THE OFFICIAL DUMPSTER GUIDE TO THE FINAL FOUR

#9 Wichita State vs. #1 Louisville – Saturday (6:09 – CBS)

I give Gregg Marshall and Wichita State a ton of credit; the Shockers have continued to roll despite what everyone else thinks. Fuck, the majority of the country has never even heard of this program or its conference, so why on Earth would they have even stood a chance at taking down a solid team from the Big East (Pittsburgh) in the opening round?

At least that was the consensus heading into the tournament, despite the fact that the Shockers have been relevant for quite some time, and despite the fact that the Missouri Valley Conference is one the best non-Power 6 conferences in the nation. But then, before we knew it, Wichita had sprinted past the Panthers, taken down Gonzaga, steamrolled LaSalle, and survived a furious comeback from Ohio State. Clearly this underdog thing is working for them.

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The Shockers have a great compliment of athletic forwards and lightning quick guards. They thrive on the defensive end and crash the boards like animals, all the while getting enough offense to outlast their opponents night in and night out. In reality, there is nothing “mid-major” about the way this team plays.

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These ladies are apparently referring to some other usage of the term “shocker”

With all that being said, Wichita State fans and bandwagon jumpers alike should be wary of this matchup. This might be a statement from Captain Obvious, but Louisville is playing with a lot of emotion in the wake of the Kevin Ware injury (and for those of you who have been living under a rock for the past week, yes, Kevin Ware’s leg injury was the worst sports injury of all-time).

But even without the injury, Rick Pitino’s squad was clearly beginning to reach another level. The Cardinals were dealt the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament, and they have, without doubt, fulfilled those expectations. The way they fluster and disrupt opposing offenses, the way they take complete control of the tempo of the game; Louisville simply looks better than everyone else. Now, with that added motivation, this Louisville team might not be stopped.

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Never has a broken leg seemed so tragic

Between Gorgui Dieng’s emergence in the post, Russ Smith’s cold-blooded shooting from outside, and the consistent contributions from guys like Chase Behanan and Wayne Blackshear, Louisville is running on all cylinders at the right time. And of course, it all revolves around heady point guard Peyton Siva, who might just be one of the most respected players in all of college basketball (seriously, check out what this guy has been through so far in his life. Feel useless yet?)

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To make a long story short, Louisville has the horses to ride this thing out until the end. And besides, I’ve been picking against Wichita State this whole time, so why start now.

FINAL VERDICT: LOUISVILLE 77, WICHITA STATE 69

Duke v Louisville

#4 Michigan vs. #4 Syracuse – Saturday (8:49 – CBS)

THIS is the matchup we’ve all wanted to see. It’s the uber-exciting Michigan Wolverines and their National Player of the Year, Trey Burke, against the rejuvenated Syracuse Orange and their relentless 2-3 zone. On one side, it all starts with Burke, who is the fearless leader of the Michigan Machine. He has elevated his play when it matters most, and clearly has some massive onions, as evidenced by his shot from the parking lot in the last seconds of regulation against Kansas last weekend.

Michigan Wolverines Burke shoots a three point basket over Kansas Jayhawks Young to tie the game during the second half in their South Regional NCAA men's basketball game in Arlington

Step-back jumper from 30 feet with four seconds left? I think so

However, aside from Burke, the rest of the Wolverines are young and spry and hella-talented as well. The Wolverines have a pair of top notch athletes on the wings (Tim Hardaway & Glenn Robinson III), who also happen to have NBA bloodlines. They have a certain lock-down shooter waiting in the corner (Nik Stauskas), who happens to be shooting a ridiculous 45% from beyond the arc. They also happen to have one of the rising young big men (Mitch McGary) in college basketball, which are increasingly harder to find these days. Although the notion of starting three freshman and a sophomore could bode negatively for some squads, that’s not the case for John Beilein’s crew. This team uses its youth and athleticism as an advantage. That is it’s calling card.

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Because of these playmakers, Michigan’s offense is so efficient, so compelling, and so smooth. Most importantly, there are so many options. Once again, it starts with Burke, as he easily knifes his way into the heart of the defense. He then either dishes the ball to any of their gunners on the outside, dumps it underneath to McGary, or he just takes it to the rack himself. So. Many. Options. Did you watch them against Florida in that first half? When things are going well, it’s a work of art.

On the other end, you have a Syracuse team that has defined the concept of “tightening things up on defense”. After an otherworldly start to their season, the Orange fell back down to Earth in February. And they fell hard, to the tune of seven losses in a 12 game stretch. Yet, Jim Boeheim got his team going again in March, and the timing could not have been more perfect. Since scoring just 39 points in an ugly loss to Georgetown on March 9, ‘Cuse has won seven of their last eight (including four in a row, duhh) and has held their opponents to an average of 48 points per game during that span. Most recently, the Orange allowed just 39 points in their 16-point drubbing of Marquette on Saturday. The Golden Eagles shot 23 percent from the floor. I think it’s safe to say that Syracuse’s defense has risen to the occasion.

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While defense may set the tone for Syracuse, let’s not forget that the Orange aren’t necessarily slouches on offense either. We’ve raved about Michael Carter-Williams in the Dumpster before, and there is no question that he is a top-4 point guard in college basketball (along with Burke, Siva, and Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart). He is a engine that makes this thing run.

