A Big 12 tournament championship earned the Cyclones a mixed bag of NCAA draws.
One day after Iowa State dispatched Baylor in the final minutes to cut the nets down in the conference tournament for the first time since 2000, the Cyclones gathered in coach Fred Hoiberg's basement, wearing matching cardinal shirts and munching catered Hickory Park BBQ, waiting anxiously to learn their fate on CBS' Selection Sunday show.
The wait was long, CBS not unveiling ISU's draw in the East Region until the very end.
As expected, the Cyclones earned a No. 3 seed and will play 14-seed North Carolina Central this Friday (TNT) in San Antonio. There was some commotion during the watch party — athletics director Jamie Pollard leading the brainstorming — that ISU could end up in Buffalo, Milwaukee, Anaheim or Raleigh, although this is what happens when 45 hoops nuts gather in one place and attempt to put the pieces together.
In the last four NCAA tournaments, a 14-seed has upset a 3-seed twice. The average margin of victory for a No. 3 seed in that span, per respective year: 9.5, 11.75, 16.57 and 5.75.
If the Cyclones, nine-point favorites with a 73 percent chance at winning per Ken Pomeroy, take care of business, they'd face either North Carolina or Providence in the Round of 32.
The NC Central Eagles (28-5) won the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament thanks to a stingy defense that ranks fifth nationally in effective field goal and turnover percentage.
The Eagles have won 20 games in a row. Not in that stretch is an overtime win over tourney team North Carolina State. The Eagles lost to Cincinnati by 13 and Wichita State by 11.
"Obviously don't know a lot about the team, made some initial calls to the people that played against them," Hoiberg said. "Sounds like a very good team, like all the teams that are playing at this time of year.
"From what I understand they're very well coached. You get to work. We're gonna get to work tonight and try to put a gameplan together."
Senior Eagles point guard Jeremy Ingram takes over 31 percent of the team's shots while on the floor and averages 20.6 points per game while shooting 37.5 percent.
"Whoever you're guarding you just look at matchups," said DeAndre Kane, who might also be tasked with Providence's Bryce Cotton or UNC's Marcus Paige. "Coach gives you principles. Then you go from there. You never want to overlook a team. Every team's got players."
The No. 1 seed in the East bracket is Virginia and No. 2 is Villanova, which Iowa State would play — in the case of chalk — in the Sweet 16 in Madison Square Garden.
Michigan State is the No. 4 seed.
So, why do we call it a mixed bag? NC Central's not an easy No. 14 seed and UNC/Providence are dangerous third-round matchups, but Villanova hasn't beaten a top-30 kenpom team since Nov. 30 (Iowa).
Virginia, the No. 1 seed, is efficient on both ends of the court and has a star in Malcolm Brodgon, but doesn't have the horses of an Arizona or Florida.
Iowa State wouldn't play a true zone team until the Elite Eight, if that.
"When you look at our games we've had, we've been exposed to so many different types of players, talents, coaching styles," senior forward Melvin Ejim said. "We're gonna be very equipped."