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.

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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