The University of San Francisco Dons have made the Men’s NCAA Tournament for the first time in 24 years, and while the Sweet 16 will be played at the Chase Center, the Dons are bracketed to 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 K.C. Jones on the roster. They remained good through the 1970s, then imploded in myriad horrible scandals in the '80s, and haven’t really been notable since.
Until this past weekend's March Madness Selection Sunday. As the Chronicle reports, the USF Dons are in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament for the first time since 1998. Print your bracket 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 because of the geographical whaaat? that is the NCAA tourney, the Dons are in the East bracket, and the Chase Center is hosting Sweet 16 games from the West bracket.
The USF Dons (24-9) play their first tournament game on 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 certainly a winnable game for them. Should they win, they would face the winner of the Kentucky-St. Peter’s game at some point on Saturday. And while Kentucky (26-7) is a traditional powerhouse, they are not dominant this year. Which means the Dons are a legitimate Cinderella prospect in the 2022 tournament.
University of San Francisco's Volodymyr Markovetskyy of Ukraine (center in both photos) joins his teammates in celebrating the Dons' 1st NCAA Tourney berth since 1998. @sfchronicle photos by @ScottStrazzante pic.twitter.com/stu3XA49EO— Scott Strazzante (@ScottStrazzante) March 13, 2022
And check it out, they have a Ukrainian player! He’s not really one of their stars — those distinctions got to all-West Coast Conference guards Jamaree Bouyea and Khalil Shabazz. But as the Chron notes, “In addition to shooting 35.5% from 3-point range this season, [the Dons] have held opponents to just 29.5% beyond the arc. USF’s 11-5 record away from the Sobrato Center, including 7-2 in true road games, makes it one of the nation’s best road teams.”
And to the obvious question of the week: What the fuck is a Don? “Until November 1931, our athletic programs were referred to as the ‘Grey Fog,’” the school explains. “The new name spawned 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 version of 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.
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 the Orleans Arena on March 05, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Dons defeated the Cougars 75-63. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)