Lancers are postseason bound

Published 4:17 pm Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Men’s basketball team accepts first-ever Division I postseason bid

Longwood University’s men’s basketball team found out Wednesday that for the first time in its run at the NCAA Division I level, its season would continue after the Big South Conference tournament.

A Longwood athletics press release opened by noting that the Lancers have experienced one of the biggest turnarounds in college basketball this season, the second-most wins in the program’s Division I era and the highest ranking of the past 15 years.

And Longwood first-year Head Coach Griff Aldrich announced in the release Wednesday that the Lancers have accepted an invitation to a postseason tournament, which will be the team’s first non-conference postseason appearance since making the jump to the Division I level in the 2004-05 season.

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Officials cited in the release that the Lancers will reveal that tournament, their first-round opponent and destination — which includes a potential opportunity to host a game in Willett Hall — when the bracket is finalized within the next week, but their first-round game will take place in the span of March 18-20.

“We are thrilled to continue our season by playing in the postseason as it presents our players and program with a tremendous platform to continue to build a championship-caliber foundation and culture,” said Aldrich, whose year-one success earned him recognition as a finalist for the Joe B. Hall National Coach of the Year award Tuesday.

“As we continue to seek to establish a strong foundation for this program, being selected to play in the postseason is a special milestone,” the coach continued in the release. “With so many underclassmen on our roster, this tournament will provide our program with an opportunity to continue to compete for championships and also help us tangibly raise our expectations and the standard for Longwood basketball.”

The release stated that the historic postseason berth is the latest step forward in a season full of them for the Lancers, who have amassed 15 wins, hit a school-record 302 three-pointers and won eight more games than they did last season. The team’s 15-17 record is Longwood’s best since joining the Big South in 2012-13 and trails only the 2008-09 Lancers, who went 17-14 as a Division I Independent.

Longwood’s breakout 2018-19 campaign came in the program’s first year under Aldrich, whose eight-win improvement from one year ago is tied for the biggest turnaround of all 55 newly hired head coaches in 2018-19, officials said in the release. He led the Lancers to a 10-5 non-conference record, tied the school record for most Big South wins and elevated the team to its highest KenPom and NCAA RPI/NET rankings since joining the Big South in 2012-13.

University officials also cited that the Lancers also treated their home fans to a 9-5 record in Willett Hall and may have another opportunity on the way to make that double-digit home wins if selected as a host site in the upcoming tournament.

“I could not be happier for our players and staff,” Aldrich said in the release. “To play in the postseason in our first year is a true testament to their hard work, commitment and desire to improve every day. We look forward to continuing to take another step forward as a program.”

The release highlighted that Longwood will enter the postseason with a roster that includes All-Big South honorable mention point guard Shabooty Phillips, a member of Aldrich’s first recruiting class who was named Big South Newcomer of the Year by, and the two-man senior class of starters Spencer Franklin and Damarion Geter.

The postseason will also provide juniors JaShaun Smith and Jaylon Wilson the opportunity to continue their breakout seasons, with Smith already setting career highs in nearly every offensive category, and Wilson rebounding from a preseason injury to emerge as one of Longwood’s leading scorers down the stretch, officials cited.

The release concluded by noting that the Lancers will release more information about their opening game, including ticketing, with the release of the tournament bracket next week.