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: 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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DUMPSTER HOOPS: ELIJAH JOHNSON GONE WILD

So in case you missed it last night, the Kansas Jayhawks and the Iowa State Cyclones met up in what proved to be one of the best games of the 2012-2013 college basketball season. It was complete with milestones, late-game heroics, controversial calls, unnecessary showboating, and racist death threats. To summarize it simply, there was some motherfucking excitement up in Ames, Iowa yesterday.

Oh, did I mention it featured the most incredible single-game performance we have seen in college basketball this season? Shit, that was best individual performance we’ve seen in college hoops in a long fucking time. I mean, Elijah Johnson absolutely took over that game. The kid finished with 30 POINTS IN THE SECOND HALF. 30 FREAKING POINTS!!! Everything, literally everything was falling for Elijah. It was an unprecedented shooting display, something he couldn’t duplicate if he tried.

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And it comes as somewhat of a surprise because Johnson had struggled mightily this season with his shot and had also been playing second fiddle to freshman Ben McLemore, one of the top players in the country. Johnson, a senior, was shooting less than 40 percent coming into Monday’s contest against the Cyclones, while also averaging less than 10 points a game.

He changed that last night with a ridiculous 39 points on 13-of-22 shooting from the floor, 6-for-10 shooting from beyond the arc, and a 7-for-7 from the free throw line. Not to mention he added seven assists and five rebounds. That is about as good as it gets.

After stumbling through much of the season, Elijah Johnson has come to life. Just a week ago, he came up with some big baskets for the Jayhawks in their thrilling, double-overtime road win over a very good Oklahoma State team. He also put Marcus Smart, one of the best point guards in the country, on his ass with this filthy crossover…

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Broken. Ankles. Amen.
(Ignore the fact that he got stuffed at the end of this GIF)

Last night, Elijah Johnson single-handedly propelled Kansas to a victory over a tough Iowa State team that had won 21 straight home games. He led Head Coach Bill Self to his 500th win. He led Kansas to its fifth straight win. And he led all of us to wonder how dangerous this Kansas team can really be if he plays to his full potential. McLemore gets a lot of the attention, but it’s Johnson who’ll be the most important for Kansas if the Jayhawks want to return to the Final Four.

DUMPSTER HOOPS: YOUR SATURDAY AFTERNOON VIEWING GUIDE

Editor’s note: I guess a lot of you might be watching the NBA dunk contest or the three-point shootout tonight, but for those of you concerned with watching actual basketball, here’s a list of the top seven college games on TV today…

St. Joseph’s at LaSalle – 1pm (NBCSN)
The Atlantic 10 is deep this year, with as many as seven teams lobbying for NCAA Tournament bids. LaSalle is surprisingly one of those teams, especially after picking up huge back-to-back wins in late-January against a pair of Top 20 opponents (Butler & VCU). If the Explorers continue their strong play, they could go dancing for the first time since 1992.

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Virginia Tech at North Carolina State – 2pm (ESPN 2)
One of the most exciting teams in the country (NC State) matched up against one of the most exciting players in the country (Erick Green). Sign me up. Green leads the nation with 25 points per game and has continued to be the lone bright spot in an otherwise dismal season for the Hokies. Meanwhile, the Wolfpack have dropped three of their last four and need to pick up their play if they want to remain in the hunt for the NCAA’s.

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Missouri at Arkansas – 4pm (ESPN)
Missouri might just be one of the most disappointing teams in the country this year, but is somehow still hovering outside of the Top 25. When their star point guard Phil Pressey bring his A-game, the Tigers can literally beat anybody in the country. When he fails to step up, they lose to teams like Texas A&M and LSU. Watch out for the Razorbacks here; all of Missouri’s losses have come on the road.

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No. 2 Duke at Maryland – 6pm (ESPN)
College Park is just one of those places where Coach K’s Blue Devils have trouble. I know the Terrapins aren’t quite the same as they were under the legendary Gary Williams, but a rivalry is still a rivalry. Regardless, Maryland is an improved team with a solid NCAA Tournament resume, and is ranked second in the country in rebounding and 29th in field goal percentage. That’s mainly because of massive Ukrainian freshman center Alex Len, who stands at 7’1″ and is bound to be a lottery pick in the upcoming draft.

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Georgia at Mississippi – 8pm (ESPN 2)
Two words: Marshall Henderson. The high-flying Rebels may have dropped four of their last five, but Henderson remains one of the most exciting players in the country. He’s also the loosest of cannons, but being bat-shit crazy just adds to the fun, right? Check out this link for a look at why he’s earned this reputation, and also why has Ole Miss in the hunt for its first NCAA Tournament bid since 2002.

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Texas at No. 14 Kansas – 9pm (ESPN)
Shocking to see the Jayhawks drop three games in a row the way they did after plowing through the early portion of their schedule, but Kansas will be one of the last teams standing. They are too good. Ben McLemore, in particular, is too good. However, it’s games like these that the Jayhawks can ill afford to lose. Texas has been just awful this season, despite having one of the more talented rosters in the conference.

