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.

Wichita-State-Basketball

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.

MVC026mvc_tourney_2010

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.

165125654.jpg.CROP.rectangle3-large

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?)

dm_121031_ESPN_The_Mag_Peyton_Siva

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.

image4

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.

hi-res-159848180_crop_650x440

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).

hi-res-156936125_display_image

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.

gtowncuseweb16s-d6t-web

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 

syracuse

FIVE NAMES IN COLLEGE HOOPS YOU WILL KNOW BY MARCH

MICHAEL CARTER-WILLIAMS –SYRACUSE

11959508-mmmain

Once again under the guidance of Jim Boeheim, Syracuse men’s basketball looks like a legitimate title contender. The Orange have moved on from the Bernie Fine scandal, they have that always stingy 2-3 zone, they have a strong core of veterans (Brandon Triche, James Southerland, CJ Fair), and they have the best facilitator in the nation in Michael Carter-Williams. After barely cracking the rotation as a freshman, this kid has emerged as quite possibly the best point guard in college basketball, and is definitely emerging as a potential lottery draft pick.

As of right now, Carter-Williams leads the country in assists (9.2 apg) and ranks fourth in the nation in steals (3.1 spg). If he stays on this same pace through the rest of the season, MCW could be the first player since Jason Kidd in 1994 to post more than nine assists and three steals a game. A prolific scorer at St. Andrew’s School in Providence, the Massachusetts native is chipping in with 12.3 points per game as well, but seems to be more comfortable as the distributor for the Orange. Not to mention that with his size (6’5”) and speed, MCW has become a much-needed, disruptive force on the defensive end for ‘Cuse.

College basketball is not like the NBA; great guards win titles, not big men. As evidenced by their comeback victories against Louisville and Cincinnati this past week alone, the Orange have one of the most poised backcourts in the country. Carter-Williams, one of the more unique point guards we’ve seen in the last few years, sparked both of those rallies with his play on both ends of the floor and seems to have the intangibles to lead Syracuse back to glory.

TREY BURKE – MICHIGAN

trey-Burke

Michigan is back, and it might be the best thing to happen to college basketball in a long time. It seems like it’s been forever since the Wolverines have been a title contender, in fact you would probably have to go all the way back to the Fab Five era to find the last time they made in impact in the NCAA tournament. Since Chris Webber’s infamous failed timeout call, the Wolverines haven’t done jack shit. That being said, John Beilein has put together the best team Ann Arbor has seen in 20 years, as Michigan, at 17-1, will most likely take over as the new No. 1 after seeing Duke get destroyed Wednesday night by Miami.

Those of you who were NBA fans in the 90’s will recognize some of the names on this Michigan roster, such as Tim Hardaway Jr. and Glenn Robinson III. However, the key to Michigan’s success this year has been Trey Burke. Maybe one of the quickest guards in the country, Burke can score in the blink of an eye and is averaging 18 points a game to go along with a little over seven assists, and is shooting a cool 50 percent from the floor. He’s smart with the basketball, efficient, controlled, and composed; everything you could want from your star point guard.

The Wolverines are a well-rounded team across the board, but the catalyst on both ends of the floor is Burke, another top point guard prospect in next year’s NBA draft. If he keeps it up and leads Michigan to a top seed in the big dance, expect Burke to garner a ton of consideration for the college basketball’s Player of the Year award.

BEN MCLEMORE – KANSAS

Ben_t640

Kansas hasn’t lost in over two months. Judging by the way they’ve been rolling as of late, and judging by the level of talent in the Big 12 this year, the Jayhawks might not lose for a while. Although most people point to stud center Jeff Withey, a shot-blocking machine, as the reason for their success, we here in the Dumpster think otherwise. The key has been Ben McLemore, another potential top-five pick in the NBA draft who already looks ready for the pros and might just end up going No. 1 overall.

McLemore has a silky smooth jump shot and can score from pretty much anywhere on the floor. The 6’4” shooting guard is averaging 16 points and five rebounds a game, while shooting over 50 percent from the floor, which is pretty damn good for a two-guard. As he continues to get more comfortable in just his first season in college basketball, McLemore could be on his way to leading Kansas, one of the most consistent programs in the nation, to another championship run. This guy can play for my team any day of the week. Did I mention he can dance?  If you didn’t click the link I just posted in the previous sentence you are missing out. Funniest shit I’ve seen in a while.

DOUG MCDERMOTT – CREIGHTON

img15580422

There’s always that one token white guy from a tiny no-name mid-major school somewhere out west who takes the nation by storm in March. We’ve seen it before, with the likes of Adam Morrison and Jimmer Fredette. Well, for two years in a row now, it looks like that guy is Doug McDermott. As a first-team All-American just a year ago, he led the Creighton Blue Jays to the NCAA’s after averaging 23 points per game and shooting 60 percent as a sophomore. Yet, you probably don’t even know who he is. So, that’s what I’m here for.

McDermott, who is currently second in the country with 23.9 points per game, might just finish the season as the nation’s leading scorer. And for someone who takes 15 shots a game, he’s pretty damn efficient, shooting 56 percent from the floor. Much like Morrison and Fredette before him, McDermott might not be a star in the NBA. In fact, if he’s anything like Adam Morrison, he’ll be out of the league in three years. But right now, McDermott is one of the country’s premier scorers, and he’s doing it for an underrated Creighton team that is currently ranked No. 17 in the nation. At the very least, Creighton is a very dangerous team that you do not want to see in the first couple rounds of the NCAA’s. That being said, there’s no doubt Doug McDermott alone has the ability to shoot the Blue Jays into the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1974.

ANTHONY BENNETT – UNLV

1112_sun_unlv_nau001_t653

If you haven’t watched UNLV play yet this season, do yourself a favor and check them out. A one-time national power, the Runnin’ Rebels have all the talent to make a run in the NCAA’s this year. At 16-4 overall, UNLV currently stands outside the Top 25, so in some sense the Rebels are underachieving this season. But then again, you cannot consider the Mountain West to be a mid-major conference; right now, it might be the third best conference in the country behind the ACC and the Big 10. Despite not having won in the NCAA’s since 2008, UNLV looks poised to cause damage in the Big Dance this year, mainly because of Anthony Bennett.

Bennett is a bit undersized (listed at 6’7”), but he still looks like a smaller version of Dwight Howard out there between his massive shoulders and his 7’1” wingspan. At 240 lbs., Bennett is a big boy. Yet, the Canada native is already a polished post player with an outstanding inside/outside game; 18.4 points per game as just a freshman is certainly evidence of that. Defensively, he has endless potential given his excellent athleticism and big-bodied frame. To make a long story short, the Runnin’ Rebels are one of the most exciting teams in the country to watch, and it all starts with Anthony Bennett, a potential top five pick in the upcoming NBA Draft and the go-to player for UNLV.

Sidenote: Another reason UNLV is so exciting? Freshman guard Katin Reinhardt. Seriously, check out this kid’s handles.

Other names to know: Marshall Henderson (Ole Miss), Russ Smith (Louisville), Nerlens Noel (Kentucky), Deshaun Thomas (Ohio State), Kenny Boynton (Florida), Isaiah Caanan (Murray State), Kelly Olynyk (Gonzaga), Sean Kilpatrick (Cincinnati), C.J. McCollum (Lehigh), Jamaal Franklin (San Diego State)