ESPN's Lunardi says ISU on cusp of NCAA bye

Bracketologist thinks Cyclones' first-round clash with Oklahoma important to avoiding Dayton

Published: March 13 2013 | 3:41 pm - Updated: 28 March 2014 | 12:40 pm in

KANSAS CITY — To Dayton, or not to Dayton?

For Iowa State, the answer to that NCAA Tournament-tinged question could hinge on the outcome of Thursday’s 11:30 a.m. Big 12 Championship quarterfinal against Oklahoma at the Sprint Center.

“I have Iowa State at 44 overall — they’re the last team above Dayton,” ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi said in a Wednesday teleconference.

What’s wrong with Dayton?

Nothing, inherently, but it is the site of so-called “first round” tournament matchups, making it a locale best avoided.

“So for them, not just staying in the field, but getting a bye — and that’s what the NCAA calls it, 60 out of 68 teams get a bye, and 33 of the 37 at-larges, so I think that it’s a very important first game of the Big 12 tournament for Iowa State,” Lunardi said.

Uh oh?

Not necessarily — especially considering that a win over the Sooners would bolster things in the other direction.

“I may have them a little bit lower than some others, but you really have to look at their home-road split, I think,” Lunardi said of the Cyclones, who stand 16-1 at home and 5-9 at road and neutral sites. “That’s why I have them on that 11 line in a little bit of a wait-and-see pattern.”

ISU’s spent much of the season on or around the bubble, so that type of wariness is nothing new.

And winning erases uncertainty.

The bad kind, anyway.

“It’s really one-and-done time,” ISU point guard Korie Lucious, formerly of Michigan State, said. “Everything’s come down to this.”

CAKE, ICING: ISU sixth man extraordinaire Tyrus McGee turns 22 Thursday, so he’s hoping for two celebrations. “I’ve never played on my birthday before,” said McGee, a 47 percent 3-point shooter. “So gotta enjoy it.”

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