SI 2013-14 College Basketball Preview

SPORTS ILLUSTRATED’s College Basketball Preview—on newsstands now—breaks down the 2013-14 season with 24 pages of scouting reports chock full of analysis, top story lines and coaches’ takes on the season, as well as SI’s Final Four prediction. Which will be the last teams standing on the floor at the Big Dance? SI predicts Duke (Anaheim Region), Kentucky (Memphis Region), Louisville (Indianapolis Region) and Michigan State (New York City Region) will punch tickets to Texas, with the Cardinals beating their interstate rival, the Wildcats, for their second straight title.

Pairing up college basketball’s biggest rivalries, SI presents four regional covers: North Carolina’s James Michael McAdoo and Duke’s Jabari Parker; Michigan’s Glenn Robinson III and Michigan State’s Gary Harris; Louisville’s Russ Smith and Kentucky’s Julius Randle; Kansas’ Wayne Selden Jr. and Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart.

SI’s College Basketball Rankings

1. Louisville

2. Kentucky

3. Michigan State

4. Duke

5. Kansas

6. Arizona

7. Michigan

8. Syracuse

9. Florida

10. Oklahoma State

11. Ohio State

12. North Carolina

13. Memphis

14. UConn

15. Marquette

16. VCU

17. Creighton

18. Wichita State

19. Gonzaga

20. Harvard

SI’s Luke Winn writes, “The most scoring-friendly rule changes of college hoops’ modern era could have a profound effect on the defending champs. Hand- and forearm-checking will now result in automatic whistles, and no team’s guards are more difficult to defend without making contact than Louisville’s Russ Smith and Chris Jones.” (Page 60)

Pairing up college basketball’s biggest rivalries, SI presents four regional covers: North Carolina’s James Michael McAdoo and Duke’s Jabari Parker; Michigan’s Glenn Robinson III and Michigan State’s Gary Harris; Louisville’s Russ Smith and Kentucky’s Julius Randle; Kansas’ Wayne Selden Jr. and Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart.

Inside SI’s College Basketball Preview

Extreme Teams

This season, the old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” will fall by the waste side. The unique talents of some of college basketball’s top players have inspired coaches to experiment and innovate on offense. SI’s Luke Winn explains how four programs—Creighton, Kentucky, Michigan and Wisconsin—will go to the extreme to push the boundaries of what was once believed to be sound college hoops strategy.

On relying on freshmen Winn writes, “This season the Wildcats will take aim at the Fab Five’s legacy. Calipari has assembled the first recruiting class that, on paper, trumps the quintet of top 100 players that Steve Fisher brought to Michigan in the fall of 1991. Kentucky has the

No. 1 ranked freshman at four positions—6’ 6” Andrew Harrison at point guard; his 6’ 6” twin, Aaron, at shooting guard; 6’ 9” Julius Randle at power forward; and 7-foot Dakari Johnson at center—and two more McDonald’s All-Americans, 6’ 6” swingman James Young and 6’ 9” power forward Marcus Lee. With those six players as well as 6’ 9” freshman Derek Willis in a nine- or 10-man rotation this season, the Wildcats could allocate 70% of their minutes to freshmen while making a run at a national title.” (Page 52)

On the limits of star power Winn writes, “That Creighton’s Doug McDermott, a 6’ 8” hybrid forward who can score from anywhere, benefits from having point guard Grant Gibbs around is beyond debate. Gibbs assisted on 83 of McDermott’s 284 field goals last season, when the All‑America averaged 23.2 points and took 34.8% of the Bluejays’ shots during his time on the floor. This is the team’s inaugural season in the Big East, and it will be Creighton’s best chance to make it past the NCAA tournament’s opening weekend for the first time. To do so the Bluejays may have to test the limits of how much a team can depend on one shooter.” (Page 54)

