AMES, IOWA -- Iowa State’s name had hardly been on the bracket when Bill Fennelly’s phone buzzed as he stood by himself on the far side of Johnny’s where he had awaited word on where his team would be headed in the NCAA tournament.
Maybe 10 seconds had passed, and Fennelly looked down. It was Fred Hoiberg.
“Let’s go take over Kentucky,” Hoiberg texted.
One day after Hoiberg’s men’s squad advanced to a program-best fourth consecutive NCAA tournament in Louisville, Fennelly women’s squad was pegged as a 10-seed Monday, placed just 79 miles away from the men in Lexington, Kentucky.
“I wish we were as good as your team,” Fennelly joked back.
Iowa State wasn’t exactly sweating as it waited to hear its name on this Selection Monday, but if anybody was, they didn’t need to wait long. The Cyclones were among the teams in the first region announced, sending the program to the NCAA tournament for the ninth consecutive season.
This season, Iowa State will be the underdog when it faces 7-seed Dayton on Friday in the first round. The Cyclones battled through and up and down season that ultimately saw them finish 18-12. The saving grace, if this team needed one to extend its NCAA tournament streak to a ninth season, was two victories over top-5 foes and another against a top-10 team.
“We worked hard,” guard Kidd Blaskowsky said. “We knew what was at stake when things weren’t going right for us. Nine times in a row doesn’t happen on accident. We’re led by probably one of the best coaches in the country and a great assistant staff. We work hard, we work as a team, we know what we can accomplish.”
This accomplishment makes Iowa State one of 10 teams in women’s basketball to have advanced to nine consecutive NCAA tournaments. Iowa State is one of four schools — along with Gonzaga, Duke and Louisville — to have its men and women’s teams advance to four consecutive NCAA tournaments.
“They’re all different, they’re all unique,” Fennelly said. “It’s one of those things where every time you do it, it never gets old. If it does get old you need to quit. This is why you do what you do every single day.”
Should the Cyclones advance past Dayton, they would face the winner of 2-seed Kentucky and 15-seed Tennessee State. In a year that saw Iowa State face many battles, those matchups are in some ways irrelevant.
Iowa State is back in the NCAA tournament, and is ready to take over Kentucky.
“I’ve said this a million times: I don’t care what the number is to the left,” Fennelly said of the seeding. “I just wanted a number. To me, the number just means what color of jersey you’re going to wear. Yeah, you don’t know what’s going to happen, but we’re excited about it.”