Tennessee will open their 2022 NCAA Tournament on Thursday with a matchup against 14th-seeded Longwood. The Volunteers, fresh off of their first SEC Tournament title since 1979, landed a No. 3 seed in a region with Villanova and Arizona.
Their path to the Sweet 16 includes facing the winner of No. 11 Michigan vs. No. 6 Colorado State — but let’s not overlook the Lancers, coming to Indianapolis from Farmville, Virgina.
A look at Longwood
Longwood is nothing to scoff at. The Lancers went 26-6 overall this season, going 15-1 in the Big South Conference. Head Coach Griff Aldrich comes from UMBC, where he was an assistant coach for the 16th-seeded team that took down No. 1 seed Virginia four years ago.
After three sub .500 seasons, Aldrich put all the pieces together in year four, and the Lancers have arrived. Longwood has lost just once in their last 20 games, nearly running the table in the Big South. Their only conference loss came to North Carolina A&T on the road.
“Longwood is a guard-heavy team with experienced players,” Rick Barnes said this week. “I know how hard it is to go through a league when you only lose, what, one game and win a championship.”
Longwood has a potent offense, scoring over 76 points per game which is good for 56th overall in the country. The Lancers have three guards averaging double figures, two of which — seniors DeShaun Wade and Isaiah Wilkins — shoot over 40 percent from three-point range.
Senior Zac Watson and junior Leslie Nkereuwem make up the frontcourt for Longwood, each checking in at 6-7. The Lancers will give up plenty of length to Tennessee, which could be a primary issue for them come Thursday afternoon.
Our friends at Mid-Major Madness previewed Longwood ahead of the Big South Tournament a couple of weeks back.
Griff Aldrich has fulfilled the dream that all mid-major coaches have. Not only is he consistently bringing in talent, but he’s also built Farmville into a basketball town. Night-in and night-out, Willett Hall was packed to the brim, and it showed with their 16-1 home record.
On the floor, Justin Hill played himself into Big South Player of the Year conversations. Leading the Lancers with 13.9 points per game, the 6-foot sophomore was the primary ball-handler. Along with him in the backcourt, senior guards Isaiah Wilkins and Deshaun Wade have shined from 3 and that’s shown as the Lancers rank 17th in KenPom’s 3-point percentage ranking. (Mid-Major Madness)
Longwood ranks 139th in KenPom, ranking 110th offensively and 189th defensively. They’ll face KenPom’s 7th ranked team on Thursday, with Tennessee checking in as the 36th best offense and third best defense.
Tennessee opened as 17 point favorites on Sunday night, and that number has now moved out to 18 according to DraftKings Sportsbook, with money continuing to back the Volunteers.
Tip-off is set for Thursday at 2:45 p.m. ET on CBS.
Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See DraftKings.com/sportsbook for details.