ESPN’s Joe Lunardi: ISU must “win out” to have shot at No. 2 seed

 The term “win out” became ISU’s rallying cry late this season until a pair of losses to Baylor and Kansas State derailed the ambitious aim.

 But now that sorting out where one sits entering the NCAA Tournament looms (Selection Sunday is, after all, a mere nine days away), it’s time for the Cyclones to unveil a new, abbreviated version of their “win out” mantra.

 If accomplished, it just might push No. 17 ISU (21-8) to the 2-line once those seeds are announced — the word “might” being the operative one, though, according to ESPN Bracketologist Joe Lunardi.

 “The 2-line is unusually strong and it’s unusually spaced from the 3-line this year,” Lunardi said in response to a question from during today’s teleconference. “In the mock NCAA selections a couple of weeks ago — I wasn’t there this year, but the word was when they did the voting for the top two lines, only eight teams got votes. That never happens. That would be like going out with your wife to buy eight things for a dinner party and her agreeing on the first eight things that she saw. It’s just not very likely. I’ll get in trouble for that, no doubt.”

 Nah, good analogy.

 Lunardi went on to say the Cyclones would have to win the Big 12 Tournament in order to ascend to the 2-line — and even then, caveats exist.

 “That would ostensibly (include) winning the rubber game with Kansas in the championship game or at some point in the bracket,” Lunardi said. “I think they need to win out to pass Kansas and get that last No. 2, unless — and here would be the big unless: Does Gonzaga lose in its tournament to someone not named BYU? That would maybe drop them to a three and cause there to be an open spot on the 2-line. So I’m not bullish on Iowa State’s chances of getting that help, so they’d have to do it themselves.”

 Conversely, what would happen if a worst-case scenario cropped up for ISU as the regular season closes?

 In essence, what if the Cyclones fall at TCU and then are bounced early from the Big 12 Tournament?

 “As far as dropping, they just have too many good, really good wins, I think, to fall further than one line, almost no matter what happens,” Lunardi said. “I think they’re going to be a protected top-four seed.”

 So Saturday at TCU matters less in practical terms then it does with regard to confidence, momentum and overall good vibes.

 That’s another set of words (“good vibes”) that returned late Monday after ISU incredibly erased a 21-point second-half deficit to topple 15th-ranked Oklahoma and avoid seeing its only losing streak of the season extend to three games.

 Whatever the seed, the Cyclones reaffirmed they’re as dangerous as anyone in the country when they’re operating at peak capacity. 

 “I told them they screwed up because they showed me what they’re capable of doing when they go out and play like that,” Cyclone coach Fred Hoiberg joked Thursday. “This game is so much easier to play when you have confidence. And our team, when you go on a 22-0 run, that certainly helps in the confidence department.”


Rob Gray


Rob, an Ames native, joined Cyclone Fanatic in August, 2014 after nearly a decade and a half of working at Iowa's two largest newspapers. He spent 10 years at the Des Moines Register and, after a brief stint in public relations, joined the Cedar Rapids Gazette as an Iowa State correspondent three years ago. Rob specializes in feature stories for CF.

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