However, it’s all ansillary pieces to the puzzle that have gotten Syracuse to where they are today, because let’s face it, Carter-Williams hasn’t brought his A-game every day. Look at the weapons they have at their expense, both inside and out: C.J. Fair, James Southerland, Rakeem Christmas, Baye Keita, and of course, 58th-year senior Brandon Triche (that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but whatever).

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Doesn’t it seem like he’s been with ‘Cuse for like 15 years, or is it just me?

The Orange have seemed to underachieve with this core group time and time again, or at least it seems that way since Southerland and Triche have been fixtures in the rotation for what seems like ages. But now, with the likes of Carter-Williams and Fair working the perimeter, and Christmas and Keita lurking in the paint, things feel different for Syracuse this year. Can Michigan score at will against this ramped-up Orange defense? Can the Wolverines consistently get stops on the defensive end. Will Burke vs. Carter-Williams be as good of a point guard matchup as anticipated? Will James Southerland explode and rip someone’s head off? Lots of questions to be answered here guys, but I guess we’ll have to wait ’till this weekend.

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Seriously, look at that face. He might rip someone’s head off

When it comes to a game that looks as evenly matched as this, often times you side with the team that has the best player of the floor, which would be Trey Burke. But this time, I’m going in a different direction. I’m going with the team that features more veterans, both on the floor and on the sidelines. Given the bevy of leadership within its core rotation and its coaching staff, I feel like Boeheim’s squad should have what it takes to upend the high-flying Wolverines.

FINAL VERDICT: SYRACUSE 62, MICHIGAN 58 

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THE OFFICIAL DUMPSTER GUIDE TO THE SWEET 16

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.

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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.

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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.

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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)

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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)

Duke v North Carolina

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.

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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.

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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?”

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Or “what time is Murder She Wrote on?”

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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?

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VERDICT: Miami over Marquette, Syracuse over Indiana
ON TO THE FINAL FOUR: MIAMI

THE OFFICIAL DUMPSTER GUIDE TO THE FIRST WEEKEND OF MARCH MADNESS

MIDWEST REGION

Best Game of the First Second Round: #5 Oklahoma State vs. #12 Oregon
This should be a thriller. The Ducks are pissed that they have been drastically under-seeded by the committee after cruising through the Pac-12 Tournament. They’ll be on the hunt for the upset. Meanwhile, the Cowboys have a ridiculously electric backcourt that features Le’Bryan Nash, Markel Brown, and another guy you’re gonna read about in a minute. Lots of reasons to like this game.

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Best (Potential) Game of the Weekend: #7 Creighton vs. #2 Duke
If Duke avoids being upset by a #15 seed for a second consecutive year, and the Blue Jays dispatch a mediocre#10 Cincinnati team, this would be a fucking sweet Second Third Round matchup. Creighton’s Doug McDermott just so happens to be one of the best players in the country; he certainly has the capability to carry the Blue Jays past the Blue Devils.

Biggest Upset: #11 St. Mary’s over #6 Memphis
Watch out for the Gaels; Australian sharp-shooter Matthew Dellavedova is among the best point guards in this tournament. Plus, Memphis hasn’t necessarily been tested this year; the Tigers have beat just one NCAA Tournament team this season (Harvard).

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Most Likely to Overachieve: #4 Saint Louis
Wouldn’t be shocked if the Billikens plow through the first weekend en route to the Sweet 16. This Saint Louis team is scary good, especially on defense. Throw in the fact that their former coach (the legendary Rick Majerus) passed away in December and you have a recipe for late-season magic.

Most Likely to Underachieve: #9 Missouri
After Missouri was shockingly bounced as a 2-seed last year in the NCAAs, so much was expected of the Tigers a year later. Yet, in its first season in a weak SEC, Missouri has failed to produce any kind of consistency, despite having loads of talent. Odds are they’ll be bounced in the first round once again.

Top NBA Prospect: Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State)
He’s arguably the best point guard in the country and unarguably the biggest reason why Oklahoma State could live to see next weekend.

You’ll Learn This Guy’s Name: Sim Bhullar (New Mexico State)
Only because he is SEVEN FOOT FUCKING FIVE.

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And on to the Sweet 16 goes…
#1 Louisville, #4 Saint Louis, #3 Michigan State, #7 Creighton

WEST REGION

Best Game of the First Second Round:  #2 Ohio State vs. #15 Iona
I guess after last year we have to be a little bit more wary of these 15-seeds. This year, if any of them can replicate what Norfolk State/Lehigh did, it’s Iona. Now, the DeShaun Thomas and the Buckeyes will fend off the Gaels, you can take that to the bank. But you better believe this game could come down to the final minute. Plus, fans off up-tempo offenses will love the fact that Iona is second in the nation in scoring (80.7 points per game).

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Best (Potential) Game of the Weekend: #3 New Mexico vs. #6 Arizona
Attention: the Lobos are extremely good. Steve Alford’s squad is the definition of well-rounded. Not to mention New Mexico is 13-4 against teams in the NCAA Tournament this year. As for Arizona, the Wildcats might have the best six-man rotation in the country. Sean Miller’s team is talented as fuck. In fact, the Dumpster would go out on a limb and peg them as a legitimate Final Four candidate…if it weren’t for New Mexico, of course.