On the limits of the three-point shot Winn writes, “The postseason success of teams that attempt more than 40% of their shots from long range has not been great. Of the 385 teams that have been at or above 40% since 2003, just 61 have made the NCAAs, and only two have cracked the Final Four: ’05 Louisville, at 42.1%, and ’11 VCU, at 41.2%. From ’03 to ’12, John Beilein coached nine straight teams at West Virginia and Michigan that exceeded the 40% mark. Only when he decreased the Wolverines’ long-range reliance to 34.2% last season did he reach the national title game.” (Page 56)

On the limits of ignoring the post-up Winn writes, “The Cinderella darling from Dunk City—Florida Gulf Coast—posted up on only 3.3% of its possessions, the 12th lowest in the nation last season. Louisville won the national title with a post-up rate of 4.9%, Syracuse reached the Final Four with a rate of 4.2%, and Michigan answered the question of how rarely a team could post up and still have the nation’s most efficient offense. Just 1.9% of the Wolverines’ possessions were post-ups, the lowest rate in all of D-I.” (Page 56)

Inside SI’s College Basketball Preview

Shades of Blue

Duke’s Andre Dawkins lived his dream of playing for the Blue Devils—until the tragic death of his sister snapped his passion for the game he loved. Now the senior guard is sharing the story of his emotional journey with SI’s Seth Davis in the hopes of helping others.

A little more than a month into his freshman season, in 2009, Dawkins’s older sister, Lacey, 21, died after a car accident while traveling to Durham to watch him play in a Dec. 5 game against St. John’s. Dawkins returned to the Blue Devils’ lineup immediately after Lacey’s funeral, never missing a game and performing beyond everyone’s expectations. However, when Dawkins returned to Durham for his sophomore season, there were signs that something was off with his game. “Even when he was playing well, there was no spark to him,” associate head coach Steve Wojciechowski says. During his junior season Dawkins’s struggles continued as his play and attitude soured. Shortly after Duke fell to 15th-seeded Lehigh in the first round of the NCAA tournament, Coach K dropped a bomb on Dawkins. “You’re not going to play for us next year.”

Writes Davis, “Dawkins was stunned. Krzyzewski explained that the coaches had decided that whatever issues Dawkins was having, he was not going to solve them while continuing to play. It wasn’t good for Dawkins, and it obviously wasn’t good for the team. ‘I knew this kid was having problems, fundamental things that went way beyond basketball,’ Krzyzewski says. ‘I told him, “Look, I’m not professionally able to help you at the level that you need to be helped, and you being in this environment, I believe, is not healthy for you. We need to get you out of this so you can find out what makes you happy, what keeps you on an even keel.” Because if he was only playing ball to prevent something or get away from something, then he would never really face up to his problems.’ ” (Page 97)


NCAA Champion Louisville Cardinals on Cover of This Week’s Sports Illustrated

16COVv14promoThe Louisville Cardinals overcame a devastating injury to reserve guard Kevin Ware in the elite eight, survived a showdown with Wichita State in the national semifinals and rallied from a 12 point deficit to defeat the Michigan Wolverines 82-76 in a national championship game for the ages. The Cardinals’ Luke Hancock, the tournament’s Most Outstanding player, and point guard Peyton Siva appear on the cover of the April 15, 2013, issue of Sports Illustrated, on newsstands Wednesday. This is the fifth time that Louisville basketball has appeared on the SI cover and second week in a row. The victory was their first NCAA basketball title since 1986 and third overall.

Senior writer Luke Winn writes that the key to Louisville’s success was a brotherhood that stood together throughout a tumultuous season. The family atmosphere was the vision of head coach Rick Pitino, who became the first coach to win NCAA titles at two schools on the same day he was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame. Winn Writes:

“Pitino’s theme for these Cardinals was humility. A lack of it, he told his players, was the one thing that could doom a team that was coming off a Final Four trip and was ranked No. 2 in most preseason pools.” (PAGE 36)

Humility stayed written on a whiteboard in Louisville’s film room all season and the togetherness of the Cardinals players allowed for Pitino’s theme to remain a constant. The unique brotherhood was displayed on and off the court, from Ware inspiring his teammates to just win and not worry about him to the group text-message thread created by Russ Smith that all 13 Louisville players used to communicate with each other throughout the season.

