Men's Basketball

Bracketology watch: The latest on teams projected in Columbia for NCAA Tournament

Frank Martin: NCAA tournament is a window to showcase Columbia

The first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament will be held in Columbia at the Colonial Life Arena in March.
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The first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament will be held in Columbia at the Colonial Life Arena in March.

Since the NCAA Tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, a No. 1 seed has won the national championship 21 times, including Villanova last season.

Could fans be seeing the future champ if they come to Colonial Life Arena next month? There’s a chance.

Some of the Big Dance’s first and second round games will take place in Columbia, March 22-24. Below are the latest bracket projections from ESPN’s Joe Lunardi and CBS Sports’ Jerry Palm.

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) Washington vs. (9) Ohio State

Midwest region

(1) Virginia vs. (16) Sam Houston State

(8) Ole Miss vs. (9) TCU

Observations: A few tweaks here from last week, but the big guns remain the same.

Virginia and Duke’s regular season series is over. The Blue Devils, after Saturday’s win in Charlottesville, have swept the Cavaliers. The losses, though, haven’t impacted UVa’s seed line. The Cavs are 21-2 after a huge win Monday night at North Carolina.

Duke, meanwhile, continues rolling along, making a return home for Spartanburg native Zion Williamson all that more likely.

Williamson, an All-American candidate and potential No. 1 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, is averaging 21.8 points and 9.2 rebounds a game.

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 Monday morning. He has the following matchups happening in Columbia:

East region

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

(8) TCU vs. (9) Auburn

South region

(1) Tennessee vs. (16) Sam Houston State

(8) Baylor vs. (9) Minnesota

Observations: Palm differs from Lunardi on where to send Virginia and Tennessee. The Volunteers are coming to CLA in this one while the Cavaliers, as a No. 1 seed in the Midwest, are being sent to Columbus, Ohio, for the opening rounds.

Distance from Knoxville to Columbia: 262 miles

Distance from Knoxville to Columbus: 357 miles

Distance from Charlottesville to Columbia: 362 miles

Distance from Charlottesville to Columbus: 408 miles

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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