Men's Basketball

NCAA Tournament watch: Could Zion Williamson face his hometown school in Columbia?

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.

Barring something unforeseen, Duke and Spartanburg’s Zion Williamson seem like a lock to come to Columbia for the NCAA Tournament’s first two rounds.

The top-ranked Blue Devils (23-2) are destined to become the Big Dance’s overall No. 1 seed and be rewarded with the simple 235-journey south to Colonial Life Arena for games March 22-24.

What’s also become clear is USC will likely host two No. 1 seeds. It’s less than a month from Selection Sunday (March 17) and experts are split on Tennessee and Virginia.

Below are the latest bracket projections from ESPN’s Joe Lunardi and CBS Sports’ Jerry Palm.

The latest from Joe Lunardi

ESPN’s top bracketologist last updated his bracket late Monday night. He has the following games happening in Columbia:

East region

(1) Duke-(16) Bucknell

(8) Baylor-(9) Wofford

Midwest region

(1) Tennessee-(16) Sam Houston State

(8) Syracuse-(9) Texas

Observations: Tennessee here is the biggest tweak from last week.

The Vols are coming off a disappointing loss at Kentucky, which Lunardi used to move them out of Columbus, Ohio, and into Columbia, switching places with Virginia.

How awesome would a Duke-Wofford second round game be? Williamson gets to face his hometown team, a Terriers bunch loaded with enough shooters to give the favored Blue Devils a scare.

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) Quinnipiac-Norfolk State winner

(8) Baylor vs. (9) VCU

South region

(1) Virginia vs. (16) South Dakota State

(8) Buffalo vs. (9) Minnesota

Observations: Opposite of Lunardi, Palm moved the Vols out of Columbia and into Columbus. Palm still lists UT as a No. 1 seed, but in the Midwest Region.

Palm had Virginia, which won at Virginia Tech on Monday, going to Columbus last week. The Cavaliers beat the Gamecocks at CLA in December.

Buffalo’s appearance is new this week. The Bulls (22-3, 10-2 Mid-American Conference) are one of the most intriguing mid-major teams in the country. They boast road wins over Syracuse and West Virginia.

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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