KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Iowa State guard Lexi Donarski was talking about her team’s showdown with either Texas Christian or West Virginia in Friday’s quarterfinals of the Big 12 Tournament when the topic turned to who the Cyclones could face later in the weekend.
Donarski smiled when asked if getting another crack at Texas or Baylor was an exciting proposition.
“Oh definitely — yeah,” Donarski said. “But we’ll be focused on our first game before anything else.”
The seventh-ranked Cyclones begin their quest for a title when they take on the winner of the TCU/West Virginia game on Friday at 5 p.m. at Municipal Auditorium. If Iowa State advances to Saturday’s semifinals, they’ll likely meet up with Texas. Win again and they could see Baylor in the final.
“Everyone gets another shot,” said Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly.
The Iowa State women arrived in Kansas City having already locked up a spot in the NCAA Tournament, almost certainly hosting the first two rounds. A Big 12 Tournament title could land the Cyclones in the Wichita regional. That could give them an advantage as ISU fans would have the opportunity to flock to a Sweet 16 game.
But that’s a big if. The Cyclones face a challenging road to get to the Big 12 championship game. The Cyclones swept TCU and West Virginia during the regular season. The semifinal opponent would be either Kansas State or Texas. Waiting on the other side of the bracket is Baylor, heavily favored to make it the title game.
Texas and Baylor were the only teams to pose consistent trouble for the Cyclones during their historic season. Iowa State racked up a school-record 25 wins and went 14-4 in Big 12 play.
Those four losses? Sweeps by Texas and Baylor. Baylor’s and Texas’ size and physicality caused matchup problems for the Cyclones.
Baylor will face a potentially problematic quarterfinal game in Kansas or Oklahoma, two of the biggest surprises in the league this season. Texas has to deal with Kansas State, a team that nearly knocked off Iowa State.
“You just don’t know what’s going to happen,” Fennelly said.
That’s why Fennelly and his players insist they aren’t peeking ahead to the bracket. Upsets are part of March Madness.
“That’s the nature of these tournaments is everyone gets one more chance,” Fennelly said.
After closing out the regular season with a dominant win over West Virginia, the Cyclones may be headed into postseason play at the right time.
“I think we have good momentum coming off our win this past weekend,” said Iowa State point guard Emily Ryan. “We’re just going to build on that and take what we did well and continue to do that.”
Tommy Birch, the Register’s sports enterprise and features reporter, has been working at the newspaper since 2008. He’s the 2018 and 2020 Iowa Sportswriter of the Year. Reach him at [email protected] or 515-284-8468. Follow him on Twitter @TommyBirch.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism