More than 400 NCAA Division III men’s basketball programs began the season in mid-November, but only four vied for the coveted national championship trophy four months later during the playoffs in Salem, Va. Babson was among those elite. Since 1991, no other Babson program has advanced to an NCAA Final Four. On its way, the team won a program-high 29 games, carried a school-best 17-game winning streak into Salem, and swept the NEWMAC regular season and tournament titles.
“It was a special year, not only for the successes, but because our players were all in, all the time,” says head coach Stephen Brennan, a 20-year veteran who earned regional and conference coach of the year honors. “In most years, coaches deal with some entitlement, playing time issues, and motivating players to stay focused. Our leaders modeled a commitment to excellence, competing hard every day and doing extra work to be prepared.”
Led by Eric Dean ’15, Dave Mack ’15, John Wickey ’15, Travis Sheldon ’16, and Joey Flannery ’17, the team began working in earnest after a disappointing first-round exit in last year’s NCAA tournament. “Everyone bought in early last spring,” says Wickey. “Our freshmen bought in during the summer when they were doing their workouts. We made a commitment in the fall that we wanted to have success at a higher level than last year. We put in the time, effort, sweat, and tears to ensure that happened.”
Flannery assembled arguably the greatest single season in program history, racking up a school-best 689 points, which already moves the sophomore up to 16th place on Babson’s all-time scoring list. He was named a first-team All-American by two organizations, becoming just the second Beaver to receive such accolades. Wickey, the second player in program annals to earn all-league first-team honors three straight times, also is the only Beaver to surpass 1,300 points, 700 rebounds, and 100 threepointers.
Beyond the wins, the playoffs galvanized a community, including alumni, students, faculty, and staff who beamed with pride at the team’s historic run. Despite the record snowfall this winter, thousands came to the Webster Center to cheer on the Beavers. “The Babson community was incredibly supportive and created an amazing environment,” says coach Brennan. “I can’t thank enough all who supported us.”—Scott Dietz, associate director of athletics