This Week’s Sports Illustrated: SI’s Luke Winn has Florida over Wichita State, with Michigan State and Arizona Rounding out the Final Four

12COVv24_FLO_PromoFlorida will defeat Wichita State in the national title game. That’s the prediction from Sports Illustrated @SI_Now (with Michigan State and Arizona rounding out the Final Four) in the March 24, 2014 issue of the magazine on newsstands tomorrow. The SI NCAA Tournament Preview features six regional covers with the following cover subjects:  Michigan State’s Gary Harris, Syracuse’s Tyler Ennis, Florida’s Casey Prather, Arizona’s Nick Johnson, Wichita State’s Tekele Cotton and Connecticut’s Breanna Stewart. This marks the twelfth SI cover for Michigan State men’s basketball, ninth for Syracuse basketball, fifth for Florida basketball, fourth for Arizona basketball, third for Wichita State basketball, and eighth for UConn women’s basketball. Users can become part of March Madness by tagging their social profiles on our interactive covers on SI.com. 

The 30-plus-page section of the NCAA Tournament Preview features: SI’s bracket picks from the play-in game through the Final Four in Dallas; “The Breakout Players” or ones to watch in the tournament; “The Zone”, a breakdown of the best zone defense; the 2-3 of Syracuse; a women’s tournament preview; a profile 12COVv24_Uconn_Promoof Connecticut’s  Breanna Stewart and the “Five Minute Guide,” the everything-else-you-need-to-know about the tournament.

Among the features:

*Emma Carmichael profiles UConn women’s basketball star Breanna Stewart, the 6’4” sophomore who can score from every place on the floor and draws similarities to the NBA’s Kevin Durant.” Writes Carmichael: “What makes Stewart special isn’t difficult to qualify – she has averaged 19.7 points this season and scored 1,000 in just 63 games, the second fastest to reach that mark in school history. But there’s something else: Stewart is a new prototype for women’s hoops.” (Page 56) Her skill set includes much more than the average post player which is why Stewart is considered a new prototype in women’s college basketball. Says Stewart, “The fact that they expect me to do so many different things means [coach Geno Auriemma] can get on me for not doing so many different things if I don’t do them,” Stewart says with a laugh.  “I wouldn’t want it any other way.” (Page 60)

12COVv24_SYR_PromoThe truth is Stewart still has a postseason run and two full years with the Huskies to hone her skills on both sides of the court. Thus far, the Huskies have outscored opponents by 35.7 points, the highest average margin of victory in NCAA history for both men and women, largely in part to Stewart’s prowess. When asked about her future, Stewart said, “I envision leaving Connecticut with four national championships. I couldn’t expect anything else.” (Page 61)

 

 

 

 

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The McBucket List

11COVv10_PromoThe newly minted top scorer of the ‘00s Creighton senior Doug McDermott, appears on this week’s national cover of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (3/17/14)—on newsstands NOW. This cover is a recreation of the classic Larry Bird cover from 1977 and is McDermott’s first SPORTS ILLUSTRATED cover. As the greatest college scorer of this millennium, McDermott has scored more than 3,000 points, started in 140 consecutive games; 23 of which he’s scored 10 or more points. He’s had 10 straight games with 25 or more points and a total of 3 game-winning shots. Senior writer Luke Winn highlights McDermott’s versatility on the court and what McDermott has had to do to remain determined and focused throughout the season. Writes Winn, “More than 3,000 points now, and in how many ways? McBuckets’ bucket list is long and diversified. They’ve come on threes and post moves, on banked-in leaners and one-legged fadeaways, on hard curls and slipped screens.” They’ve been 85.5% right-handed, 12.8% lefty, and just 1.7% of them have been dunks. They’ve come in Peoria, Springfield and Wichita for three seasons and in Philly, Indy and New York City during this profile-boosting year in the Big East.” (Page 32)

To reach these impressive goals on the court, McDermott has had a number of inspirations in his life.  He recalls a trip he took when he was in seventh grade with his grandfather Earl and his father’s [Greg McDermott] Northern Iowa team to Indiana State to see Larry Bird’s number 33 retired. Now, years later, a large part of McDermott’s pregame routine includes watching the same YouTube montage of Bird HD highlights. “I love watching Bird” says McDermott. “He just plays a different way.” (Page 33) When senior guard Grant Gibbs learned of McDermott’s 3,000 point accomplishment he leaned over and whispered, “When they announced you passed Bird, a small part of me died inside.” (Page 34)

 Another pregame routine of McDermott includes a session with Jack Stark, the Omaha-based psychologist who has previously worked with NASCAR’s Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. During the session, Stark leads McDermott to a place in his mind where he can remove the clutter and visualize the day’s game. This process, the escape before he hits the court has been a pregame routine of McDermott’s since December 22nd, 2010. Stark is only a phone call away when McDermott isn’t playing at his home court although, it is McDermott’s responsibility to find a quiet place for these calls; even a bathroom. McDermott recalls, “I turned the light off and lay against the door to make sure no one would come in, because I wanted to stay focused…And it got really awkward. I could hear people saying, ‘What is going on in there?’ ‘I can’t get the door open!’ and I think someone tried to get security while I was lying there in the dark, listening to [Stark].” (Page 35)  That quick session was enough; McDermott finished the game against Missouri State with a total of 39 points.

