The University of San Diego men’s basketball team learned its first-round opponent in the NCAA tournament.
The Toreros (21-13) were awarded a 13th seed and assigned a trip across the county to face No. 4 seed Connecticut (24-8), a traditional college basketball power.
Do you think there was any grumbling? Not when you’re USD, making your first trip since 2003 and only fourth in school history. Without winning the West Coast Conference tournament to earn the automatic bid, the Toreros would have been hoping for an NIT bid at best.
USD’s players assembled at the University Center on campus to watch the CBS telecast of the bracket pairings. Junior point guard Brandon Johnson leaped from his feet and pumped his fists when “San Diego” flashed opposite Connecticut on the big screen.
“UConn is a historical program,” Johnson said. “They’ll come out fired up, but we will, too. We have to play with poise, go at them and not read the name on their shirt. We have to stay focused and compete.”
Although USD is in the West Regional, with games being playing this weekend in Anaheim, the USD-Uconn game is in Tampa, Fla. The NCAA uses a “pod system” that reduces travel.
Well, it does for Uconn and its fans, but certainly not the Toreros.
But first-year USD coach Bill Grier isn’t complaining.
“I was hoping for proximity for our fans,” Grier said. “But I don’t
care where they put us. We could play it in Europe. I’m just excited for this group of kids for the opportunity to play in the NCAA tournament.”
— TOM SHANAHAN