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UPDATE: The Path to Des Moines for Iowa State Men’s Basketball

The Cyclones have won their last three, but is that enough?

NCAA Basketball: Iowa State at Oklahoma Rob Ferguson-USA TODAY Sports

Just about two weeks ago, we took a first look at Iowa State’s chances of playing in Des Moines for the first and second round of the NCAA Tournament. Three wins later Iowa State has improved their resume, but the task still remains tough. While it was previously thought that a 3 seed would be enough to land a couple of games at Wells Fargo, it unfortunately appears to be a little more complicated than that.

In the last installment of this series, we explained how the location of first round sites may be spread out geographically, but they are nowhere close to being balanced in proximity to the nation’s best teams. As a refresher, here was the map with blue locations indicating first round sites and red location indicating the top sixteen teams on KenPom at the time.

On the surface it appears Iowa State is competing with teams like Marquette, Wisconsin, Purdue and (gulp) Iowa for a spot in Des Moines. Purdue is actually located closer to Columbus than Des Moines, but Columbus along with Columbia, South Carolina are going to be the most sought after locations this year.

Here is a look at the top teams in the country and their closest site preference.

2019 1st/2nd Round Location Preferences

Des Moines Tulsa Columbus Columbia Jacksonville Hartford Salt Lake City San Jose
Des Moines Tulsa Columbus Columbia Jacksonville Hartford Salt Lake City San Jose
Iowa State Kansas Michigan North Carolina Villanova Gonzaga Nevada
Wisconsin Kansas State Michigan State Duke
Marquette Texas Tech Purdue Tennessee
Iowa Houston Kentucky Virginia Tech
Louisville Auburn

Obviously there are more than sixteen teams here, but from what I can tell these are the teams competing for those spots. Some of these teams are relatively close to a couple of sites. For example, Virginia is relatively equidistant from Columbus and Columbia and should they get the top overall seed, they would get to choose their location.

As you can see, there are several locations that teams will simply have to be “shipped” to. It appears the committee will have a bit of a puzzle to solve and rationally speaking they could send some of the teams vying for the Columbia location down to Jacksonville and some of the teams hoping for the Columbus pod up to Hartford, but the committee has shown in the past that they are going to start at the top of the seed list and work their way down.

It’s not easy to fully grasp the domino effect that is going to take place until you look at the secondary locations for each of these schools. Trigger Warning.

2019 Secondary Locations

Des Moines Tulsa Columbus Columbia Jacksonville Hartford Salt Lake City San Jose
Des Moines Tulsa Columbus Columbia Jacksonville Hartford Salt Lake City San Jose
Michigan Iowa State Villanova Kentucky Auburn Maryland Nevada Gonzaga
Michigan State Iowa North Carolina Louisville
Purdue Duke Virginia
Kansas Tennessee
Kansas State Virginia Tech
Texas Tech Wisconsin
Houston Marquette

Remember only two of these teams will go to any particular site. It is entirely possible Columbus and Columbia are occupied by the four one seeds meaning some two seeds could be sent to a site second or third on their preference list.

It’s also to important to note that Michigan is closer to Hartford as the crow (or plane) flies, but is considerably closer to Des Moines according to driving distance. So, in essence, Iowa State’s hopes of Des Moines could theoretically drown in Lake Erie.

Before we look at how last season’s locations break down, let’s take a look at the map of locations with top sixteen overall teams. Remember, this is from last season. Red locations indicate a top four seed and the blue locations indicate a first round site.

Looks pretty similar to this year correct? If it is beginning to frustrate you that the west coast continues to get 25% of the first round sites, you aren’t alone. It is no secret that most of the quality basketball teams in the country reside east of the Lawrence, Kansas.

It is probably a topic for a different post, but is it time the NCAA takes a closer look at re-balancing their first/second round locations to more accurately match the dispersion of quality teams in college basketball? Spoiler Alert: Yes.

The question remains, just how high will Iowa State have to climb to earn the coveted Des Moines location? Well here is a look at how last season’s top four, or supposed “protected”, seeds were placed. A “1” indicates their primary location, a “2” their secondary location and so on.

2018 Location Assignments

Team Charlotte Boise Dallas Nashville Witchita Pittsburgh Detroit San Diego
Team Charlotte Boise Dallas Nashville Witchita Pittsburgh Detroit San Diego
Virginia 1
Villanova 1
Kansas 1
Xavier 1
North Carolina 1
Duke 2
Purdue 1
Cincinnati 1
Michigan St. 1
Tennessee 4
Michigan 4
Texas Tech 1
Auburn 8
Witchita St. 8
Gonzaga 1
Arizona 2

This seed list is the exact order that the committee released on Selection Sunday last year. Last season 8 of the top 9 teams were sent to their primary location. Only 2 of the next 7 teams were sent to their primary location including two teams being shipped to the spot furthest away from campus. The biggest winner? Once again, it was Gonzaga playing in their primary location as a four seed.

As mentioned earlier, this year could present more issues than last year resulting in less than half of the top sixteen teams playing close to home. Is it all doom and gloom? Or maybe more importantly, is it time to sell your tickets to Des Moines? Not quite.

Although Iowa State is projected as a four or five seed currently, there are enough remaining opportunities to for the Cyclones to dramatically improve their resume. Remember, they are favored in the rest of their remaining games according to KenPom and at the moment would be a favorite in any Big 12 Tournament game they play in.

Is it feasible for Iowa State to end up with a comparable or better resume than the four Big Ten teams (Michigan, Michigan State, Purdue, Wisconsin)? Yes, it is. It may not be probable, but it certainly is possible. Do they absolutely need to finish with a better resume than all of them? No. There are two spots available and three of the teams listed above would prefer to be in Columbus.

There are certainly a lot of games left to play so some of the factors might change on a whim. Case in point, a week ago Iowa State was hoping Michigan State would earn a #1 seed and go to Columbus, but after dropping three in a row is it better for them to continue their fall?

With so many games left, I don’t think it is advisable to go through circumstances to root for other than Iowa State winning more games. The good news is they have a great team, good resume building opportunities and two spots available in Des Moines.

At the moment, it looks like it will probably take 13 regular season wins in the Big 12 or a Big 12 Tournament Championship to think realistically about Des Moines. If you have tickets, don’t burn them. As Michael Jordan says, “the ceiling is the roof” for this team.

There is still a chance for some Wells Fargo Magic in March.

Until the next update, Go Cyclones!

Chances of Des Moines: 34.1%