Biggest Upset: #12 Ole Miss over #5 Wisconsin
This is honestly nothing against the Badgers; Mississippi just has the look of THAT team. You know, the team that had to scratch and claw just to get into the tournament as it is. They’re a very streaky bunch, but that could be a good thing right now; the Rebels have won five in a row. After starting the season with a 16-2 record, and after taking a tumble in February, Ole Miss looks ready to roll in March.

Most Likely to Overachieve: #1 Gonzaga
I know, I know; how can a No. 1 seed overachieve? Sure, we’re looking at the No. 1 team in the country. Yet, most of the country overlooks how incredible this Gonzaga team truly is. Watch the Bulldogs embarrass Southern on Thursday and dismantle either Pittsburgh or Wichita State on Saturday. Then we’ll see how many people keep sleeping on Gonzaga.

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Most Likely to Underachieve: #7 Notre Dame
The Fighting Irish are always competitive. Yet, year after year it seems like Mike Brey trots out the same exact team and gets the same exact results. Those results in March…not great. Don’t be surprised if a sneaky good Iowa State team blows them out of the water.

Top NBA Prospect(s):
Steven Adams (Pittsburgh)
Kelly Olynyk (Gonzaga)
Gonzaga big man Kelly Olynyk was my initial thought; he will get drafted this June in the top 20 (hello, Boston Celtics?). However, two years from now Steven Adams will be a top-five pick. The seven-footer from New Zealand (who runs the floor like a gazelle) finally came on strong late in the season after a slow start to his freshman year. Another season under his belt and Adams could among be the top centers in the nation.

You’ll Learn This Guy’s Name: Marshall Henderson (Ole Miss)
Marshall Henderson is a fucking psychopath. It’s so awesome.  In fact, every team needs to have a cold-blooded killer like this motherfucker.

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PS: Follow him on twitter @nativeflash22 for hilarity. Seriously, this guy is fucking nuts.

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And on to the Sweet 16 goes:
#1 Gonzaga, #12 Ole Miss, #3 New Mexico, #2 Ohio State

SOUTH REGION

Best Game of the First Second Round:  #8 Villanova vs. #9 North Carolina
If you like outstanding guard play, which is one of the highlights of college basketball, then look no further than this matchup between Villanova and UNC. Sure, both teams are incredibly undersized, but their respective backcourts are incredibly talented. This should make for an action-packed thriller.

Best (Potential) Game of the Weekend: #1 Kansas vs. #8 North Carolina
32 combined Final Four appearances. Six potential first round draft picks. Oh, and North Carolina’s Head Coach (Roy Williams) used to be the Head Coach at Kansas. Enough said.

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Biggest Upset: #11 Minnesota over #6 UCLA
Unless South Dakota State manages to knock off Michigan (which very well could happen), the Dumpster doesn’t expect to see many upsets in this region. So, even though Minnesota is the favorite in this one despite being the lower seed, this is pretty much the biggest upset by default.

Most Likely to Overachieve: #3 Florida
Say what you want about Billy Donovan, but he produces in the tournament. Under his guidance, the Gators have appeared in back-to-back Elite 8s. That is of course after winning two National Championships and appearing in the Sweet 16 six times. Expect Florida to once again quietly march through the first weekend of the Big Dance unscathed.

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Most Likely to Underachieve: #6 UCLA
The Bruins are stockpiled with talent, but a lot of it is inexperienced and unproven. Plus, the season-ending injury to the team’s second-leading scorer, Jordan Adams, could very well spell trouble for UCLA going forward.

Top NBA Prospect(s):
Ben McLemore (Kansas)
Otto Porter (Georgetown)
Shabazz Muhammad (UCLA)
He might just be a freshman, but McLemore needs to step up his game in a big way if the Jayhawks want to make another run to the Final Four. Porter, on the other hand, has been on his game since November; he might be the most consistent player in the nation. McLemore has the upside to be the top overall pick in June’s NBA Draft. Porter, who could step in and impact an NBA team right away, will be taken not too far behind him. Oh, and then there’s Muhammad, who might be the only other player to challenge McLemore for the No.1 spot in the draft. His team will probably get bounced on Friday night though, so tune in accordingly.

You’ll Learn This Guy’s Name: Nate Wolters (South Dakota State)
The Jackrabbits might not get past the Wolverines, but if Nate Wolters shoots the lights out like he normally does, South Dakota State could shock the nation. Even if it comes in a losing effort, and even if Michigan chooses to double-team him, Wolters could easily put up the biggest night of the entire tournament.

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 And on to the Sweet 16 goes:
#1 Kansas, #4 Michigan, #3 Florida, #2 Georgetown

SOUTH REGION

Best Game of the First Second Round: #8 North Carolina State vs. #9 Temple
The 8/9 matchups are always intriguing. Sometimes, it disappoints. Sometimes, it’s the best basketball you watch all weekend. I’m thinking this one could be the latter. 

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Best (Potential) Game of the Weekend: #4 Syracuse vs. #5 UNLV
Neither team has it easy in the opening round. Especially the Runnin’ Rebels, who have to deal with Allen Crabbe and the California Golden Bears. But if both of these teams advance, make sure you mark this game down on your calendar. 

