THE DUMPSTER DIARIES: RANDOM THOUGHTS FROM THE FIRST WEEKEND
Florida Gulf Coast is Awesome. I mean, I know you guys know this already. Everybody knows what’s good with Dunk City at this point. Just thought I would get this one out of the way.
Sure, VCU got bounced in the second round by Michigan, but the Dumpster is steadily gaining a ton of respect for the Rams and Shaka Smart. That game against Akron…my god. Simply put, that was the most dominating performance in NCAA Tournament history. When VCU gets into attack mode like they do, it can bring an opponent wilting to its knees. The Zips just happened to be the lucky contestant that day.
More importantly, the Dumpster loves Shaka Smart for turning down the UCLA and Minnesota offers, just like he turned down the Illinois offer a year ago. He’s not dealing with the “One and Dones” at Virginia Commonwealth. Five-star recruits might not buy-in to his system as it is, but he doesn’t necessarily need NBA prospects anyway. He continues to recruit to perfect players for his program; just great athletes who are full of energy and committed to defense.
Speaking of UCLA and Minnesota, when was the last time two coaches from the same NCAA Tournament game got fired days later? Both the losing coach AND the winning coach. Meanwhile, Jamie Dixon got a 10-year extension from Pittsburgh for getting bounced on the first night by Wichita State. I don’t get it.
Temple was impressive. Even though the Owls are no longer with us, Khalif Wyatt and company provided Indiana with quite the scare. Wyatt might end up being one of the best college basketball players ever to never play a minute in the NBA.
Iowa State also impressed. After giving Notre Dame a sound whooping, the Cyclones came within one last-second Aaron Craft three-pointer from potentially knocking off Ohio State. That shot was the dagger of all daggers, but Fred Hoiberg and his squad will be back again next year.
Quick Dumpster shout-out to Harvard for its monster upset and Marshall Henderson and the Rebels for taking it to Wisconsin. As for New Mexico, Georgetown, Saint Louis, Oklahoma State, Montana, and Gonzaga…talk about not showing up to play.
DUMPSTER TREASURE: PLAYERS WHO SHINED
We haven’t mention any of these guys yet this year: Mark Lyons (Arizona), Vander Blue (Marquette), Derrick Nix (Michigan State), Mitch McGary (Michigan), Colton Iverson (Colorado State), Ramon Galloway (LaSalle), Russ Smith (Louisville), Brett Comer (FGCU), Arsalan Kazemi (Oregon), Andre Hollins (Minnesota), Mike Rosario (Florida), Rion Brown (Miami)
DUMPSTER TRASH: PLAYERS WHO DIDN’T GET IT DONE
If we mentioned these guys before, apologies for their disappearing act when it counted: Otto Porter (Georgetown), Kendall Williams (New Mexico), Ben McLemore (Kansas), Nate Wolters (South Dakota State), Mike Muscala (Bucknell), Larry Drew II (UCLA), Reggie Bullock/James McAdoo (North Carolina), Kenny Boynton (Florida), Spencer Dinwiddie (Colorado)
SWEET 16 RUNDOWN
MIDWEST REGION – Indianapolis
#1 Louisville vs. #12 Oregon – Friday (7:15 – CBS)
#2 Duke vs. #3 Michigan State – Friday (9:45 – CBS)
Gotta admit, I love the way Oregon has been playing, and they have seem to have the perfect combination of youth (freshmen Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson) and experience (seniors EJ Singler, Carlos Emory, Tony Woods, and ArsalanKazemi) for them to make a surprise run to the final four. But, even though the Ducks are quacking like a bunch of motherfuckers right now, their ride will come to an end at the hands of Louisville. Winners of 12 games in a row, the Cardinals are gelling at the perfect time and are proving why they received that top overall seed.
As for the nightcap, Duke and Michigan State will prove to be another epic tournament battle. Coach K vs. the Fighting Tom Izzo’s. Two of the deepest, most talented, most veteran rosters remaining the Big Dance. I still think the Spartans have the best starting five in this tournament, though. I really have no clue how you can defend Gary Harris, Keith Appling, Derrick Nix, Branden Dawson, and Adreian Payne at the same damn time.
