Women's Basketball

WILLIAMS: Iowa State fans’ support of women’s basketball is special

Mar 11, 2022; Kansas City, MO, USA; Iowa State Cyclones guard Lexi Donarski (21) is introduced before facing the West Virginia Mountaineers at Municipal Auditorium. Mandatory Credit: Amy Kontras-USA TODAY Sports

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — I’ve covered somewhere around 15 Big 12 Tournaments over the years (I’ve lost track of exacts with my deteriorating mental state), mostly in Kansas City (two in Oklahoma City and one in Dallas). In the league’s current form, it usually sets up as Iowa State and Kansas fans battling to fill up T-Mobile on Friday night, assuming both teams make it that far. Respectfully, Kansas State fans can make an impact too on any given year. 

Thursday night was a massacre that we shall not speak of ever again.

However, thousands of Iowa State fans woke up Friday morning not finished with their somewhat southern getaway – but just getting started. The women were due to tip off their tournament at 5 p.m. in Municipal Arena! And to these people, the women’s game is not a lesser game. Hell no. It’s another Cyclone game – exactly how it should be. 

I wish you all could have been at the historic Municipal Auditorium Friday night, as Bill Fennelly’s 10th ranked squad held on to beat West Virginia 66-60.

It was a two-hour, electric party that completely overwhelmed the 90-year old arena’s workers, following a day of subpar attendance.

“The environment is phenomenal and if you didn’t walk out of here thinking that was a great environment for a conference tournament or for women’s basketball, then that’s on you,” Fennelly said. “It was amazing. Hilton South is not a catch phrase. It’s real. They were supportive today and got us through it.”

One gentleman grabbed my arm two hours before tip to thank Cyclone Fanatic for covering the women. I appreciated that more than he knew. 

A woman approached me politicking to get the great Alison Lacey’s jersey retired. I could not agree more. 

Another lady just wanted to let off some steam about how terrible the men played the night before. Touché, ma’am.  

Women’s crowds are smaller, but the passion is just as intense. In many cases, more. Being a father, I actually prefer taking my daughters to women’s games. It’s more affordable, and Fennelly’s roster is loaded with great role models for my girls to admire.

I thank Bill Fennelly for this. He made the sport relevant at Iowa State. I fell in love with it my freshman year, when I randomly became close friends to this California point guard I simply referred to as “Medders.”

It’s the same type of feeling I have for Kevin Dresser these days, as I genuinely am more interested in the sport of wrestling now than at any point in my life.

Women’s basketball and wrestling are called “non-revenue” sports for a reason. They are niche in nature. But that doesn’t mean that they can’t be damn entertaining. 

As Cyclone Fanatics, we root for laundry. Loyal Sons Forever True. It doesn’t matter who is wearing the uniform. We are Iowa State alums, fans, and family.  

It truly is a blessing to have an array of interesting and fun sports to follow under one athletics department. I’m just so glad that Iowa State isn’t like – say Kansas – who has a base of fans in Kansas City – the men’s team in action and next-to-nobody supporting the women, who just had an incredible regular season. That really bugs me.

More musings on the women’s game…

There have been some rumblings within the women’s game from folks who aren’t happy with the tournament being held at Municipal. These people want to move it across the street to play where the men do. But how would that tangibly work without moving the tournament earlier in the week (Monday and Tuesday), when fans aren’t as willing to travel?

I’m told the biggest gripe is the poor locker room situation in the old building.

I’m all about great atmospheres. I have never covered a women’s game in Municipal with a poor atmosphere. Friday night was elite. There isn’t a bad seat in the house. The noise level hits levels it couldn’t hit in T-Mobile with the types of crowds that the women’s game draws. To me, that is more important than “being in the big arena” for the sake of equality and nothing more. Maybe the locker rooms are out of date but in the current setup, the ladies play in front of loud, passionate fans and the place is close to full. 

That’s a win. 

Speaking of equality, did you know that this year’s women’s NCAA Tournament Selection Show is happening on Sunday instead of Monday?

Talk about an overreaction. 

The goal here – likely put together by good people who truly want the best for the sport – is to put the women’s game on the same level as the men’s. It’s an admirable cause, but here’s what is going to happen instead. 

Instead of the women’s game having Monday all to itself, already stressed and gutted newsrooms across the country will now pay significantly less attention to it and in many cases, not cover the women’s programs across the country at all. 

You don’t have to worry about that here though. Cyclone Fanatic will keep you locked into the Twister Sisters the rest of the way.