Biggest Upset:  #11 Bucknell over #6 Butler
The Bison have one of the best players in the region in Mike Muscala, who is an absolute beast. The senior forward is averaging over 19 points and 11 rebounds a game; he could be the next mid-major superstar to take the tournament by storm. In fact, I’m taking this one to the next level. Bucknell will move on to the Sweet 16. You gotta get bold at some point, right?

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Most Likely to Overachieve: #4 Syracuse
After starting the season with an 18-1 record, things went south for the Orange. Syracuse went 8-8 down the stretch and underwent a massive meltdown in the Big East Championship game, so at this point it’s not like much is expected of the Orange. However, Syracuse has the talent and the experience to surprise a lot of people this year.   

Most Likely to Underachieve: #7 Illinois
I like Brandon Paul and all, but I still have no clue what Illinois did to earn a No. 7 seed. 12 losses overall? A sub-.500 record in conference play? Sure, they beat Ohio State and Indiana this year, but the Dumpster is not impressed with how this team has played since that unbelievable win over the Hoosiers. Expect the Fighting Illini to go one and done.

Top NBA Prospect(s):
Cody Zeller (Indiana)
Anthony Bennett (UNLV)
Zeller is a man among boys out there. The 6’11” sophomore has had his ups and downs this year, but he still remains a lock to get drafted in the top five. As for Bennett, there is only one word in the arsenal meant to describe him: nasty. The Dumpster touched on him earlier this year, check it out.

You’ll Learn This Guy’s Name:  Shane Larkin (Miami)
I absolutely love watching Shane Larkin play. He is the heart and soul of a resurgent Miami team that could legitimately win it all this year. After getting the job done night in and night out during the regular season, Larkin exploded for 71 points in three ACC Tournament games, including 28 in the title game. It looks like this kid loves the big spotlight, which certainly bodes well for the Hurricanes going forward.

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 And on to the Sweet 16 goes:
#1 Indiana, #4 Syracuse, #11 Bucknell, #2 Miami

DUMPSTER HOOPS: YOUR SATURDAY/SUNDAY AFTERNOON VIEWING GUIDE

Editor’s Note: Believe it or not, Selection Sunday is just two days away!!! The final stretch of Championship Week concludes today and tomorrow, so here’s a handful of games to watch out for this weekend.

ACC SEMIFINALS
Saturday 
No. 9 Miami vs. North Carolina State – 1pm (ESPN)
Maryland vs. North Carolina – 3pm (ESPN)
ACC  CHAMPIONSHIP
Sunday- 1pm (ESPN)
This N.C. State team has been playing exceptionally as of late. They’ve won eight of its last 10 and it teams like the Wolfpack are finally playing to their potential . So much talent on that squad, it’ll be fun to see if they can upend the Hurricanes. Either way, both teams are heading to the NCAAs. The real question mark is whether or not Maryland can keep the magic rolling. The Terps sit squarely on the bubble and could really use a win over UNC to go dancing.

NCAA Basketball: Maryland at Northwestern

ATLANTIC 10 SEMIFINALS
Saturday
Butler vs. No. 16 St. Louis – 1:30 (CBS Sports Network)
UMass vs. No. 25 Virginia Commonwealth – 4 pm (CBS Sports Network)
ATLANTIC 10 CHAMPIONSHIP
Sunday – 1 pm (CBS)
For starters, the Butler/St. Louis game should be a thriller. Both these teams are heading to the NCAAs, so here’s your chance to get a sneak peak of two teams who could make a sleeper run to the Sweet 16. However, the Dumpster has its eyes focused on UMass. Can the Minutemen upset VCU en route to the A-10 title game? VCU is a lock to go to the Big Dance, but UMass is literally playing for its season. A loss to the Rams will surely spell NIT.

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BIG EAST CHAMPIONSHIP
Saturday
No. 19 Syracuse vs. No. 4 Louisville – 8:30 pm (ESPN)
This is it for the Big East as we know it. For over 30 years, this was the cream of the crop when it came to college basketball. It’s sad to see it fade away. I’ll go on record as saying that the “New Big East” will be fucking awesome, especially since those 10 teams will be focusing all of its efforts on basketball, not football. But there is a sense of nostalgia tied into the current Big East and all of its great rivalries and history. This is must-see TV, nevermind the fact that it’s a sick matchup. The Dumpster likes the Orange to win this thing AND make a run to the Final Four. Mark it down.

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BIG TEN SEMIFINALS
Saturday
No. 22 Wisconsin vs. No. 3 Indiana – 1:40 pm (CBS)
No. 8 Michigan State vs. No. 10 Ohio State – 4 pm (CBS)
BIG TEN CHAMPIONSHIP
Sunday – 2:30 (CBS)
All of these teams are locked into the NCAA Tournament, so these squads are basically playing for bragging rights and positioning in the Big Dance. That being said, the semifinals alone will certainly be worth the watch, especially that Michigan State/Ohio State matchup. And watch out for the pesky Badgers of Wisconsin. I’m sure Bo Ryan and company would love to end Indiana’s weekend a little early.

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BIG 12 CHAMPIONSHIP
Saturday
No. 11 Kansas State vs. No. 7 Kansas – 6 pm (ESPN)
In-state rivals. Top 15 teams. Conference tournament championship. Those are keywords you want to look for when trying to find the best basketball on television. Well, this game features all of that. Keep an eye on the Jayhawks, after that three-game losing streak a few weeks ago, this group seems hungrier than ever.

