Heading into the 1999-2000 season, the Mount Vernon Nazarene College men's basketball team was considered to be in a rebuilding phase after losing three NAIA Division II All-Americans and over 5,500 career points to graduation.
However, the Cougars showed that it was just a matter of reloading as MVNC posted an impressive 26-8 overall record, won the American Mideast Conference Division II Tournament, and earned the team's third straight trip to the NAIA Division II National Tournament.
The season began with four straight wins that included victories over Houghton (NY) College and Trinity Christian (IL) College as the team won the annual Cougar Homecoming Classic. MVNC suffered its first loss of the season in the championship game of the Taylor (IN) University Tournament as the Cougars fell 82-80 in overtime to the host Trojans on a half-court buzzer-beater.
MVNC rebounded from that loss to win its next six games. During this stretch, the Cougars twice broke the school single-game scoring mark with 135 points in a victory over then-#7 Berea (KY) College and 140 points in a win at Ohio State University-Newark.
After a one-point loss to Cumberland (KY) College, MVNC ran off six more victories as the Cougars moved up to #3 in the NAIA Division II national poll with a 17-2 record. The team dropped an 89-85 decision at Tiffin University, but then posted three more conference victories to improve to 20-3.
MVNC lost four of its remaining seven regular-season games as the team entered the postseason with a 23-7 mark. However, the Cougars finished 13-5 in conference play and earned the top seed and homecourt advantage in the conference tournament.
After receiving a bye in the first round of the tournament, MVNC eliminated fourth-seeded Ohio Dominican College 92-61 in the semifinals. The Cougars followed up that performance with an 84-72 victory over second-seeded Walsh University in the championship game as the team earned an automatic berth in the 32-team NAIA Division II National Tournament.
With its second straight conference tournament title under its belt, MVNC headed for Branson, Missouri, for the national tournament that was held on the campus of the College of the Ozarks. The Cougars, who were seeded 12th in the tournament, defeated unseeded Menlo (CA) College 91-64 in the first round. Then, the team had its season come to an end with a 118-93 loss to fifth-seeded Siena Heights (MI) University in the second round.
MVNC finished its season just one win shy of the school record for victories in a season. It also marked the fourth straight year that the team reached the 20-win mark - the longest such streak in school history. As a team, the Cougars set new single-season records for most field goals made (1,172), most rebounds (1,420), and most blocked shots (150).
Individually, several players had outstanding seasons. Senior forward Adam Stevens wrapped up his stellar career by leading the team in scoring (17.6 points per game) and rebounding (8.6 rebounds per game) as he was selected as the AMC and National Christian College Athletic Association East Region Player of the Year. Stevens finishes his career as MVNC's all-time rebounding leader (1,112) and third highest scorer (1,995 points).
Senior guard Kyle Gerhart led the team with 164 assists and averaged 8.1 points per game as he was named to the AMC and NCCAA East Region Second Teams. Senior J.D. Burke wrapped up his career by averaging 4.1 points and 2.4 rebounds as he played in all 34 games and made 18 starts.
Junior guard Matt Keller was second on the team with 157 assists as he led the AMC in assist-to-turnover ratio. Keller averaged 6.0 points per game and set a school record by making 32 consecutive free throws to begin the season.
Sophomore forward Kenny Chaffin had a breakout year as he was second on the team in scoring (16.3 points per game), rebounding (7.1 rebounds per game), and blocked shots (46). He was named to the AMC and NCCAA East Region Second Teams, and he led the Cougars in scoring in both of their national tournament games.
Freshman guard Phil Argento made an impact in his first season as he averaged 13.7 points per game on his way to claiming AMC Freshman of the Year honors. Argento also led the team in three-pointers made (82), and he was second with 51 steals.
Sophomore guard Andy Gast averaged 9.4 points per game, while sophomore center Jon Ware added 6.2 points per game and led the team with 49 blocked shots. Sophomore forward Lenny Foyer contributed 5.0 points and 3.6 rebounds per game, and junior guard Coy Lindsey averaged 4.8 points per game. Freshman center Matt Taylor also finished the season by averaging 3.5 points and 3.2 rebounds per game.
Although MVNC will lose three seniors to graduation, the returning players give the Cougars an experienced core to build on. With the addition of several new recruits, the future looks bright for the MVNC men's basketball team.