Iowa State's first NCAA tournament game in seven years will be against the defending national champions. Should the Cyclones win, they'll probably have to face the top overall seed, Kentucky, in its home state.
If the Cyclones can make it out of Louisville, they certainly will have earned it.
Iowa State (22-10) received a No. 8 seed Sunday and will play ninth-seeded Connecticut (20-13) for the first time on Thursday in the second round of the South Regional.
The winner of that game would likely face the top-seeded Wildcats on Saturday.
"It's a tough draw. But hey, we're up for the challenge," Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg said.
It's the first NCAA tournament bid since 2005 for the Cyclones, who celebrated the selection with a watch party at Hilton Coliseum. A crowd of roughly 1,500 cheered wildly when Iowa State's seed was shown on the scoreboard hanging over center court.
"That's the goal we've been working towards all season, was to have our name called," guard Scott Christopherson said. "But now, as competitors, we're just naturally thinking about what we've got to do to win this first game."
For Iowa State, the bid ends a long postseason drought marked by the unceremonious exits of two coaches, Wayne Morgan and Greg McDermott.
McDermott led Creighton into the NCAA field this season.
The move to hire Hoiberg, the Ames native and former Iowa State star, was seen as a major gamble given that he'd never coached at any level and had spent more than a decade way from the college game. After going 3-13 in Big 12 play a year ago, his plan to reinvigorate the roster with Division I transfers paid off.
"Those players deserve a lot of credit. Our staff deserves a lot of credit for getting those guys to believe and to buy in. And now it's here. It's what we play for," Hoiberg said. "I'm excited. I think our guys will play well."
TOP BILLING: Michigan State earned a No. 1 seed in the West Regional by winning the Big Ten tournament, and that's good news for coach Tom Izzo and the Spartans.
All three previous times that Izzo and Spartans had a top seed, they ended up in the Final Four.
Michigan State, which began the season unranked, beat Ohio State 68-64 on Sunday for its first Big Ten tournament title since 2000, when it went on to win the national title. The Spartans also had top-seeded teams in 1999 and 2001, when they lost in the national semifinals.
Draymond Green, the Big Ten player of the year and tournament most outstanding player, sounds as if a third Final Four in his career wouldn't quite cut it.
"This program has been based around hanging banners and there's no banner better than the national championship banner," Green said. "We haven't got that feeling yet, so that's what we're pushing for."
THE ROAD AHEAD: Second-round wins by No. 2 seed Duke (against Lehigh) and No. 7 seed Notre Dame (against Xavier) would pit Fighting Irish coach Mike Brey against former boss Mike Krzyzewski. Brey spent eight seasons as a Duke assistant under Krzyzewski from 1987-1995. ... Creighton star Doug McDermott could face high school teammate Harrison Barnes of North Carolina in the third round of the Midwest Regional. Barnes and McDermott played together on the powerful Ames (Iowa) High team that won 53 straight games and made national headlines when Barnes was the nation's top recruit in 2010.
WISE MAN ONCE SAID: Jimmy Patsos knew he had a major rebuilding job ahead of him when he took the head coaching job at Loyola (Md.). It certainly didn't deter him.
Patsos left his job as an assistant at Maryland to take over at Loyola immediately after the Greyhounds went 1-27 in 2003-04.
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