AMES – Hilton Coliseum and Iowa State’s women’s basketball team will get great national exposure and face time Sunday in the NCAA Tournament.
The Cyclones’ late start – set by cable network ESPN, which holds the event’s broadcast rights – isn’t so great for those who have purchased tickets or are thinking of doing so. Fourth-seeded ISU (23-7) will tip off its first-round game with No. 13 Lehigh (29-3) just shy of 9 p.m. local time.
That’s assuming the first game of the night on ESPN2 between No. 5 Virginia (21-9) and No. 12 Green Bay (27-4) doesn’t go long.
For adults getting to work the following day and kids coming back to school off spring break, schedules are going to be thrown for a loop.
Sunday’s winners will also play late. Tip off Tuesday is set for 8:30 p.m.
“It’s good from a television perspective,” said Callie Sanders, ISU’s Senior Associate Athletic Director and the site’s tournament director. “It’s not ideal from a fan perspective, but it’s not something we can control. We understand it is going to be more difficult. We hope the fans will appreciate the opportunity to see the games in person regardless.”
Game times were known in advance, then cemented when the pairings were determined.
Several thousand all-session ticket packages were purchased in advance and more have sold since Monday’s selection show.
More than 5,000 have been snatched up thus far.
“(The game time) hasn’t slowed our fans down,” Sanders said. “We sold quite a few all-session as the season progressed and fans saw we were more likely to be in.”
The Cyclones have made the tournament field four years running and in 11 of Coach Bill Fennelly’s 14 seasons.
They played at home in first- and second-round games for five straight years from 1998-2002 when hosting duties went to the teams seeded fourth or better.
ISU, which is 8-2 in NCAA games at Hilton, also served as the host school in 2008 at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.
“It’s worth it,” Sanders said. “The only downside is the additional pressure it puts on the coaching staff they feel to get into the tournament. We go into these bids knowing our team might not be in it.”
Fennelly talked regularly this season about the need to get the Cyclones to the dance.
ISU lost five seniors and a key reserve off last year’s Elite Eight team and had a lot of questions going in. It ended up finishing second in the Big 12 Conference and earned the reward of playing at home in the postseason.
“It gives you something more to play for,” Sanders said.
“Bill is always motivated to make the tournament. That is a goal of his every year. Given the fact he had a pretty young team and some uncertainty early on… whatever he did it worked.”
The other three teams were scheduled to arrive in Ames Friday.