The North Atlantic Conference champion Husson University men’s and women’s basketball teams will be playing their NCAA Division III Tournament openers 21.4 miles apart on Friday.
The Husson men, 21-6, will face the nation’s top-ranked team, 25-2 Babson College, in Babson Park, Massachusetts, on Friday while the Husson women, 22-4, take on 20-7 DeSales University from Center Valley, Pennsylvania, at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts.
Sixty-four teams qualify for each tournament, and there will be 16-four-team sectionals this weekend.
The Husson men will be playing in their sixth NCAA Division III Tournament over the past nine seasons while the women will be making their second straight appearance.
Both will be gunning for their first ever NCAA Division III Tournament wins.
The Husson men are the only team from the state to qualify for the NCAA Division III Tournament.
The Babson-Husson men’s game will be played at approximately 7:30 and will follow the 5:30 game between 19-7 Skidmore College (New York) and 21-7 New Jersey City College. The winners will play at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Babson is making its fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance and it reached the Final Four in 2015.
Husson is the only team from the state to qualify for the NCAA Division III Tournament.
The other game in the Husson women’s sectional will pit St. Joseph’s College of Standish, 24-4, against host Tufts, 25-2. The victors will square off Saturday.
The game times had yet to be released by the NCAA although the host school usually plays the late game.
Bowdoin College, 21-4, is the only other women’s team from Maine to earn an NCAA Division III tourney berth, and the Polar Bears will take on SUNY New Paltz, 18-8, in the Ithaca College sectional on Friday.
Bowdoin has qualified for the tournament 16 times over the past 17 seasons.
Ithaca and the Rochester Institute of Technology meet in the other sectional game.
Tufts has played in three straight Final Fours and has a string of six straight NCAA Tournament berths.
DeSales will be making its 12th NCAA Tournament appearance overall but its first since 2011.
The Husson men lost a heartbreaker to No. 15 Amherst College 74-72 at Amherst, Massachusetts, in last year’s first-round game while the Husson women were dispatched by No. 9 Albright 76-46 in Montclair, New Jersey.
Husson men’s coach Warren Caruso and women’s coach Kissy Walker are looking forward to their sectionals.
“We’re one of 64 teams going to the NCAAs so you’ve got to be excited, no matter who you draw,” said Caruso, who has guided Husson to 12 conference championships.
“Historically, that has been our draw. Our non-conference resume doesn’t stand out. We got what we earned. Our guys will be ready for the challenge,” he added.
“Conference play was a big hurdle and now we’re looking at a team that isn’t a host team and we’re only maybe four to five hours away so family and friends can go. I think it will be a great atmosphere,” Walker said. “We’ve heard a lot about Tufts, we know St. Joe’s and the team we’re going to play we don’t know much about.
“But we’ll be getting ready for them,” Walker said. “Last year, we didn’t know much about Albright. It’s all set up that we’ll get film [on DeSales] right away and we can watch them and they’ll watch us. We’ve just got to go out and execute and do what we’ve done all year long.”
She added that “we’re excited that our men will be right down the road so hopefully a bunch of people from Bangor will head down and cheer us both on. It’s going to be another challenge. I’ve got the kids who are up for it. We like to win.”
“It should be exciting. We think we have a good chance,” Husson University senior guard Denae Johnson said.