Monroe College men's and women's hoop teams go national (38049)
Monroe College men's and women's hoop teams go national (38048)

For the third consecutive year, both Monroe Mustang basketball teams will be playing in their respective national tournaments simultaneously.

The No. 15-ranked defending national champion Monroe women’s team will tip off in the NJCAA Division II women’s national tournament on Tuesday, March 20 in Peoria, Ill. On that same day, 600 miles to the south, the No. 3-ranked men’s team will begin play in the NJCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament in Hutchinson, Kan. Both teams won district championships on their home court at the MAC (Monroe Athletic Complex) this past weekend.

Since 1991, the Monroe men’s team has had a remarkable winning percentage of .742 while the women have been even better, with three national championships and an out-of-this world .817 winning percentage since 2001. Monroe is undeniably home to New York’s most successful college basketball program.

“Our long-standing motto is ‘Together we aspire, together we achieve,’” said Athletic Director Bert Shillingford. “Our success in basketball, and all our sports for that matter, is a glowing commentary on what can happen when talented and dedicated people work in concert, including our administrators, coaches, support staff and, most importantly, the student-athletes themselves.”

The road to the nationals for coach Jeff Brustad’s 30-3 men’s team has been a straight one. They finished third in the 2011 national tournament, and the goal since day one has been to win it all in 2012. They were ranked No. 2 to start the season but turned that into No. 1 with an early season win over a top team. They were brought down to earth somewhat with three losses during the season, but the Monroe men have climbed back with strong play as of late, having won their last seven games.

The Mustangs won the region title with a heart-stopping win over Harcum. Then, in the game that propelled them to their third straight national tournament, they obliterated Hagerstown in the district final that was as much a coronation and celebration as it was a basketball game.

“The opportunity to have a team as talented and unified as this one doesn’t come around too often,” said Brustad. “With our six players who were with us at the national tournament last year, we think we’re going to give it a pretty good run in Kansas.”

All five of Monroe’s starters were named Region All-Stars. Monroe began play in the national tournament on Tuesday. However, the road for the 27-6 Monroe women has been a little bumpier, with only one returnee from their national title team.