The last time we talked to Shelby Mast, the conversation centered around whether or not the Cyclones would make the tournament field. He had them slated in the field as a 10 seed at the time, but with work left to do. Fast forward a couple of weeks and the tune is drastically different. We talked with USA Today Bracketologist Shelby Mast Tuesday evening to get the scoop on the ‘Clones.
First, with all of this talk about a bubble, what does that really mean?
what's your definition of a "bubble team"? To me, it's any team that has not unofficially locked up a spot and can still play their way out.— Shelby Mast (@BracketWAG) February 22, 2017
After five wins in their last six games (including four straight), the Cyclones have significantly bolstered their resume and now find themselves slated to compete in the field as a 6 seed in Shelby’s latest bracket. Just like the weather in Iowa, if you don’t like the current conditions just wait five minutes.
This time of year men and women alike can’t wait to hear bracketologists around the country say that four letter word. Mast wasn’t afraid to say "lock" to us Cyclone fans Tuesday night.
"I have moved them to a lock to be in the tournament. None of their remaining games would be bad losses," Shelby explained.
So, although not advised, does that mean Iowa State could lose all of their remaining games?
"All of their opponents left are in the Top 30-50 in the RPI. Even their first round opponent in the Big 12 Tournament should be a quality opponent. Should they lose the next four, I still think 18-14 gets them in the dance," Mast continued.
Shelby later tweeted out the following:
If a team can lose all of their remaining games and still be safely in, they are NOT a bubble team.— Shelby Mast (@BracketWAG) February 22, 2017
As Iowa State has ascended into the lock category and is now focused on solidifying their seed the question remains, how high can they go?
"I think their ceiling is probably a 5 seed. As you get into those top 4 seed lines there are some very good teams," Shelby Mast told WRNL.
The higher the seed the better, right? Not so fast my friends.
"Truly, I think ISU would be better served on the 6 line where they could face a 3 seed and a 2 seed in order to get to the regional final. The four and five seeds are faced with the task of knocking off those on the top seed line in the round of 16," Mast continued.
On Saturday, Iowa State will battle Baylor to remain in second place in the Big 12 conference. Many will equate their place in the conference standings to their tournament resume. According to Shelby, a team’s place in the conference standings isn’t considered by the committee and in the grand scheme of things matters very little. However, if it mattered in any conference it would be in the Big 12 or Big East where teams play a double round robin schedule.
We also took a moment to chat about the importance of being on the top seed line. As Iowa State fans we can relate to the frustration of being mistakenly placed as a 2 seed, but in the current setup is it really that big of a deal? Shelby Mast thinks it is important, but still a bit overplayed.
"The truth is a 1 seed has never lost to a 16 seed. There have been 15 seeds pull off the upset. In terms of geography, top teams have a better chance of playing closer to home and this year the top overall seed gets to select their region," Mast explained.
Shelby went on to explain that often times teams under-seeded are not the ones that suffer. Their opponents that have to face a team better than their seed are the ones that truly pay the price.
"Being under-seeded can be a bit of a benefit at times. Should you advance, there are times your route to going deep in the tournament gets a little easier if you aren’t placed accurately. Overall, though, the committee does a tremendous job in accurately placing teams where they belong," he said.
As we near Selection Sunday, remember that tournament success is predicated more on match-ups than seed line. ISU appears to be peaking at the right time and has solidified their spot in the 2017 NCAA Tournament field. Throughout our several conversations with Shelby he has always indicated he felt very strongly that teams would not be looking forward to the experienced Cyclones.
You can find Shelby’s bracket, that is updated daily at Bracketwag.com or in the latest edition of the USA Today. When looking at his projections remember Mast always bases his bracket as if the season ended today and places teams where he anticipates the committee would place them.
Give Shelby Mast a follow on Twitter @BracketWag and thank him for the time he takes to talk about ISU’s resume via podcast and phone conversations.