Winn writes: “And what kind of brotherhood would these Cardinals be if they failed to pick each other up?” (PAGE 40)

With leading scorer Smith struggling from the field, Hancock stepped up and scored 14 straight points to cut Michigan’s lead to one at the half. He finished with 22 points and no turnovers. Hancock also picked his teammates up in the battle against Wichita State, when he scored nine points in the final 6 ½ minutes. Says teammate Tim Henderson: “He’s not afraid to shine in that moment.” (PAGE 40)

Team leader Siva, who scored 14 of his 18 points in the title game’s second half, consistently picked up his teammates throughout the entire season. Winn finds that he was the positive counterbalance to Pitino’s fiery critiques. He says: “Siva serves as a leader-counselor, the one his teammates go to for help on everything from plays to classwork.” (PAGE 40)

While the Cardinals were certainly inspired by Ware and led by Siva, Winn concludes that the 2013 title team belonged to each and every one of Louisville’s brothers.


Inside This Week’s SI: The Inspiring Runs of Louisville and Wichita State

15COVlouIn an elite eight weekend filled with emotion, a mid-major joined three power programs in punching their tickets to Atlanta. This week’s Sports Illustrated takes you inside the inspiring runs to the Final Four and features Louisville and Wichita State on regional covers.

Louisville’s convincing win over Duke was overshadowed by the gruesome injury suffered by reserve guard Kevin Ware, who broke his right tibia as he tried to close out on a three point attempt by Duke’s Tyler Thornton with six and a half minutes remaining in the first half. Ware stared in shock at the lower half of his right leg, which was split apart at an impossible angle. Senior writer Luke Winn writes: “The scene inspired visceral feelings of horror and panic and nausea.” (PAGE 36)

Cardinals forward Change Behanan collapsed on the floor, while Louisville guard Russ Smith immediately started crying. Cardinals guard Luke Hancock told Winn: “the whole crowd turned white.” However, a plea from the horrifically stricken Ware inspired his team to focus on winning the game. Before leaving for the hospital, Ware called his teammates over and said: “Just go win this game for me. Don’t worry about me. I’m fine. Just go win this game.” (PAGE 38)

Louisville Head Coach Rick Pitino says: “I don’t think we could have gathered ourselves—I know I couldn’t have—if Kevin didn’t [do that].” (PAGE 38)

The horror felt by fans, players and coaches was nothing compared with what Ware’s mother Lisa Junior felt when she saw a replay of the injury on TV from a friend’s house in Conyers, GA., a town 25 miles outside of Atlanta. Winn spoke to Junior on Sunday night and she told him: “When I saw the replay, I lost it.” She felt helpless until her son’s words on the phone from the hospital calmed her down, just as he did for his teammates before he left the court. Ware said, “Calm down, Mom. I’m O.K.” (PAGE 38)

While the Cardinals did not gather themselves right away, Winn writes that Pitino regrouped his team at halftime and told them “If we don’t get him (Ware) home to Atlanta [near where he attended high school, and the site of the Final Four], it wasn’t worth playing this season (PAGE 36).” The Cardinals outscored Duke 50-31 in the final 20 minutes en route to an 85-63 win and will face heavy underdog Wichita State in Atlanta this Saturday.

15COVwichitaAlso in this week’s SI, senior writer Kelli Anderson writes that the unheralded Wichita State Shockers have thrived in the face of national indifference. After being picked to finish fourth in the Missouri Valley Conference and sweating out selection Sunday due to a poor late season stretch and rash of injuries, the No. 9 seeded Shockers defeated Ohio State 70-66 and won the upset-ravaged West bracket by following Head Coach Gregg Marshall’s directive to “play angry.”

Anderson says that Marshall, who has never coached at a BCS school, is an underdog at heart, and “those are the guys he coaches: late bloomers, walk-ons, overlooked prospects and well-traveled transfers—guys with something to prove.” (PAGE 42)

Junior forward Cleanthony Early transferred from a junior college, Carl Hall, a 6’8” senior forward is playing for his third school in six years and the Shockers lost three players to injury after starting the season at 19-2.

