Tennessee State basketball is heading to the NCAA Championship as the SEC Championship for the first time since 1979.
The No. 3 (26-7) seed plays No. 14 Longwood (26-6) on Thursday (2:45 p.m. ET, CBS) in Indianapolis.
Here’s what you need to know about the match:
Tennessee and Longwood are very excited about the NCAA tournament
Tennessee has won 15 of 17 games, including 15 of the last 16 games against SEC teams. The Vols followed their hot streak to finish the regular season by winning the SEC tournament in dominant style, trailing by 69 seconds in three games.
Longwood is the same amount of red heat. The Lancers are aged 19-1 since the start of 2022 and have not lost since February 12th. They competed in the Big South Championship, topping Winthrop to claim an automatic bid.
It is Longwood’s first appearance in the NCAA Championship.
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Is it better to be lucky or good?
Longwood has a knack for winning close matches and bonus games. The Lancers have won eight games by six points or less and two in overtime, all of which were in Big South play.
Longwood is the nation’s 21st luckiest team on the KenPom Scale, which tracks the deviation in the winning percentage between the team’s actual record and predicted record.
Lancer lost one game by six points or less, with a 62-61 loss to Old Dominion on November 26.
Utah and Longwood have two common opponents: Presbyterian and USC Upstate. Foles hit both in the nonconference, winning 86-44 against Presbyterian and 96-52 against USC Upstate. The Lancers beat USC Upstate twice, winning 85-72 in the regular season and 79-70 the championship. They defeated the Presbyterian Church 71-70.
It’s Tennessee’s defense against Longwood’s shot
The Vols put up a defensive clinic to win the SEC Championship, putting the funnel on high-powered Kentucky in the semifinals. Utah State Texas A&M held 50 points in the title game.
Longwood ranks #19 nationally in its 3-point shootout ratio. The Lancers made 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 defenses, and ranks third in adjusted defensive efficiency. UT guards will be put to the test because Longwood doesn’t have a lot of size and relies on guards Justin Hill, Isaiah Wilkins and Deshaun Wade. Wilkins and Wade shoot better than 40% from a 3-point range.
TN 78, Longwood 64: Tennessee will qualify for the tournament after being knocked out in the first round last season. The UT guard will get it done.
Mike Wilson covers athletics at the University of Tennessee. Email him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @by Mike Wilson. If you enjoy Mike’s coverage, consider a digital subscription that gives you access to all of that.