A look back at SMU’s NCAA tournament history

Courtesy of USA Today

Dallas might not be full of Irish folks, but SMU fans have a good reason to care about St. Patrick’s Day. And it’s not just because of the parades, Guinness and green. It’s actually because of basketball, a topic already on many Mustang fans’ minds.

SMU’s last NCAA tournament win came on St. Patrick’s Day in 1988 against Notre Dame, whose luck of the Irish (or lack thereof) wasn’t enough to overcome Kato Armstrong’s 29 points. And no, he is not the namesake of Armstrong Commons.

The Mustangs would go on to lose to second-seeded Duke in the round of 32, and would not return to the NCAA tournament until 1993, where No. 10 seeded SMU lost to BYU in the first round, 80-71.

As you’re hopefully aware, SMU is headed back to the Big Dance. And if you’ve followed the team for a while or follow it closely, you probably know that a tournament bid has been a long time coming.

Until 2015, the Ponies had not made the NCAA tournament since that 1993 season, and have posted just two NIT berths in that span (2000 and 2014). Now let’s take a look back at SMU’s history in the NCAA tournament.

That 1988 season wasn’t SMU’s only successful season that decade. 1985 saw No. 5 seed SMU earn an 85-68 win over No. 12 seed Old Dominion. The Mustangs lost to Top 25 opponent Loyola (Ill.) in the next round. 1984 also saw SMU win an NCAA tournament game, an 83-69 win over Miami (Ohio) that preceded a loss to top-seeded Georgetown and future No.1 overall NBA draft choice Patrick Ewing.

That 1984 berth came 17 years after the previous Mustang NCAA appearance. The 1967 squad knocked off Louisville before losing to Houston in the Regional Finals, commonly know today as the Elite Eight. The year before, SMU lost to Kansas and All-American Jo Jo White, but beat Cincinnati in the regional third place game. (This was before the NCAA tournament adopted the current bracket format). 1965 saw SMU lose to Wichita State but knock off Houston in the third-place game.

The 1950s were SMU basketball’s glory days. In 1957, the Ponies also lost to Kansas, which was led by NBA Hall of Famer Wilt Chamberlain, but beat Saint Louis for third place in the Midwest Region.

You might know a thing or two about 1956 if you look in the rafters in Moody Coliseum. It was Moody’s inaugural season, but more importantly, it was SMU’s only Final Four appearance. The Mustangs were led by Jim Krebs, whose No. 32 also hangs in Moody’s rafters. They beat Texas Tech, Houston and Oklahoma City (now NAIA) before losing to Bill Russell’s San Francisco Dons in the Final Four, although they would beat Temple for third place. 1955 was SMU’s first ever NCAA appearance. SMU lost to Bradley in the West Region semifinals and lost to Tulsa for third place.

Well, there you have it: the Mustangs NCAA tournament history. Now back to this year. Larry Brown’s squad earned the No. 6 seed in the South Region and a March 19 date with UCLA in Louisville. Two wins would put SMU into its first Sweet 16 since the bracket expanded in 1985. Tipoff vs. UCLA is at 2:10 p.m. central on March 19.

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