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MAC CHAMPIONSHIP
Saturday
Ohio vs. Akron – 6:30 pm (ESPN2)
I had to throw in some solid mid-major basketball for good measure. Akron has been one of the most efficient, consistent teams in the nation this year, but their best player was just arrested on major drug charges and is nowhere to be found for the Zips with their NCAA Tournament hopes on the line. Dude, if you’re gonna get five pounds of weed mailed to your apartment, wait until after the season.

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MOUNTAIN WEST CHAMPIONSHIP
Saturday
UNLV vs. No. 15 New Mexico – 6 pm (CBS)
Led by potential Mountain West Player of the Year Kendall Williams, New Mexico has lost just twice since the calendar turned to 2013. One of those two losses came at the hands of UNLV, who has won seven of its last eight and is really hitting its stride. Both teams are going dancing as it is, but this game should be a lot of fun to watch regardless.

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PAC 12 CHAMPIONSHIP
Saturday
Oregon vs. No. 21 UCLA – 11 pm (ESPN)
Late-night hoops action in Las Vegas!!! On the one hand, you have Oregon, who continues to overachieve and is playing way better than anyone ever would have expected this season. Then you have mighty UCLA, who is FINALLY playing up to its potential after spending a couple of years in the doldrums of their conference. This might be the most talented roster in college basketball, it was just a matter of time before Ben Howland’s squad put it together. The Bruins might also be a bit too young to make a run in the NCAAs, but they are still an exciting team to watch.

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SEC SEMIFINALS
Saturday
Alabama vs. No. 13 Florida – 1 pm (ABC)
Vanderbilt vs. Ole Miss – 3 pm (ABC)
SEC CHAMPIONSHIP

Sunday – 1 pm (ABC)
This is really the one conference tournament remaining that has serious NCAA Tournament implications. Florida is going dancing no matter what, but Ole Miss and Alabama are definitely on the bubble. Both teams need to win the whole thing to assure that they’ll avoid the NIT, but could sneak in if they at least advance to the title game on Sunday. But if Vanderbilt takes this whole thing, that would certainly be the biggest surprise of all the conference tournament champions.  The Commodores have just been awful this year. To make a long story short, you better believe every bubble team in the country is praying that the Gators win the SEC and not anyone else.

NCAA Basketball: Division I Championship-Louisville vs Florida

 

DUMPSTER HOOPS: THE ALMOST ONE MONTH LEFT IN THE SEASON NBA POWER RANKINGS

Editor’s Note: Today is March 14th. The NBA season ends April 17th. So yeah, there’s pretty much a month left. Here’s the official Dumpster NBA Power Rankings heading into the final stretch of the regular season.

THE HOTTEST OF THE HOT

Miami (49-14)
I hate them, you hate them, we all hate them. But they’ve won 20 games, they own the best record in the NBA, and they’ve already clinched a playoff berth. I can’t imagine a scenario where the Heat aren’t in the NBA Finals.

NOT QUITE AS SCORCHING HOT, BUT JUST AS DANGEROUS

San Antonio (49-16), Oklahoma City (48-17)
No doubt in my mind that at least one of these two teams will be playing in the Western Conference Finals. The Spurs certainly don’t excite your average fan, but they continue to win ballgames, regardless of their age and regardless of what you think. The Thunder, on the other hand, are David Stern’s golden child. They’re young, flashy, entertaining, and not hated by the general population! Long story short, they make the NBA a lot of money, so odds are they’ll be one of the last teams standing. Because that’s how this shit works.

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 WATCH OUT FOR THESE GUYS

Denver (44-22), Indiana (40-24)
Don’t look now, but the Denver Nuggets have won 10 in a row and are just 5 1/2 games behind the Spurs for first place. Simply put, if you don’t like watching this team play, you just aren’t a fan of the game. It is obvious that the Nuggets are having a blast right now. They boast an uptempo, run-n-gun offense, there’s no superstar, they’re 10 deep, everyone touches the ball, and they have Javale McGee for comic relief. What more could you ask for?

 The Pacers are the complete opposite of the Nuggets. They bring the pace of the game to a screeching halt. They grind out victories with defense and domination on the boards.  The biggest obstacle this team faced came early in the season, when Indy had to learn to play without Danny Granger. Judging by their 14-5 record over the last 19 games, it’s safe to say the Pacers are beyond that bump in the road. If there’s a team that can beat Miami in the East, this is it.

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I DON’T KNOW HOW THEY KEEP DOING IT, BUT I’M IMPRESSED

Memphis (44-19)
Wasn’t trading Rudy Gay supposed to be a death sentence for Memphis? Not so much. The cash-strapped Grizzlies shipped their best player (and his monster contract) to Toronto for role players and have not skipped a beat since. In fact, Memphis is 15-4 since dealing Gay, and own a ridiculous 14-1 record in its last 15 games. This team is loaded with flaws, but they continue to dominate defensively, and they continue to win…and that’s all that matters. Don’t be surprised if the Grizz make a surprise run to the Western Conference Finals.

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 I KNOW THEY KEEP WINNING, BUT I’M NOT IMPRESSED

Los Angeles Clippers (45-21)
I know they have Chris Paul…but something doesn’t seem right with the Clippers lately. As much as they’re capable of making a deep run in the playoffs, they’re just as capable of getting bounced in the first round. Maybe it’s the inconsistent defense, maybe it’s the lack of depth, but I’m not sold on Lob City just yet.

