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Iowa State is going to the NCAA tournament, but the question is where, and what seed?
Bracketologists project Cyclones anywhere from 5 to 7 seed
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Jaren Holmes takes nothing for granted.
Yes, his Iowa State team has crafted a robust NCAA tournament-worthy resume.
Yes, the Cyclones will definitely be among the field of 68.
But to Holmes, the minute-to-minute, game-by-game focus is so narrow and intense, he genuinely asked reporters if ISU was truly a shoo-in for the tournament.
Psst: The Cyclones are — and for good reason. Precisely where they fit will be announced at 5 p.m. Sunday on CBS, with much discussion to ensue thereafter.
“I assume we’re in, but I don’t know,” said Holmes, a graduate transfer from St. Bonaventure. “The work that we put in since June is showing. We’ve gotten back to our daily habits. We’ve gotten back to our team. Finding ourselves. Playing for each other. Having fun again. Being the underdog. It’s scary in March. Anything can happen, but I’m excited to wait and see.”
So are ISU fans, who saw first-year had coach T.J. Otzelberger inherit a 2-22 team and turn it into a Sweet 16 participant a year ago. The Cyclones have thrived in the ever-expanding transfer portal, but not with former blue-chip recruits. They’ve identified and landed team players more interested in winning than stuffing the stat sheet — and now they’re safely NCAA-tournament-bound for the second straight season.
“If you look at these guys and where we were at when a guy like Gabe (Kalschuer) and Rob (Jones) and Jaz (Kunc) decided to commit to us and where this program was at, those three guys who’ve been here for two seasons, and where we’re at now, so much pride in what they’ve done,” Otzelberger said. “They deserve so much credit for the work and taking that leap of faith, and the other guys that came in this year, I mean, we’re positioned as a program moving forward. We’re in a really good spot and certainly want to keep our focus on what’s in front of us with the tournament coming up, but as much as I love Iowa State, you know how much that means to me personally. Just really proud of these guys for restoring that pride and the faith in our program, and who we are.”
Prognosticators vary, but the general consensus has the Cyclones (19-13) anywhere from a No. 5 seed to a No. 7 seed following a win over No. 10 Baylor and a 71-58 loss to No. 3 Kansas in the Big 12 tournament.
ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has ISU pegged as a 5-seed pitted against Charleston in a first-round matchup in Greensboro, N.C. CBS Sports bracketologist Jerry Palm currently tabs the Cyclones as a No. 7 seed, playing Penn State in Sacramento, Calif.
Either way — again — ISU is firmly in the tournament field and poised to make another possible run through the first weekend.
“This is where we want to be,” said Kalscheur, the Cyclones’ most accurate 3-point shooter at 36.4 percent. “Obviously we want to win the (conference tournament), but this is where we want to be. Jelling together, playing well together, having good camaraderie. I feel really high hopes and feel good about where we’re gonna be.”
ISU has more top-10 wins (six) and top-25 wins (nine) than any team in the country, so that’s a good place — for now, at least.
“My time is dwindling with them,” Holmes, the Cyclones’ leading scorer, said. “So just want to have as much fun as possible.”