Despite faltering a bit down the stretch, the Shockers got into the tournament and won four games, including upsets over No. 1 Gonzaga and No. 2 Ohio State. Anderson finds that they have no interest in settling for a good Cinderella label. Early says: “We’re not celebrating the way anybody wants us to celebrate because we understand that we got two more games left to the real thing.” (PAGE 42)

Marshall says: “I don’t think we’re Cinderella at all. If you get to this point, you can win the whole thing. I think Cinderella just found one glass slipper. I don’t think she found four.” (PAGE 42)


Q&A with the Editors behind SI’s March Madness Coverage

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Sports Illustrated and SI.com have everything college basketball fans need when it comes to March Madness coverage. Leading up to the NCAA tournament, SI.com gave readers up-to-the-minute daily news and analysis, while the magazine spread its preview coverage over two weeks and also published a special issue commemorating the 75th anniversary of the NCAA basketball tournament.

Complete tournament coverage going forward, including news, analysis and daily wrap-ups from every site can be found on SI.com and in our new college basketball blog, One And ONE.  Additionally, SI.com will produce over 100 videos devoted to the big dance.  In the magazine we will give readers an inside look at a team you’ll be hearing a lot about as we get deeper into the tournament.

One and One SI

How does all this college hoops coverage come together? We sat down with B.J. Schecter (SI.com Executive Editor) and Trisha Blackmar (SI Senior Editor) to discuss how they plan SI’s March Madness coverage.

When did you start preparing for the NCAA Tournament coverage?

Schecter:  Since we have so many great writers on staff to produce compelling college basketball content, we decided to preview the tournament across two weeks in the magazine and of course daily on SI.com. Preparation for this type of work started months ago.

Blackmar: We really started planning once the season began.  Throughout the season, we have to decide if it’s better to run a good story right away or save it for the tournament previews. The planning of specific stories probably started in the beginning of February—that’s when we compiled a short list for who could be featured on covers, top feature stories, etc.

What are the biggest challenges in managing this process?

Blackmar: For the magazine, the biggest challenge has to be the timing in relation to our deadlines since we are a weekly. We have to run stories on players that are guaranteed to make the tournament.

Schecter: Getting all of the content out is a huge challenge since there is so much we can do. That’s a big reason we launched the new One And One blog on March 4. It provides one place to find the heartbeat of our coverage during the tournament.  For the magazine, once our issue comes out next week, we are well on to the next round. So writers at each site can file to this new blog quickly and frequently to give readers a flavor of the tournament in real time.

How does the magazine work with SI.com?

Schecter: The tournament is such a beast, so the magazine folks and SI.com must work together. There is so much potential content to push out and some things lend themselves better to print or the web. For instance, in the special 75th anniversary issue, Trisha ran a story profiling the top 10 march madness players of all time. On SI.com we were able to run the complete list of 75. We will also have over 100 videos dedicated to college basketball throughout the tournament on SI.com. Lastly, some features run in both the magazine and SI.com, like Tim Layden’s excellent piece on Victor Oladipo.

How are you preparing coverage for next week?

Blackmar: We’re trying something we’ve never done before in the magazine, so we’re hoping the games go our way.

Schecter: We have so many writers ready to produce great content, but we obviously have to see what happens as well. A major upset or individual performance will change what we decide to feature on the website and in the magazine. We ask our writers to constantly be in touch with us and we go from there. Our team must be versatile and ready to write in many different formats.

What can you tell me about the SI team of college basketball writers?

Schecter: We have the best team of writers in the business. At SI, we stay away from the “pack” mentality – which is your normal press conferences, open practices, etc. Our writers go in other directions to find different angles. They talk to assistant coaches, the 12th man on a team or the head coach as he walks to the team bus.

Blackmar: Our writers are extremely talented. They have so many years of experience reporting on the biggest stories in college basketball. They key is that our team has built relationships—with coaches and players—that allow us to tell the stories that nobody else does.

Analytics are becoming bigger in basketball – how do you incorporate that in SI’s NCAA coverage?

