Gastonia's James Worthy among those to play in the 3 venues that have hosted opening round games, regionals and one Final Four

CHARLOTTE - When the original Charlotte Coliseum opened in September 1955 and the second Charlotte Coliseum (1988) and current Spectrum Center (2005) later opened, it only seemed natural that the city would become a regular host of NCAA tournament games.

As Charlotte prepares to host the 2018 NCAA first- and second-round games this weekend, it'll mark the 23rd time March Madness has come to the Queen City.

Three eventual national champions began their title runs in games in Charlotte and a fourth was decided in the city's lone Final Four in 1994.

Along the way, the city's three basketball venues have seen their share of Hall of Fame players perform in the NCAA's signature tournament event.

Among them are Gastonia's James Worthy, who helped lead North Carolina to a closer-than-expected 52-50 win over upstart James Madison in the Tar Heels' opening 1982 NCAA tournament game that eventually became the school's second basketball championship run.

Those 1982 opening round games are among the 13 times the venue now called Bojangle's Arena on Independence Boulevard hosted NCAA tournament games.

That begin in 1958 when a Temple team with eventual Hall of Famer Guy Rodgers led the Owls to an East Regional championship.

The next year saw West Virginia's Jerry West led the Mountaineers to the 1959 East Regional title en route to a Hall of Fame career in which he would be immortalized as his likeness would be used for the NBA logo.

Eventual Hall of Famers Charles Barkley (Auburn) and David Robinson (Navy) would play their final collegiate games in Charlotte in 1984 and 1987, respectively.

The now-imploded Charlotte Coliseum off Tyvola Road would host two regionals, one Final Four and three opening rounds from 1991 to 2005.

In 1993, eventual NBA Charlotte Hornets All-Star Jamal Mashburn would led Kentucky to a Southeast Regional title.

In 1994, playing in front of a crowd of 23,674 that included President Bill Clinton (a former Arkansas governor), Arkansas defeated a Duke team featuring Grant Hill 76-72 in the national championship game.

In 2005, a North Carolina team featuring eventual Charlotte NBA players Raymond Felton, Sean May and Marvin Williams began its national championship run with opening round victories.

Finally, upon moving to the current Spectrum Center that has previously been named Bobcats Arena and Time Warner Cable Arena, the 2008 East Regionals and 2011 and 2015 opening rounds have been contested in Charlotte.

In 2008, eventual Charlotte Hornets player Tyler Hansbrough helped North Carolina advance to the Final Four.

In 2011, eventual NBA champion Kyrie Irving played two of his 11 collegiate games for Duke in a pair of Blue Devils' victories.

And in 2015, a Duke team that featuring eventual NBA players Jahlil Okafor, Quinn Cook and Justise Winslow and current Duke standout Grayson Allen began its NCAA title run with wins over Robert Morris and San Diego State.

In-state ACC powers Duke (eight appearances with a 11-2 record) and North Carolina (seven appearances with an 11-0 record) have played in Charlotte the most with Tennessee (five), Virginia (three), Indiana (three), St. Joseph's (three), Wake Forest (three) and Georgia (three) all making three or more NCAA appearances in the Queen City.

Other appearances by Carolinas colleges have been made by Furman (twice), College of Charleston (once) and Davidson (once).

 

Richard Walker: 704-869-1841; twitter.com/jrwalk22