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 HEY GUYS, YOU’RE HEADING IN THE WRONG DIRECTION

New York (38-24), Atlanta (35-29), Chicago (35-29)
Carmelo Anthony is banged up with knee issues. Amare Stoudemire is gone for at least a month.  Tyson Chandler could be on the shelf indefinitely. THEY DON’T GUARD ANYONE. Cue New York’s inevitable free fall.

What about the Hawks? Not that any of us had grandiose plans for Atlanta this year, but after dropping six of their last eight and losing Josh Smith to yet another injury, I think it’s safe to say the Hawks are heading in the wrong direction too.

As for Chicago? Well, the Bulls have dropped 12 of their last 19, which included a 42-point drubbing at the hands of the SACRAMENTO KINGS last night, and it appears Derrick Rose will not be returning to the team any time in the immediate future. So yeah, Chicago isn’t going anywhere either.

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 QUIETLY CHUGGING ALONG

Boston (35-29), Brooklyn (38-27), Houston (35-30)
For starters, it’s amazing that Boston is even in this conversation after the rash injuries they’ve encountered this season. Are the Celtics going to win an NBA Championship? No. But much like Brooklyn and Houston, I absolutely would not want to face them in the first round of the playoffs.

These three teams, despite their obvious flaws, just keep doing what they do. For Boston, it’s riding the backs of two future Hall-of-Famers (Garnett & Pierce) and one future First Team All-NBA defender (Avery Bradley).  For Brooklyn, it’s resting on the hope that the inside/outside duo of Deron Williams and Brook Lopez can continue to dominate to its full potential. And for Houston, it’s throwing up a onslaught of three-point shots and praying James Harden drops 35 every night. Hey, whatever works, right?

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 STARTING TO FADE

Golden State (37-29), Utah (32-32)
The future is bright for both of these teams, but I highly doubt this is the year either team makes any noise. The Warriors can score with best of them thanks to a glut of talented guards, but have an obvious hole in the paint, where the likes of Festus Ezeli and Andris Biedrins can be found. As a result, Golden State is getting owned inside and has now dropped 12 of its last 19 games. The Jazz, on the other hand, might have the best frontcourt in the NBA, but possibly the worst backcourt in the league. Utah’s defense has gone into a tailspin and the team has recently dropped 10 of its last 15 games. Next year is probably better for both of these squads.

 DO WE REALLY HAVE TO TAKE THEM SERIOUSLY?

Milwaukee (32-31)

Ahhhhh, the Eastern Conference: where teams like Milwaukee have a chance to play in the postseason. Okay, I guess the Bucks aren’t that bad, and there is literally no one with striking distance of the Bucks for the eighth seed in the East, so I guess we do have to take them seriously for now. That is until they get man-handled by the Heat in the first round.

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THE ENIGMA

Los Angeles Lakers (34-32)
I mean, really, does anyone know what to expect from the Lakers down the stretch? They should be able to hold off Utah for the eighth seed in the West, at least. But then again, Kobe Bryant is out indefinitely after suffering an ugly ankle injury on Wednesday night. The Lakers could be much better without Kobe, or much worse. They could leap-frog Utah, Golden State, and Houston for the sixth seed in the West, or tumble out of contention altogether. Literally nothing would surprise me when it comes to this team. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

 ON THE OUTSIDE LOOKING IN

Dallas (30-33), Portland (29-34)
I’ll give both of these teams credit for hanging around as long as they did. Unfortunately, the Western Conference is really fucking good. Not sure where Dallas goes from here, but then again, they have tons of cap room and a guy named Mark Cuban handling their finances, so I’m sure they’ll be fine. I’m shocked to see Portland do as well as it did this season after gutting its roster a year ago. They have Damian Lillard, Nicolas Batum, and LaMarcus Aldridge for a while, so they’ll be fine too. Maybe next year, boys.

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THERE’S STILL A GLIMMER OF HOPE

-Toronto (25-40), Philadelphia (24-40), Detroit (23-44)
At least I thought these three teams had a glimmer of hope about a month ago. Never have I been more wrong about anything in my life. 

 YOU SUCK, BUT IT COULD BE WORSE

Cleveland (22-42), Minnesota (22-40)
New Orleans (22-43), Washington (21-42)
Despite their awful records this season, all four of these teams have franchise player(s) to build around. Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio, Anthony Davis, John Wall, and maybe even Bradley Beal. Not a bad little group. So, as much as this season sucked, there are certainly greener pastures ahead for these four teams.

 YOU SUCK, AND IT’S NOT GETTING ANY BETTER

Phoenix (22-43), Sacramento (23-43)
Orlando (18-47), Charlotte (14-50)

The Suns are a mess. The Kings don’t know what city they’ll be playing in next year. The Magic are still trying to pick up the pieces post-Dwight Howard. And the Bobcats are the Bobcats. Sure, they’ll all head into June with lottery picks, but that might not be enough to save these wretched franchises.

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DUMPSTER HOOPS: MEET AVERY BRADLEY, THE BEST DEFENDER IN AMERICA

Here’s a question for all the basketball lovers out there: Who is the best perimeter defender in the NBA? LeBron James, maybe? Could it be Tony Allen? Is it Andre Iguodala? Paul George? Nope. They are all good answers, but I put my money on Avery Bradley.

