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

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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