The NCAA men’s basketball tournament is returning to South Carolina.
Midlands officials hope they’ll be closer when the next regional sites are announced.
Greenville and Bon Secours Wellness Arena were chosen Friday as one of the sites of the 2017 first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament, which were removed from North Carolina in September because of the state’s controversial HB2 law.
Columbia and Colonial Life Arena considered bidding on it, but couldn’t secure enough hotel space to meet NCAA requirements.
Columbia remains a top candidate to host the NCAA Tournament in the 2019-22 range. The bids for those years, which Greenville also submitted, will be announced on Dec. 7.
“We bid on NCAA Division III tennis and we thought we had a good chance to get it,” said Scott Powers, executive director of Columbia Regional Sports Council (Chattanooga, Tenn., won the 2017 tennis event). “Looking ahead, we bid on four years of basketball, we bid on NCAA Division II men’s golf for three years, we bid on NCAA Division II women’s golf for three years. Then we bid on men’s and women’s Division II tennis for three years.”
Greenville will host the men’s tournament for the first time since 2001. The event will be played on March 17 and 19. “The Well” will also host the 2017 SEC women’s basketball tournament on March 1-5.
After years of being banned from pre-determined NCAA events because of the Confederate flag on the State House grounds, Columbia’s making its move to be a consistent host for NCAA championships. The city has bid on 13 NCAA events for the years 2019-22, including NCAA men’s basketball regionals at CLA, and also bid on the 2017 ACC baseball tournament, which was removed from Durham, N.C.
That bid went to Louisville, Ky. Yet Powers is confident in Columbia’s future drawing power.
“The ACC basically went to their members,” Powers said. “We bid with the Fireflies’ stadium, but they were coming from a Triple-A stadium in an ACC town and it went to a Triple-A stadium in an ACC town.”
If North Carolina doesn’t repeal HB2, its 2018 events – such as an NCAA basketball regional set for Charlotte – will also be up for grabs.
“We’ve never been able to say we’ve hosted basketball or other high-profile events,” Powers said. “Hosting them, hosting them well, proving to ourselves that we really can do it, you never know when someone starts thinking, ‘Well, now Columbia can be a great host.’ ”
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