kansas City if they were to make the Sweet 16, playing on the same floor in the Sprint Center where they just captured the Big 12 championship.

Of course, wins can be hard to come by in the NCAAs, and Iowa State will play in a 5-12 game, the matchup where the most first-round upsets traditionally happen. More importantly to ISU, Nevada is far from a pushover. The Wolfpack won both the regular season and conference tournament championships in the Mountain West Conference, going 28-6 on the season. Nevada is the only team from the Mountain West to make the NCAAs, however, and they’ve only played three games against other tournament teams, losing to St. Mary’s and splitting a pair of games with Iona.

If Iowa State solves Nevada, they’ll face either fourth-seeded Purdue or 13th-seeded Vermont on Saturday in the second round. Purdue was the regular-season champ in the Big 10, while Vermont won both the regular season and tournament titles in the America East. It’s a second chance in as many seasons for ISU and Purdue to meet in the NCAAs. Last year in Denver, with their seeds reversed (Cyclones 4th, Boilermakers 5th), Iowa State won its opening game over Iona, but Purdue was upset by Arkansas-Little Rock.

Two Cyclone wins would put them back in the Sweet 16 for the third time in the last four seasons, and could possibly set up a titanic matchup in Kansas City, where Iowa State might find top-seeded Kansas waiting for them. The two teams split their two regular-season matchups, then missed out on a third meeting in the Big 12 tournament when the Jayhawks were upset by TCU. If KU were to be upset again, eighth-seeded Michigan State or ninth-seeded Miami could be Sweet 16 foes. Iowa State beat Miami in a tournament early in the season.