Blackmar: These stats are a great way to cut through all the noise. Luke Winn had a great piece in this week’s issue detailing how every national champion from the past 10 years has ranked in the top 20 of kenpom.com’s ratings for both offensive and defensive efficiency.

Schecter: It’s becoming part of the fabric of college basketball.  The more we can break it down and show how it impacts games and thinking, the better off our readers are. For instance, Pete Thamel just wrote a story about Drew Cannon, an assistant coach at Butler who was hired to use analytics to advice head coach Brad Stevens.   (Click here to read the article)

Who do you predict will win this year’s title?

Blackmar: Kelli Anderson picked Louisville to win it all in this week’s magazine and I’m sticking with her pick. The Cardinals were neck and neck with Indiana for being No. 1 in the preseason and now they are playing perhaps the best basketball in the nation when it matters most—in March.

Schecter: This year is really tough since there aren’t as many dominant teams like in previous years. It’s hard to pick against Louisville, but I also feel any of the Big 10 teams have a chance since it was the strongest conference this season. Indiana, Ohio State and Michigan all have a good shot. But be ready for a lot of upsets and a really exciting tournament.


SI NCAA Tournament Preview Features Indiana’s Victor Oladipo, Kansas’ Ben McLemore, Gonzaga’s Kelly Olynyk and Syracuse’s Michael Carter-Williams on Four Regional Covers

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Sports Illustrated predicts that Louisville will cut down the nets as the NCAA basketball champion in the March 25, 2013 issue of SI, on newsstands Wednesday. In her bracket in this week’s SI NCAA Tournament Preview, senior writer Kelli Anderson says that Miami, Gonzaga and Georgetown will join the Cardinals in the Final Four, with Louisville defeating Miami for the title.

Anderson writes: “It’s true: Defense wins championships. The Cards’ path hasn’t been easy, but guard Peyton Siva & Co. make it look like so much fun.” (PAGE 36)

As part of the SI NCAA tournament preview, senior writer Tim Layden profiles Indiana’s Victor Oladipo, who is featured on one of four regional SI covers this week. Kansas’ Ben McLemore, Gonzaga’s Kelly Olynyk and Syracuse’s Michael Carter-Williams are featured on the three additional regional 13COVv8_KAN_Promocovers. This marks the 16th time Indiana and Kansas have been featured on an SI cover, the seventh time for Syracuse and fifth for Gonzaga.

In his profile, Layden describes how Oladipo’s journey from overlooked recruit to one of the best players in the country could be due in part to his odd relationship with his father Chris. Layden writes:

“The effect of this father-son relationship is impossible to fully know. He is very close to his mother and three sisters, all of whom text him constantly. He has improved dramatically as a player, and some suggest that this is partly because of his odd relationship with his father.” (PAGE 46)

13COVv8_GON_PromoChris Oladipo, who is from the African nation of Sierra Leone and met his wife Joan in Nigeria before moving to the United States, tells Layden in an exclusive interview that he has in fact seen his son play a few games and that his style of parenting simply differs from most Americans. He says, “I believe what the father should be is an anchor, to keep the ship from running away. He should be a stabilizing influence in the child’s life.” (PAGE 44)

Victor denies that his father has ever seen him play, but says he loves him and understands that he instilled a tough love culture in the Oladipo household.  His mother Joan, who did attend most of Victor’s games, tells Layden: “I know Victor really missed that his father wasn’t at the games.” (PAGE 44)

13COVv16_SYR_PromoNo matter what has led to Oladipo’s meteoric rise, an NBA scout tells Layden:

“Here’s a guy who was just barely on [the NBA’s] radar at the start of the year, probably not even in the top 100 in the country. Now he’s probably going to go in the lottery. It’s very unusual to make a climb like that in one year.” (PAGE 40)


A Look at the Rise and Fall of the Big East in This Week’s Sports Illustrated

12COVv12BigEast_PromoAs the Big East plays its final conference tournament at Madison Square Garden this week, senior writer Alexander Wolff tells us about the individuals and moments most responsible for the rise and downfall of the legendary college basketball conference. One of the league’s best players of all time, Georgetown’s Patrick Ewing, is featured reaching for a jump ball against Walter Berry of St. John’s on a regional cover of this week’s SI. This is the 10th time the Hoyas have appeared on an SI cover and the fifth time for the Red Storm.

