The Longwood Lancers are heading to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history!
LONGWOOD IS DANCING FOR THE FIRST TIME IN MEN'S CBB HISTORY‼️ pic.twitter.com/6Z8Iob6724— ESPN (@espn) March 6, 2022
Griff Aldrich came to Farmville, Va., in 2018 after being an assistant on that UMBC team. You know, the one that beat the flagship university in the state of Virginia, the biggest upset in tournament history. No. 16 seed over No. 1 seed. You know.
The season before he arrived in Farmville, the Lancers went on a 15-game Big South losing streak. Through 14 years of Division-I basketball, they were just another bottom dweller.
That changed in the eyes of a lot of people Sunday.
Longwood rolled through Winthrop — the class of the Big South for quite some time — 79-55. It was never close, but you can’t say that for many games in this tournament.
Wednesday’s first-round action saw three overtime games with the only exception being a buzzer-beater by the twelfth seed Charleston Southern, which knocked off the fifth seed UNC Asheville. Friday had another overtime game, and some missed free throws in #FreeThrowAwarenessMonth lose a game for the Campbell Camels.
That overtime game included the champions, Longwood, as they faced off against North Carolina A&T in what would be the Aggies’ last Big South game.
In the regular season, NC A&T was the only team to beat the Lancers. They overcame a 14-point deficit on Friday to force overtime. Longwood followed that up, overcoming a 16-point deficit in the semifinals on Saturday, beating USC Upstate by a score of 79-70, breezing for most of the second half.
They breezed through Winthrop on Sunday but for a team defined by GRIT it meant a lot more than that. Winthrop was held to 41.2% from the field, only draining six 3s to Longwood’s 10. A true defensive masterclass.
“Over the past couple of weeks, I think we’ve really taken a step defensively, where we really understood that the key to our team is to be very strong defensively,” Aldrich said. “I think part of being very strong defensively is being extremely mentally tough and disciplined, and not to have mental lapses on our principles. I thought today – I’m sure we had some – but I can’t think of any. I just thought we made it really difficult for Winthrop in the first half to score.”
Longwood will have to wait a week for their NCAA Tournament destination, but the story is just starting. Aldrich who once worked in oil, then private equity, took this program to its first NCAA Tournament.
It doesn’t matter what seed they’ll be, it’s that they made it this far. Just don’t be shocked if they do what Aldrich did at UMBC.