It's been 22 years since SMU fans have been able to cheer about their men's basketball team in an NCAA tournament. SMU beat Connecticut 62-54 in the American conference tournament on Sunday.
That win clinched the American conference title and an NCAA berth; the first for SMU since 1993. The Mustangs are the No. 6 seed in the South region, and will take on No. 11 seed UCLA on Thursday in Louisville.
Kathryn Arata, who graduated in 1991, was one of a few hundred SMU fans who packed a watch party at the Barley House near campus.
”It feels like a vindication,” Arata says. “We’ve played really hard all year, these guys have been an amazing team, and they’ve done a great job playing together. Glad we’re going to take on UCLA in the first round.”
Coaching legend Larry Brown has turned the program around in just three years. After Sunday's game, Brown told the Mustang Radio Network this was a moment to savor.
“I’m going to enjoy celebrating with this championship with our school because it's been a long time and so thankful to be a part of all this,” he said.
Hardcore fans like SMU junior John Brigonnet vowed not to miss Thursday's NCAA return, even if it means missing class.
“I might have to [miss class]. I’m a good student, it’s not every time that you get this,” Brigonnet said. “We’re in college for four years and it doesn’t happen very often.”
Students and fans might have to think about playing hooky Thursday afternoon. The SMU-UCLA game starts at 2:10 pm.