Tennessee basketball is headed into the NCAA Tournament as SEC Tournament champions for the first time since 1979.
The No. 3 seed Vols (26-7) face No. 14 Longwood (26-6) on Thursday (2:45 pm ET, CBS) in Indianapolis.
Here is what to know about the matchup:
Tennessee and Longwood are red-hot going into the NCAA Tournament
Tennessee has won 15 of 17 games, including 15 of the final 16 games against SEC teams. The Vols followed their hot streak to end the regular season by winning the SEC Tournament in dominant fashion, trailing for 69 seconds in three games.
Longwood is on an equally red-hot run. The Lancers are 19-1 since the start of 2022 and haven’t lost since Feb. 12. They ran through the Big South Tournament, topping Winthrop to claim an automatic bid.
It is Longwood’s first NCAA Tournament appearance.
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Is it better to be lucky or good?
Longwood has a knack for winning close games and overtime games. The Lancers won eight games by six points or less and two in overtime, all of which were in Big South play.
Longwood as the No. 21 luckiest team in the country in KenPom’s metric, which tracks the deviation in winning percentage between a team’s actual record and their expected record.
The Lancers lost one game decided by six points or fewer, a 62-61 loss to Old Dominion on Nov. 26.
UT and Longwood have two common opponents: Presbyterian and USC Upstate. The Vols smacked both in the nonconference, winning 86-44 against Presbyterian and 96-52 against USC Upstate. The Lancers beat USC Upstate twice, an 85-72 regular-season win and a 79-70 tournament win. They beat Presbyterian 71-70.
It’s Tennessee defense vs. Longwood’s shooting
The Vols put on a defensive clinic to win the SEC Tournament, putting the clampdown on high-powered Kentucky in the semifinals. UT held Texas A&M to 50 points in the title game.
Longwood ranks No. 19 nationally in 3-point shooting percentage. The Lancers hit 37.9% of their attempts. They also shoot 45.2% from the field and average 76.3 points per game.
Tennessee is one of the nation’s best defense, ranking third in adjusted defensive efficiency. UT’s guards will be put to the test as Longwood doesn’t have much size and relies on guards Justin Hill, Isaiah Wilkins, and DeShaun Wade. Wilkins and Wade shoot better than 40% from 3-point range.
Tennessee 78, Longwood 64: Tennessee will advance in the tournament after being knocked out in the first round last season. UT’s guard will get it done.
Mike Wilson covers University of Tennessee athletics. Email him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @ByMikeWilson. If you enjoy Mike’s coverage, consider a digital subscription that will allow you access to all of it.