Here are 10 top players (in alphabetical order) to keep an eye on who will playing at the Colonial Life Arena in Columbia on Friday and Sunday in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament:
RJ Barrett (Duke) — Rated as No. 1 player in the Class of 2018. Canadian is averaging 22.1 points, 7.5 rebounds and 4.1 assists this season. Had just fourth triple-double in Duke history last month against N.C State. Projected to go No. 2 in NBA Draft by ESPN.
David Efianayi (Gardner-Webb) — Redshirt senior is leader of Bulldogs’ program and three-time all-Big South selection. Has scored more than 1,000 points in his career and leads team in scoring at 18.4 points per game to go along with 3.7 rebounds and 2.9 assists.
Marcus Evans (VCU) — First-team all-Atlantic 10 performer suffered a knee injury in A-10 tourney but should be ready to go for Friday’s matchup against Oklahoma. Junior is averaging 13.8 points a game.
Tacko Fall (Central Florida) — At 7-foot-6, the Senegal native could be the tallest player ever to step foot on Colonial Life Arena floor. Averaging 10.9 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.5 blocks this season.
De’Andre Hunter (Virginia) — 6-foot-8 forward came off the bench last season and exploded for a big season this year. Averaging 15.5 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.1 assists this season. ESPN projects Hunter as No. 6 best player in this year’s NBA class.
Christian James (Oklahoma) — Team’s leading scorer has had an up-and-down season, starting strong but scoring less than 10 points in three of final four games. James leads team in scoring at 14.4 points a game to go with 6.6 rebounds.
Tre Jones (Duke) — Gets lost in shadows sometimes with other Duke freshmen Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett and Cam Reddish but shined in ACC Tournament. Has had four assists or more in nine of his last 10 games. Jones playing some of his best ball after mom was diagnosed with cancer earlier this month.
Ty Jerome (Virginia) — Point guard averaging 13 points, team-high 5.4 assists and 4 rebounds per game. Projected as first-round pick by ESPN in this year’s NBA Draft.
Breein Tyree (Ole Miss) — First-team All-SEC performer averaging 18.2 points a game. Cousin of former New York Giants receiver David Tyree.
Zion Williamson (Duke) — South Carolina native has become the face of college basketball in his freshman season. ACC regular season and tournament Player of Year averages 22.1 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.2 steals and 2.1 assists this season. Projected as top prospect in this year’s NBA Draft by ESPN. Last time Williamson played in Columbia was in 2016 at the Chick-fil-A Classic at Richland Northeast. He scored a career-high 53 points in win over Gray Collegiate and set three-day tournament record with 109 points.
NCAA Tournament Columbia game schedule
The NCAA Tournament in Columbia schedule for Friday’s games (with Sunday’s second round game times to be announced).
(8) Ole Miss vs. (9) Oklahoma, 12:40 p.m. Friday (truTV)
(1) Virginia vs. (16) Gardner-Webb, Approximately 3 p.m. Friday (truTV)
(1) Duke vs. (16) North Dakota State, 7:10 p.m. Friday (CBS)
(8) VCU vs. (9) UCF, Approximately 9:40 p.m. Friday (CBS)