VERDICT: Louisville over Oregon, Michigan State over Duke
ON TO THE FINAL FOUR: MICHIGAN STATE
WEST REGION – Los Angeles
#2 Ohio State vs. #6 Arizona – Thursday (7:47 – TBS)
#9 Wichita State vs. # 13 LaSalle – Thursday (10:17 – TBS)
The Buckeyes have shown their strengths (uber-efficient scorers, super careful with the basketball) and their weaknesses (terrible on the glass, suspect on defense). Ohio State, as good as it can be, is just as beatable as the next guy. Arizona, on the other hand, has the size and length in the paint to cause trouble for the likes of Deshaun Thomas, and the aggressive guards to fluster Aaron Craft with extended pressure. Although the Wildcats haven’t really been tested in the tournament (wins over Belmont and Harvard), they seem to be gaining confidence in their offense at the right time. Plus, Mark Lyons goes HAM night in and night out. The Dumpster might have to side with Zona in this one, if only because Lyons is a cold-blooded murderer in big games.
Meanwhile, Wichita State/LaSalle is that classic underdog vs. underdog matchup. At first glance, the Shockers seem like the better team with the better wins thus far. But then again, the Explorers have brought their brand of old-school, Philadelphia-street ball to the NCAAs, and they seem like the kind of team that is just tougher, meaner than everyone else. Nothing in this region has made sense so far, so it only seems natural to keep rolling with the underdogs.
VERDICT: Arizona over Ohio State, LaSalle over Wichita State
ON TO THE FINAL FOUR: ARIZONA
SOUTH REGION – Arlington, Texas
#1 Kansas vs. #4 Michigan – Friday (7:37 – TBS)
#15 Florida Gulf Coast vs. #3 Florida – Friday (9:57 – TBS)
Who would have thought that a Sweet 16 matchup between powers like Michigan and Kansas would be back page news in its own region? But such is the case here, despite the fact that you have two of the top teams in the country going toe-to-toe. The Dumpster has to side with the Jayhawks here, but only because Jeff Withey has been playing like a man among boys in this tournament. The Wolverines don’t really have the big bodies to bang with Whitey Withey, although Mitch McGary has emerged as a potential phenom. Michigan’s guards could still propel them to victory, but I’m giving a slight edge to Bill Self and his veteran squad.
Then, of course, there is the matchup between Florida Gulf Coast and Florida. The Eagles and Gators taking the court for Sunshine State supremacy. It’s funny, because in reality, no one in the state of Florida gives a fuck about this game. All anyway cares about is “where can I find some drugs?”
Or “what time is Murder She Wrote on?”
The other 49 states care, though, so that’s all that matters.
VERDICT: Kansas over Michigan, Florida over Florida Gulf Coast
ON TO THE FINAL FOUR: FLORIDA
EAST REGION – Washington D.C.
#2 Miami vs. #3 Marquette – Thursday (7:15 – CBS)
#1 Indiana vs. #4 Syracuse – Thursday (9:45 – CBS)
Marquette just keeps on surviving, huh? Back-to-back last-minutes victories? Buzz Williams certainly knows how to get his team ready for March, and it’s also apparent given the three straight Sweet 16 appearances. But his teams never have been able to get over that hump. Even with Miami’s Reggie Johnson sidelined for the weekend, Miami has too many weapons to come up empty against the Golden Eagles. Besides, luck runs out eventually right? Marquette’s luck could run out on Thursday.
As talented as they are on paper, I’m not 100% sold on Indiana. This is a team that can really go cold on offense. The same can be said for Syracuse, of course, as they managed to go without a field goal for 12 minutes against Cal. But something tells me this is a different Syracuse team than the one we saw a month ago. The Orange look hungrier and more motivated. In February, they looked downright complacent. The key for Syracuse could be its patented 2-3 zone, which has given opponents trouble night in and night out. That, and 6-10 center Baye Keita; if he gives the Orange 20 solid minutes of basketball and neutralizes Cody Zeller in the paint, the Hoosiers could have their work cut out for them. Victor Oladipo may have saved their asses last weekend, but can’t do that every weekend, can he?
VERDICT: Miami over Marquette, Syracuse over Indiana
ON TO THE FINAL FOUR: MIAMI