 In just four seasons, McDermott has added so many dimensions to his offense that it’s nearly impossible for other teams to guess his next move. From his past inspirations of Larry Bird and his pre game rituals, he’s become a player who believes in the power of preparation and hard work.| SI Senior Writer Luke Winn

 

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The Pete Problem

10COVv17_PromoTwenty five years after this banishment from baseball, Pete Rose former Major League Baseball player and manager, appears on this week’s national cover of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (3/10/14)—on newsstands NOW. Rose has been on the cover of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED 15 times since ’68; the last time he appeared on the cover was in ’04. The current issue features an exclusive excerpt from the new book, PETE ROSE: AN AMERICAN DILEMMA by Assistant Managing Editor Kostya Kennedy. The book, published by SI Books comes out Tuesday, March 11.  

The all-time Major League leader in hits (2,456), games played, at-bats, and outs is no stranger to the spotlight of fans and critics. Rose has more base hits than anyone in history, yet he is not in the Hall of Fame. At a time when steroid users appear on the Hall of Fame ballot, now more than ever, the question “Does Pete Rose belong in the Hall of the Fame?” has developed into one of the most provoking in sports. “Of all the ways one might characterize the differences and similarities between Rose and those players known to have used performance enhancing drugs—the Hall of Shamers, as it were—it comes to this: Rose has been banished for the incalculable damage he might have done to the foundation of the game. Steroid users are reviled for the damage they actually did.” (Page 50)

The excerpt in this week’s issue looks at Rose today, three decades after he became the alltime hit king. Rose is still beloved by baseball fans and has no problem drawing crowds for his strict schedule of appearances and autograph sessions. Sparky Anderson, the Cincinnati manager through most of the 70’s who had issues with Roses’ lying about gambling said, “He played his heart out for me.” Years later, Anderson and Rose managed to mend the tear in their relationship before Anderson passed away in 2010. Rose still has plenty of detractors who will never be able to forgive him, but he has his supporters too. Barry Larkin, who went into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in July 2012 said in his induction speech, “I just want to thank Pete for the opportunity…His words of wisdom and his support and him talking to me all the time. Thank you, Pete Rose. I love you, man.” (Page 53)|SI Assistant Managing Editor, Kostya Kennedy 

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The Best for Last?

09COVv13CAN_PromoJohnathan Toews of the Canadian Olympic hockey team appears on the Canadian cover of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (3/3/14)—on newsstands NOW. This is Toews’ second SI cover, as he was featured last on the June 2, 2010 issue after winning the Stanley Cup with his NHL team, the Chicago Blackhawks.  Now, the Canadian Olympic gold medal team that defeated team USA 1-0 in the semi finals and Sweden 3-0 in the Olympic final on Sunday is the new world powerhouse for men’s hockey.  

As Canada’s prowess on the ice owned the tournament (the team never trailed in any of its six games and outscored opponents 17-3), there were other teams who were not performing at the level initially predicted. Russia epically failed while the U.S. was derailed by the Finns who went on to win the bronze medal. SI’s Michael Farber writes, “There was an extraordinary sight last Wednesday. Even though the Olympic cauldron was still roaring, the de facto closing ceremony had occurred hours earlier with Russia’s 3-1 quarterfinal loss to Finland. But it would have been rude for the hosts to start emptying ashtrays and doing the dishes in hopes that the guest would take the hint and leave. Russia tried. Television monitors in the media lounge at the figure skating arena had been wall- to- wall hockey, but with Russia out, journalists were treated to a replay of that morning’s biathlon.” (Page 36)

 The defeated Russian men’s hockey team watched as the clock ticked down, some of them wildly trying to skate up and down the ice, others watching from the bench. In the postgame interviews captain Pavel Datsyuk said, “We have tried to be a team. We discussed this in training, in the rocker room….But when out on the ice, emotions gush, every player is trying to take over the game, holding on to the puck. We all tried, but…” (Page 36)|SI Senior Writer, Michael Farber

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The Race of His Life

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American Nascar driver and winner of the 2014 Daytona 500 Dale Earnhardt Jr. appears on this week’s regional cover of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (3/3/14)—on newsstands NOW. Earnhardt has appeared on 9 covers; his last appearance was February 18th, 2008 in a NASCAR Preview Issue of the Daytona 500. Now, at 39 years-old, NASCAR’s most popular driver is gunning for a career-defining title with his newfound confidence on the track. The most recent win at Daytona marks an incredible accomplishment for Earnhardt, and serves as a warning sign for all future competitors. This is only the start of something big.

As all drivers were summoned back to their cars after a rain delay, Earnhardt returned to his number 88 Chevy with clear eyes and focus. The race restarted at Lap 39 where he quickly took the lead around the 2.5-mile tri-oval. Of Earnhardt’s storied performance SI’s Senior Writer Lars Anderson writes, “While four multicar wrecks left two dozen cars damaged, most of the sport’s big names ran up front throughout. Earnhardt teammates Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon challenged late, as did Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski. Earnhardt covered every move, nailing his restarts to lead 54 of the last 70 laps, holding off Hamlin over the final two turns. It was by far the most spectacular single-race performance of Junior’s 15-year Cup career. On this long, wet night, he indeed drove like the Intimidator, and drew a roar like thunder from the grandstands as he reached out to snatch the checkered flag from the flagman.” (Page 42)

 With memories of watching his father, the late Dale Earnhardt the seven-time NASCAR champion, Earnhardt win brings an extra sense of triumph. “I think of my dad when I’m here, but not the way people might imagine,” Dale Jr. said. “I feel good here now. I have good feelings about him. I think he’d be proud now.” Now after winning the Daytona 500 for a second time, he is ready to keep the momentum going in his upcoming races this season saying, “My confidence level has never been higher, and that’s critical for me,” he says. “We’re going to run our guts out every week.” (Page 44)|SI Senior Writer, Lars Anderson

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