Mar 3, 2017; Morgantown, WV, USA; Iowa State Cyclones guard Monte Morris (11) dribbles the ball during the second half against the West Virginia Mountaineers at WVU Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports
I just signed off from a teleconference with ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi and I can confidently report that he is pretty bullish on the Cyclones.
Lunardi, as of this afternoon, has ISU squarely on the 6-line, but said the Cyclones likely can only enhance their NCAA Tournament profile this week at the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City.
“I seem to have been overvaluing Iowa State most of the season vis-a-vis the other bracket people out there, but I see a team that’s pretty dangerous,” Lunardi said. “I’m not sure they can win the Big 12 Tournament, but anybody that can win at Kansas, right, is at least in the conversation (as) a dark horse here. They’ve got a lot of really good wins. They’ve played well away from home. They’ve played well lately and the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Tournament are going to be outrageous with tournament teams. And they’re playing an Oklahoma State team that’s a 50-50 game.”
Lunardi currently has the Cowboys — ISU’s foe at 11:30 a.m. Thursday —pegged as a No. 7 seed. So what if the Cyclones can beat them a third time this season? Stay tuned if/when that happens.
“They’d probably need to beat (projected No. 1 seed) Kansas after that to move up, but I don’t see them moving down, really,” Lunardi said. “I supposed they could drop to a (No.) 7, but I don’t think they have to worry about being in that (Nos.) 8-9 range.”
The Steve Prohm-led Cyclones (20-10) have reached the Sweet 16 in two of the past three seasons. They’ll play in their school record sixth-straight NCAA Tournament and have been no worse than a No. 4 seed in the past three seasons.
Lunardi currently predicts ISU will be playing either Wake Forest or Illinois State to open the NCAA Tournament. He’s pegged both of those potential adversaries as No. 11 seeds squeezed into the “First Four” crucible.
According to Lunardi’s calculations to this point, the Cyclones would be in the West region, playing in Milwaukee and if they were to advance, they’d face the winner of the No. 3 Butler vs. No. 14 Florida Gulf Coast matchup.
Obviously, a lot could change with a solid to stellar run at the Sprint Center Thursday, Friday and Saturday — as Lunardi indicated. So buckle up, Cyclone fans … and pass the popcorn.