Women's Basketball

WBB: Cyclones embracing top four seed, early selection

AMES — As college basketball season gets into the thick of things in early February, on Monday night the NCAA released projections on seeding if the season ended today. At least for the top four seeds in each region.

That goes a lot further in women’s basketball than it does for the men. Each of the top 16 overall seeds in the bracket will get to host the first two rounds in their home arenas.

The first edition of the release for the women’s basketball tabbed Iowa State at No. 15 overall. The rest of the list is below.

NCAA Women’s Hoops Top 16 Seeds

1 – Baylor
2 – Louisville
3 – Oregon
4 – Mississippi State
6 – Notre Dame
7 – Stanford
8 – NC State
9 – Marquette
10 – Iowa
11 – Maryland
12 – Oregon State
13 – South Carolina
14 – Gonzaga
15 – Iowa State
16 – Miami

“It’s been great [in the past],” Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly said. “The track record of the team’s that play at home. On the men’s side it’s about who’s a 1 and who’s a 2 and that kind of stuff. In the women’s game, if you’re not a No. 1, most people probably went to who are the fours.”

This puts Iowa State in position to host two NCAA Tournament games in Hilton Coliseum.

Though, it also shows that the team is only two spots away from losing that incredible advantage.

“At this point in the season, every game matters,” Carleton said. “There’s a huge difference between being a four seed and a five seed.”

Five seeds will be expected to travel to another team’s arena to take on a No. 12 seed and then presumably face a four seed in a true away game in the second round.

The Cyclones own a spot ahead of Miami, who they beat in this year’s preseason WNIT championship at Hilton Coliseum.

Pair that with Iowa State’s next three games being against teams they’ve already beat in Big 12 play (badly) and the strength of schedule Iowa State owns, and it’s looking like Iowa State is in no danger of falling out of the top 16 any time soon.

It all bodes well for the Cyclones, especially with how well the team has played at home this season.

“The more we play at Hilton the better,” Bridget Carleton said. “We’re playing really well at Hilton this year – knock on wood. We’d rather play at home, obviously, 10 times out of 10. If we keep on track and do what we can the rest of the season then I think we’re in a good spot to do that.”

Iowa State senior Alexa Middleton has some experience there, too. While playing at Tennessee, Middleton saw the Lady Volunteers host two years’ worth of NCAA Tournament opening rounds.

“It feels like a home game,” Middleton said. “You’ve got the edge. You’ve got your home crowd. You have that benefit. You can’t compare anything to Hilton Magic. If there’s a blizzard [outside], they’re still there cheering you on.”

Where Iowa State is at right now in terms of a level of success for the team is far different than last season. At this time a year ago, Iowa State had an overall record of 10-14. With seven games to go in the season, it was 3-8 in the Big 12.

The NCAA Tournament wasn’t even being talked about.

“It’s a different outlook on things,” saidCarleton. “Last year we were just trying to finish strong and make a good ending to what was a struggle of a season. This year, we don’t want to end our season the way it shouldn’t be ended. We want to continue this ride and be the dictators of where we finish.”

Over the next few weeks, the Cyclones have a good chance to continue their success. The teams Iowa State will face each lost to the Cyclones during the first round of Big 12 games, and they weren’t close losses either.

On average, Fennelly’s squad took down TCU, Oklahoma State, and Oklahoma by a whopping 25.6 points per game.

“They’re three good teams that we have to play our best basketball to take care of that,” Carleton said. “Two of them are on the road. Oklahoma State made a good push of us when we went down there.”

The team will return to the court for its next matchup on Wednesday to face TCU on the road. Tip off in Fort Worth is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.

“When we’re firing on all cylinders, we’re really good,” Middleton said. “We can play with anyone in the country and I really believe that.”