Basketball team

USF Dons basketball team takes March Madness for first time since 1998, plays Thursday night

The University of San Francisco Dons entered the NCAA Men’s Tournament for the first time in 24 years, and while the Sweet 16 will be played at the Chase Center, the Dons are placed in a different region.

The University of San Francisco Dons men’s basketball team has a proud and distinguished history – most of which happened nearly 50 years ago. The team won the NCAA national championship in 1955 and 1956, with Hall of Famers Bill Russell and KC Jones on the roster. They stayed good in the 1970s, then imploded in a myriad of horrific scandals in the 80s, and haven’t really been remarkable since.

Until Sunday of last weekend’s March Madness selection. As the Chronicle reports, the USF Dons are participating in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament for the first time since 1998. Print your support here.

And hey, part of the March Madness tournament is being played at the Chase Center! (The “Sweet 16” round next weekend, March 24-26.) But due to the geographical location what? i.e. the NCAA tournament, the Dons are in the East bracket, and the Chase Center hosts Sweet 16 games in the West bracket.

The USF Dons (24-9) play their first tournament game Thursday at 6:40 p.m. PT Thursday night, St. Patrick’s Day, against the Murray State Racers (30-2, and Ja Morant’s alma mater BTW). The Dons are 1.5 point underdogs, so this is definitely a winnable game for them. If they won, they would face the winner of Kentucky-St. Peter’s match at some point on Saturday. And while Kentucky (26-7) is a traditional powerhouse, they’re not dominant this year. Which means the Dons are a legitimate Cinderella prospect in the 2022 tournament.

And look, they have a Ukrainian player! He’s not exactly one of their stars — those accolades went to West Coast Conference guards Jamaree Bouyea and Khalil Shabazz. But as the Chron notes, “In addition to shooting 35.5% from 3-pointers this season, [the Dons] held their opponents to just 29.5% from beyond the arc. USF’s 11-5 record away from Sobrato Center, including 7-2 in real road games, makes them one of the best road teams in the country.

And to the obvious question of the week: What is a Don? “Until November 1931, our athletic programs were called ‘Grey Fog,'” the school explains. “The new name gave birth to a more dignified mascot. In his signature mask and cape, Don Francisco – whose name is a subtle nod to Don Francisco de Haro, the city’s first mayor – represents a highly stylized take on the old-school Spanish look.

University of San Francisco (10) vs. Murray St. (7) is Thursday, March 17 at 6:40 p.m. PT on CBS.

Related: Warriors Arena will host the March Madness games (in 2022) [SFist]

Image: LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – MARCH 05: Josh Kunen #10, Khalil Shabazz #0, Gabe Stefanini #15 and Patrick Tape #11 of the San Francisco Dons stand on the court as they take on the Brigham Young Cougars during the West Coast Conference Basketball Tournament Quarterfinals at Orleans Arena on March 05, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Dons beat the Cougars 75-63. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)