Can #9 Memphis Survive #8 Boise State’s Defense?
The field is set and Tennessee is a three-seed in the South Region. The Vols head to Indianapolis with just 14-seed Longwood and either six-seed Colorado State or No. 11 seed Michigan standing in their way from the second Sweet 16 appearance of the Rick Barnes era.
It all starts on Thursday at 2:45 ET against the Lancers. Let’s take a look at the 2021-22 Longwood basketball team.
The Lancers are 26-6 entering the NCAA Tournament, having won 19 of their last 20 games on the way to a Big South regular season and tournament championship.
Longwood got off to a slow start in head coach Griff Aldrich’s fourth season, going 7-5 in the months of January and February including a three-game losing streak in December.
The Lancers faced two power-six conference teams this season. Iowa routed Longwood, 106-73, in the Lancers’ opening game of the season and Georgetown (6-25, 0-19 Big East) earned an eight-point victory over Longwood.
Longwood flipped its season at the start of the new year on its way to a 15-1 record in conference play. the Lancers enter the NCAA Tournament ranked 144th in KenPom.
Where They Excel
Longwood’s strength is on the offensive side where they rank 115th in adjusted offensive efficiency compared to 191st in adjusted defensive efficiency.
Offensively, Longwood excels in three areas: three-point shooting, offensive rebounding and its ability to get to the free-throw line.
The Lancers rank sixth nationally in three-point field goal percentage, making 38.6% of their attempts from deep. Despite shooting the ball at an impressive clip from deep, Longwood does not shoot an abundance of threes.
Longwood shoots 21.6 threes per game — nearly three less than Tennessee shoots per game — and the 158th most attempts in the country.
Despite not having a great deal of size, Longwood is a successful offensive rebounding team, posting an offensive rebounding rate that ranks 20th nationally. How well that rebounding carries over against a larger front court is a storyline worth watching.
20.6% of Longwood’s points come from the charity tripe — 2.2% higher than the national average — where they shoot 72.6%.
Tennessee has one of the best steal percentage defenses in the country. Longwood does an excellent job of taking care of the ball, posting a top 75 steal percentage.
The Lancers do a good job of depending the three-point line with their opponents shooting just 31% from deep.
Where They Struggle
As most of Longwood’s strengths are on the offensive end, most of its weaknesses are on the defensive end.
The Lancers are good at defending the three-point line, but are abysmal at defending the paint. Longwood has no true rim protectors ranking 319th out of 358th nationally in two-point defense and 315th in block percentage.
The Lancers have an abundance of their own shots blocked too, with nearly three percent more of their possessions ending in blocks than the national average.
While opponents don’t steal the ball from Longwood often, the Lancers turn the ball over on non steals far more than the national average.
The first thing that stands out about the Lancers’ roster is the lack of size. Longwood doesn’t play one person over 6-foot-7 with Zac Watson and Leslie Nkereuwem playing the abundance of minutes down low.
Despite them both being 6-foot-7, Longwood rarely plays both of them on the court at the same time. When Longwood goes “big” 6-foot-7 reserve Nate Lliteras typically plays the four.
Still, Longwood typically plays 6-foot-4 Isaiah Wilikins at the power forward at the power forward spot.
This is a game we should likely see an abundance of Tennessee’s small ball lineup with Josiah-Jordan James at the four-spot. James should be one of the most important Vols in this game and his ability to stay out of foul trouble is important.
Point guard Justin Hill is Longwood’s most used player, tallying 31 minutes per game while averaging 14.2 points, 4.9 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game.
Guards Isaiah Wilkins and DeShaun Wade are the only other Lancers averaging double-digits points per game while shooting over 40% from three-point range.
At only 6-foot-2, Wilkins is the best rebounder on Longwood, grabbing 6.3 rebounds per game.
Longwood has seven different players who can beat a defense from beyond the three-point line. Those seven players all shoot 31% or better from three-point range with three of them shooting over 35% and two shooting over 40%.
The Lancers are very dependent on their guards for scoring with Nkereuwem being the only front court player to average over eight points per game.
Longwood has a deep team, playing nine players over 14 minutes per game. The Lancers played the same nine players in the NCAA Tournament though the minutes were lessened at the back end of the rotation.