Men's Basketball

NCAA tournament watch: The latest teams projected to come to Columbia

The NCAA Tournament is likely to return to Columbia after a 49-year hiatus with a bang.

At least that’s what bracket projections are suggesting.

Colonial Life Arena will host the Big Dance’s first and second rounds, March 22-24. Both Joe Lunardi and Jerry Palm have No. 1 seeds coming to Columbia. Selection Sunday is March 17.

The latest from Joe Lunardi

ESPN’s top bracketologist last updated his bracket Tuesday morning. He has the following matchups happening in Columbia:

East region

(1) Duke vs. (16) Bucknell

(8) Baylor vs. (9) Ohio State

South region

(1) Virginia vs. (16) Rider

(8) Ole Miss vs. (9) Minnesota

Potential Storylines: Zion Williamson, arguably the greatest prospect to ever come out of the Palmetto State, would return home to play in his first — and highly likely only — NCAA Tournament.

The Spartanburg product and potential No. 1 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft is averaging 22.3 points and nine rebounds a game for the Blue Devils.

Appearances by Virginia and Ole Miss would be each team’s second Columbia trip of the season. The Cavaliers beat South Carolina on Dec. 19 and the Rebels come here Feb. 19. Ole Miss features Irmo’s Devontae Shuler.

Ohio State last came to CLA on Dec. 17, 2011. The then-No. 2 Buckeyes beat the Gamecocks, 74-66.

The latest from Jerry Palm

The top bracketologist from CBS Sports last updated his bracket Sunday night. He has the following matchups happening in Columbia:

East region

(1) Duke vs. (16) Rider

(8) Cincinnati vs. (9) Auburn

South region

(1) Tennessee vs. (16) Norfolk State-Robert Morris winner

(8) Syracuse vs. (9) St. John’s

Potential storylines: A Duke-Auburn second round game would be a rematch from the Maui Invitational.

USC beat the Tigers at Colonial Life Arena on Jan. 22. Tennessee beat the Gamecocks at CLA on Jan. 29. The Volunteers would be gunning for their first Sweet 16 since 2014.

Syracuse-St. John’s would have national appeal due to it renewing a classic Big East rivalry. Also former Gamecock Sedee Keita now plays for St. John’s.

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Andrew Ramspacher has been covering college athletics since 2010, serving as The State’s USC men’s basketball beat writer since October 2017. His work has been recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors, Virginia Press Association and West Virginia Press Association. At a program-listed 5-foot-10, he’s always been destined to write about the game. Not play it.
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