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I mean, is it official yet? Can we please just anoint Avery Bradley as the King of On-Ball Defense? Never have I seen someone play defense with such passion and such aggression. The way he blankets the opposing ball-handler makes something as simple as dribbling across half-court a challenge. The kid has endless stamina and seems to never tire out. There really might not be another player in the NBA that expends that much energy on defense. You might see it in college basketball, but that doesn’t exist in the NBA, anyway. It is unparalleled, unreal.

Sure, there are a full arsenal of long-armed perimeter players in the league who are elite defenders with freakish athleticism like Lebron, Iggy, Paul George, Iman Shumpert, etc. But guess what? All of those guys are at least 6’5″. Avery Bradley stands at just 6’2″. Yet, despite being undersized, Bradley is literally capable of taking on any player in the NBA one-on-one.

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The third-year combo guard out of Texas has shut down every top scorer he has faced this season, especially as of late. The night after Stephen Curry dropped 54 points at MSG, Bradley held him to just a 6-for-22 shooting effort from the field. Last weekend, the NBA’s soon-to-be Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard was held to just 5-of-16 shooting in a 12-point effort against Bradley. Last night, Jrue Holiday went just 6-for-17 from the floor with five turnovers in Philly’s loss to Bradley and the Celts. Different opponent, different backcourt, same results.

If you want fancy numbers to prove it, Bradley is second in the league in allowing a mere 0.678 points per play, according to Synergy Sports data. Furthermore, opponents generate points on a mere 31.4 percent of plays against Bradley, the lowest number in the league for players with at least 225 defensive possessions. Pretty good, eh?

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Do you know what it is that makes Avery Bradley’s defense so incredible? It’s contagious. Bradley’s presence on the floor has completely changed the outlook of Boston’s season. The C’s are back to their defensive roots despite being an aging veteran team without a ton of athleticism. They started the season so poorly on the defensive end of the floor, but since Jan. 2 rolled around and Bradley finally made his way back into the lineup, the Celtics have been one of the best defensive teams in the NBA. His intensity inspired the rest of the team to put forth the extra effort on defense. Yet, Bradley also makes everyone else’s job easier at the same time. Look, for instance, at how much he disrupts something as simple as the pick and roll.

Not only did the C’s win six of their first seven games upon his return, but they have been able to maintain the losses of Rajon Rondo, Jared Sullinger, and Leandro Barbosa to injury. Since his return to the lineup, the Celtics are 18-11 with Bradley and have dramatically improved when it comes to points allowed and field goal percentage defense. I don’t want to say this sudden transformation is all because of one player….but yeah, it’s all because of one player.

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On top of all this, my favorite part of this developing story is how much Avery Bradley takes pride in playing the role of defensive stopper. Bradley is still a work in progress on the offensive end of the floor, so for now, he is completely content being known as the lockdown defender, and he handles that role as good as anyone in the league. Guys like Lebron and Chris Paul and Kevin Durant are exceptional defenders; but they are also simply exceptional basketball players, period. They do everything well.

In contrast, guys like Tony Allen and Bruce Bowen have carved out lengthy careers in the league because of their defensive prowess. Bradley is the next player to fall into that line. But then imagine if he develops a great offensive game to accompany that constant defensive pressure? That’s a thought that might just bring tears of joy to the eyes of Boston fans everywhere.

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In short, if Avery Bradley doesn’t earn All-NBA Defensive Team honors, it’ll be the farce of all farces. There is a reason why he was literally the only player on the Boston Celtics roster that Danny Ainge did not consider trading at the deadline. He is the building block of this franchise for a reason. He is a game-changer. He the best on-ball defender in the game, it’s as simple as that. It seems like this is the year the rest of the league is finally learning about Avery Bradley.

DUMPSTER HOOPS: YOUR SATURDAY AFTERNOON VIEWING GUIDE

Editor’s Note: You could argue that Louisville/Syracuse was the best matchup of the day, but that game is already halfway over as I’m typing this, so we won’t be including any of the 12 pm games today. Sorry, we all know how hard it is to get out of bed before noon on a Saturday. Here’s a list of the top eight games on TV today…

West Virginia at No. 6 Kansas – 2 pm (CBS)
The Jayhawks should still be considered one of the scariest teams in the country, despite their collective ups and downs this season. With that being said, for Kansas to make a deep run through March, it needs Ben McLemore to play like the potential No. 1 draft pick that he is. Since dropping 30 points against Kansas State, McLemore is averaging just 10 points and is shooting 35 percent in his last four games.

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No. 21 Notre Dame at No. 22 Marquette – 2 pm (ESPN)
Marquette is always the silent assassin come this time of year. March rolls around, and even though no one really includes Buzz Williams’ team in the  conversation, the Golden Eagles are quietly sitting just one game out first place in the Big East standings. Don’t be surprised if Marquette wins its final three games and takes home its first-ever Big East regular season title.

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Wichita State at Creighton – 2pm (ESPN 2)
This might not jump off the page as an action-packed, Saturday afternoon thriller, but it should be included in the short list of today’s top games because the Missouri Valley Conference is as good as any conference in the nation. Both the Shockers and the Blue Jays have a shot at making a run in the Big Dance. Here’s a chance for you to check them out before everyone  else does.

