By Wendell Barnhouse | firstname.lastname@example.org
As one of 16 pre-arranged host sites for the NCAA Tournament, Iowa State knew where it would start March Madness. The Cyclones just had to make sure they earned an invitation.
That came Monday when the NCAA tabbed Iowa State as a No. 7 seed in the Stanford Regional. The Cyclones will start play against No. 10 seed Florida State Saturday.
"You're playing in the NCAA tournament at Hilton Coliseum," Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly said. "Life's pretty good."
The Cyclones won a school-record 14 consecutive games and are 6-10 since then, finishing 9-9 in Big 12 play.
Senior Hallie Christofferson is Iowa State's lone threat around the basket and she has meshed well with two freshmen – Jadda Buckley and Seanna Johnson - who have made important contributions. Johnson averages 10.5 points per game and is the team's leading rebounder while Buckley is the team's most accurate 3-point shooter.
"She still has nervous moments because she's new to it and the pressure," point guard Nikki Moody said of Buckley. "I think she's really grown in to that mindset of, I can do this. I can shoot. I think it just has to be more and more of her being able to know that she can score."
Fennelly isn't nervous about how the Buckley and Johnson will handle the pressure of post-season.
"They've been on that stage all year," he said. "Some kids that we've had over the past few years, I think the freshman thing would bother them. I think they both had a freshman moment, a little bit, in the Big 12 tournament, but if they don't play well, it won't be because of the stage.
"They've been there from day one, and we're kind of fortunate that way. You get to this time of year, and you just want to feel like, 'Hey, we did the best we could, we played the best we could.' Every coach is giving the same speech right now."
3 p.m. Saturday, Ames, Iowa
No. 7 Iowa State (20-10) vs. No. 10 Florida State (20-11)
Probable Iowa State starters: Nikki Moody, 5-8 Jr. G; Jadda Buckley, 5-8 Fr. G; Seanna Johnson, 5-8 Fr. G; Brynn Williamson, 5-11 Jr. G/F; Hallie Christofferson, 6-3 Sr. F.
Probable Florida State starters: Natasha Howard, 6-3 Sr. F; Morgan Jones, 6-2 Soph. G; Brittany Brown, 5-8 Fr. G; Cheetah Delgado, 5-2 Sr. G; Ivey Slaughter, 6-1 Fr. F.
Fast breaks: All 10 of Iowa State's losses have been to Big 12 teams. … The Cyclones lead the nation in free throw shooting, making 80.4 percent from the line. Last season they led the nation, connecting on 80.5 percent. … Iowa State is one of eight schools to play in each of the last eight NCAA Tournaments. … Florida State won 14 of its first 15 games to rise to No. 17 in the Associated Press poll in early January before losing six out of seven. … FSU closed out the season by winning five of eight games before losing to Notre Dame in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament. … Natasha Howard, a 6-3 senior, is the Seminoles' leading scorer at 21.2 points per game. The Seminoles are making their ninth NCAA Tournament appearance in the last 10 seasons and has won at least one game in 10 consecutive NCAA appearances.
What's next: The winner of Iowa State-Florida State plays on Monday against the winner of No. 2 Stanford and No. 15 South Dakota.