Iowa State Gets Notre Dame in the NCAA Tournament
By Rob Gray, Reporter
AMES, Iowa Iowa State's Will Clyburn:
Clyburn showed his jocular side Sunday night after the Cyclones eventually learned they'd be the 10th seed in the NCAA Tournament's West Region and faced a second-round matchup Friday with No. 7-seed Notre Dame.
"How do you feel about playing in Dayton, Ohio?" Clyburn, ISU's leading scorer, asked roommate and point guard Korie Lucious while holding out his phone as if recording.
"It's not where I wanted to be because it's not hot," Lucious said to widespread laughter. "But it'll do."
Dayton though hardly geographically "West" serves as the site of the Cyclones' second straight tournament berth, a back-to-back "Big Dance" maneuver not accomplished by the team since 2000 and 2001.
It's as good a place as any to be the launching pad for ISU's attempt to win at least one tournament game in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1995 and 1996.
Coach Fred Hoiberg was a senior captain on the 1994-95 team that beat Florida, then lost to North Carolina in the tourney.
"We'll have to play well," Hoiberg said. "We'll put in, hopefully, a good game plan, go out and execute it and play with confidence."
Last season, the Cyclones (22-11) toppled defending national champion Connecticut 77-64 in an 8-9 game before falling to eventual tournament winner Kentucky, 87-71, in the round of 32.
"Kentucky, it was debatable whether they were the best college team assembled in the last decade," said ISU's Georges Niang, a Big 12 all-freshman team honoree. "So it's good we get to play Notre Dame and if we beat them, get to move on to a team like (No. 2 West seed) Ohio State. It's great for this program."
The Fighting Irish (25-9) are the only team to beat top overall seed Louisville since January, winning a five-overtime game, 104-101, on Feb. 9 before losing twice to the Cardinals in the past two weeks.
"Their bigs are great," Hoiberg said. "Patrick Connaughton, we recruited him a little bit, he was absolutely on fire in the Big East Tournament (15 3-pointers in three games). They've got a lot of talent on their team."
So do the Cyclones, who feature transfers such as Clyburn (Utah), Lucious (Michigan State), Chris Babb (Penn State), Tyrus McGee (Cowley County CC) and Anthony Booker (Southern Illinois).
They've helped turn ISU into a recognized name again after seven straight tournament-free Marches before last season.
"A lot of people didn't know what coach Hoiberg was doing, what his plans were when he took this program over and for us to be able to give back to him the chance, the opportunities he gave us, it's a great feeling," Babb said.
So it's on to Dayton where, weather-related jokes aside, Lucious and Clyburn look to help generate heat.
"Another chance for us to make a name for ourselves, try to get the program up there and get a couple wins," Clyburn said.