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Arizona State at Southern California – 3 pm (CSN)
Arizona State is going to be an exciting team to watch down the stretch for a number of reasons. Jahii Carson is one of the top scoring guards in the PAC 12, swingman Carrick Felix might be the best perimeter defender in the league, and 7’2″ center Jordan Bachynski is a shot-blocking machine. Oh, and they’re the definition of a “bubble team,” meaning that they need literally every win they can get to be included in the field of 68. What more could you ask for?

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Texas at No. 15 Oklahoma State – 4 pm (ESPN)
Marcus Smart. That is a name you want to remember. The 6’4″ freshman has lapped Michael Carter-Williams as the nation’s top point guard prospect and could go as high as No. 1 overall in June’s NBA Draft. He’s tough, physical, and lightning-fast. He makes great decisions and is incredibly smart with the basketball. He also went through some fucked up shit to get to where he is today. To make a long story short, he is absolutely worth tuning into for at least a few minutes.

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No. 5 Miami at No. 3 Duke – 6 pm (ESPN)

Will the Blue Devils fall for the second game in a row? Can Miami take down Duke for the second time this year? Another loss to the Hurricanes would send the Blue Devils tumbling out of the top 5, while a win would give Miami sole possession of its first ACC regular season Championship ever. Simply put, there’s a lot at stake for both teams in this one.

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No. 13 Kansas State at Baylor – 7 pm (ESPN 2)
I’ve mentioned Kansas State as one of the teams to watch coming out of the Big 12, but what about Baylor? The Bears were figured to compete for a league title this season, but have completely fallen short of expectations. They’ve lost six of their last nine games and are rapidly looking more and more like an NIT team. If they want to turn this thing around, Baylor needs more from freshman center Isaiah Austin. The 7’1″ monster of a human is expected to be a lottery pick in the upcoming NBA Draft, but hasn’t shown the willingness to bang in the paint with the big boys. Dude! You’re 7’1″!!! Play down low, not on the perimeter.

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No. 11 Arizona at UCLA – 9 pm (ESPN)
This might be my favorite game of the night right here. No one mentions Arizona when it comes to legitimate title contender, yet the Wildcats have as good of a seven man rotation that you will find these days. They’re deep, talented, experience, and well-coached. A win over an improving UCLA team would catapult the Wildcats back into the top 10.

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MEET ISAIAH STOKES: AMERICA’S SCARIEST 8TH GRADER

As if this season couldn’t get anymore exciting, last night was yet another banner night for college basketball. Minnesota knocked off No. 1 Indiana, Memphis lost for the first time since December, and the mighty Florida Gators were handed yet another SEC road loss.

There was a lot of talent on display in that Florida/Tennessee game, in particular, between Mike Rosario, Kenny Boynton, Jordan McRae, and, with apologies to those who don’t enjoy foreshadowing, Jarnell Stokes. However, the one image from last night that completely caught my eye actually had nothing to do with college hoops:

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Yes, this picture is real. This is Isaiah Stokes, the younger brother of Tennessee forward Jarnell Stokes. Jarnell is a 270 lbs. sophomore for the Volunteers basketball team and an All-SEC caliber player. Even at just 6’7″, Jarnell is a walking double-double who averages 12.6 points and 9.2 rebounds a game, and is a huge reason why the Vols are in the hunt for the NCAA Tournament after an ugly start to the season.

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As you can see, Jarnell Stokes is a pretty big dude. That being said, his younger brother Isaiah is a couple glasses of milk away from towering over his 19-year old brother. Let’s look at Isaiah again, shall we?

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He literally looks like he’s going to eat that little kid. Now, you might ask why a light-skinned version of Dikembe Mutombo is playing peewee football, but truth be told, Isaiah Stokes, the hulking human being in the picture above, actually belongs on that football field. That’s because Isaiah, much like that tiny little pipsqueak running away from him in the image above, is in 8th grade. That’s right, that giant mountain of a man you see on your computer screen isn’t even in high school yet.

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I’m skeptical too, my man. 

So let’s recap things for a second: Isaiah Stokes, the younger brother of a 19-year old college basketball phenom in the making, stands at 6’7″, weighs nearly 220 lbs, and is just 13 years old. He is already dominating on the football field (as you can imagine from the picture above) and is also dominating in AAU basketball. Stokes scored 29 points and 8 rebounds in a highly publicized AAU tournament outing recently, and is already being heavily recruited by several schools, including Tennessee, even though he’s still a couple years away from driving a car.

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I shit you not when I tell you that the kid on the left is 13 years old

Isaiah Stokes already has the size to play in college, yet he hasn’t even set foot in high school. His brother Jarnell has worlds of talent, and from all early observations, Isaiah has inherited those skills and then some. Even if he never grows another inch, you have to figure he’ll be a stud in the distant-but-near future with the right amount of coaching.isaiah-stokes

But what if he keeps growing? No seriously, are we looking at the NBA’s first 8-footer? Will he grow to be a solid 7’3″, yet run the floor like a guy half his size? Whatever happens, the sky is the limit for this kid. Remember the name, because odds are, Isaiah Stokes will be dominating in something, somewhere in five years. While we’re it at, let’s look at that picture one more time…

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Yikes. It’s official: Isaiah Stokes is the scariest 8th grader to ever walk the face of the Earth.