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San Diego State at UNLV – 9pm (NBCSN)

I’m telling you, Mountain West basketball is where it’s at. The Aztecs and the Rebels are two of the best teams in this conference that is surprisingly deep. Colorado State, Boise State, and Air Force could all end up earning tickets to the Big Dance, along with SDSU and UNLV. These two teams though, the Aztecs and the Rebels, are the cream of the crop in this league. Watch out for SDSU guard Jamaal Franklin. He leads the team in scoring with over 17 points per game and is a monster of the defensive end. He also does shit like this…

In the middle of a fucking game? You’re crazy, Jamaal Franklin. I like you, but you’re crazy.

DOWN GOES NERLENS

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I’m guessing that didn’t feel so good. This isn’t not quite on the same level as Willis McGahee or Shaun Livingston, but it’s still pretty ugly.

As you can see, Nerlens Noel, arguably the nation’s best rim protector and a legitimate candidate to be taken No. 1 overall in this June’s NBA Draft, won’t be playing basketball for Kentucky again this season.

The Wildcats weren’t contenders this season anyway, but not only does this affect his playing future (he missed a year of high school with a left knee injury), it also seriously hurts the depth of this year’s potential draft class. To all the lottery-bound teams in tank-mode: an already weak crop of NBA prospects just got a lot weaker.

Sidenote: Maybe it’s the flat-top, maybe it’s the gruesome knee injury, but Nerlens Noel and Boobie Miles might as well be the same person at this point.

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DUMPSTER HOOPS: YOUR SATURDAY AFTERNOON VIEWING GUIDE

As I’m writing this, Pittsburgh literally just upset No. 6 Syracuse, so aside from that marquee Big East matchup that is already in the books, here are seven college basketball games to watch today…

No. 5 Duke at Florida State – 2pm (ESPN)
Duke is always susceptible to an upset when they visit Tallahassee. The once top-ranked Blue Devils got destroyed at Miami last week; the Dumpster would love to see the Seminoles pick up where the Hurricanes left off.

Dayton at Saint Louis – 2pm (NBCSN)
I’ll always go on record saying that Atlantic-10 basketball is some of the most underrated basketball in Division I. This is a solid league from top to bottom this year, and this game features two of the conference’s most improved programs.

No. 19 Miami at No. 14 NC State – 4 pm (CBS)
Speaking of the ‘Canes, can they continue their meteoric rise to national prominence into the Top 15 with a win? I say probably not; the Wolfpack are one of the country’s most exciting teams to watch and continue to improve after a sluggish start.

Tennessee at Arkansas – 4pm (ESPN)
Here we have two SEC teams who still have a chance to contend for the league title.  Players to watch: Jarnell Stokes (6’8″, 270 lbs.) is a man among boys in the paint for the Vols, while B.J. Young is one of the conference’s top scorers (16.4 ppg).

Kentucky at Texas A&M – 6pm (ESPN)
The Wildcats are, to no one surprise, one of the youngest, most inexperienced teams in the country. With that being said, they probably have at least four future lottery picks on their roster.

No. 18 Kansas State at Oklahoma 6pm (ESPN2)
Keep an eye on K State guard Rodney McGruder. Definitely worth watching for a few minutes at least.

No. 1 Michigan at No. 3 Indiana – 9pm (ESPN)
No need for explanation here. No. 1 vs. No. 3; it’s as simple as that. This could be the best game you’ve watched all season.

GARBAGE, AND NOT THE GOOD KIND: A TRIBUTE TO NORTHERN ILLINOIS

If you are a basketball fan by any means, then this is quite possibly the worst thing you can ever imagine…

From ESPN: Northern Illinois broke its own NCAA Division I record for futility Saturday by scoring just four points in the first half at Eastern Michigan. The Huskies had 13 points with 3:56 to play but found their scoring touch late to lose 42-25.

Northern Illinois trailed 18-4 at the half after shooting 1 for 31, including 29 straight misses. Earlier this season, Northern Illinois set the record for fewest points in a first half in the shot clock era with 5 against Dayton on Dec. 1. 

The Huskies’ 3.2 percent field goal percentage in the first half also set a record, breaking Savannah State’s 4.3 percent against Kansas State on Jan. 7, 2008. 

Oh. My. God. That is just terrible. You couldn’t pay me to watch a performance like this. You miss 29 straight shots?!? Like, how can you not try and just get to the free throw line?!?!? HOW DO YOU NOT SCORE MORE THAN FOUR POINTS IN A 20 MINUTE SPAN!?!?!?! I just don’t get it.

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Again, when you miss 29 STRAIGHT SHOTS against a team like Eastern Michigan, it might just be time to cut the program. Or maybe NIU will just call up these chicks from the bullpen. I bet they would fare better than the Huskies did today.