Wolff recalls how the Big East first rose to prominence in the 1980s due to the vision of the late Dave Gavitt, the founder and first commissioner of the league who cut TV deals with CBS, ESPN and regional sports networks, took the conference championship to the world’s most famous sports arena, and brilliantly managed the egos of the league’s coaches. Wolff writes: “Gavitt understood the importance of three factors: television, Madison Square Garden and Syracuse.” (PAGE 59)

The TV partnerships provided a stage for the larger than life coaching figures, such as John Thompson (and his white towel), Lou Carnesecca, Jim Boeheim, Jim Calhoun, Rick Pitino and Rollie Massimino, and star players like Ewing, Chris Mullin, Earl “The Pearl” Washington and Ed Pickney. The Big East saw plenty of early success—NCAA titles for Georgetown and Villanova in ’84 and ’85, three final four teams in ’85, and last second losses by Georgetown (’82), Syracuse (’87) and Seton Hall (’89) in title games. More recently, Connecticut (‘99, ’04, ’11) and Syracuse (’03) won titles as well.

However, the college sports landscape encouraged big-time college football members to chase TV and bowl money. Since 2004, the Big East has lost 19 members, including 16 in the past two years, three without ever playing a conference game. However, the biggest blow came two years ago when Syracuse announced it would join the ACC in 2013.

Wolff writes that their departure essentially finished the league. “Syracuse’s departure would result in nothing less than a mutation in the conference’s DNA, the equivalent of North Carolina or Duke joining the Big Ten or SEC.” (PAGE 57)

Wolf found a few pivotal moments that led to the eventual downfall of the Big East, such as league members not voting in to add Penn State in 1981, the addition of too many schools outside the conference’s original geographic footprint and the killer—league members turning down a $1.2 billion TV contract from ESPN in early 2011 (They signed a TV deal with ESPN last month at nearly 15% of what they could have collected).

Many feel that league still could have survived had they signed that TV deal in 2011, including Boeheim. He says: “Sign the original TV deal and nothing would have happened.” (PAGE 60)


Cry Havoc And Let Slip The Dogs Of Hoops

VCU picNot since Nolan Richardson’s Arkansas teams of the 1990s has a team unleashed 40 minutes of chaos quite like that of Virginia Commonwealth University men’s basketball team. In this week’s SPORTS ILLUSTRATED senior writer Luke Winn explores the full court press defense that VCU’s head coach Shaka Smart has branded as “Havoc”.

Smart’s love for a high pressure defense was born in high school when his own coach, Kevin Bravery, adopted a Rick Pitino press right out of a video. As Smart grew as a player and coach and learned from coaches such as Akron’s Keith Dambrot, Florida’s Billy Donovan and Clemson’s Oliver Purnell, he began to pick apart and rework different press models until he was left with his current program. Havoc has caused many a headache and frustration this season, as VCU went on a 13 game win streak from Nov. 28 to Jan. 19 and currently stand at 16-5. The Rams steal the ball on 17.7% of their possessions and force turnovers 29.3% of the time, both good for No. 1 nationally. Daniel Roose, VCU’s strength and conditioning coach, explains how speed and strength contribute to the team’s defensive domination.

“I’m not worried about creating strength,” Roose says. “What would that do for us? We’re not walking it up in the Big Ten against Wisconsin. All I care about is creating ridiculous amounts of energy.” (PAGE 45)

Wreaking havoc in the NCAA has been a progressive process since Smart’s hire in 2009, but Smart said it is finally turning into the predator and prey model he has been hoping for. The team reached the final four as a No. 11 seed in the NCAA tournament in 2011 and even then the full court press was not at its height. “That,” smart says, “was only half havoc.” (PAGE 45)


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