Stetson Hatters hold final set of practices before NCAA Tournament

The Stetson Hatters held one of their last practices Wednesday before their first-ever NCAA Tournament game.

The Hatters, a 16th seed, will play UConn, the number-one seed overall and defending champion. The game is Friday at 2:45 p.m. at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. 

Junior forward Treyton Thompson said the team's relishing the chance to play in front of a national audience.

"It’s a great opportunity," Thompson said. "Everybody’s on the biggest stage you can imagine. We’re just all excited. Everybody’s hungry, so we’re ready for it."

Stetson won its way into the tournament by claiming the A-Sun Championship. The Hatters avoided the First Four, but they're set to play the top team in the country instead.

Senior guard Stephan Swenson said playing Connecticut only fuels the intensity.


"It’s the cherry on the top," Swenson said. "It’s been special all year. To play the number one team in the country in March Madness is like, ‘What can you ask better for that American dream?’"

Donnie Jones, the Hatters' head coach, has big-game experience. Nearly twenty years ago, he was an assistant at Florida for the Gators' two titles.

"I was a part of those great teams," Jones said. "When you're leading your own team and leading a place that's never done it with a group of kids that a lot of them didn't get scholarship offers it's a different joy."

Jones said the team has experience this year playing in tough arenas like Houston and UCF, and one of the keys to playing in the NCAA Tournament is limiting mistakes.

"I think the biggest thing is have confidence and be able to stay calm and handle the runs in the game," Jones said.

Thompson said he's proud of what the team's accomplished this season.

"We’re all in," Thompson said. "We’re all bought in. Everybody works just as hard as the person next to them. It’s a special type of team, and I love this team."

The Hatters will practice again in DeLand on Wednesday morning before leaving for Brooklyn on Wednesday afternoon. The team will practice once in Brooklyn before their game on Friday. 

Should Stetson win, it would be one of the biggest upsets in NCAA Tournament history. A 16 seed has beaten a one seed only twice before, most recently in 2023 when Purdue lost to FDU.