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)

Chicago Blackhawks on Cover of This Week’s Sports Illustrated

12COV18NAT_PromoLed by Hart Trophy favorite Patrick Kane, young captain Jonathan Toews and a ragtag group of role players, the Chicago Blackhawks’ historic 21-0-3 start to the lockout shortened season captivated a city and reinvigorated the beleaguered NHL. This week’s Sports Illustrated,  which features the Blackhawks on the cover, examines the resilient team that has helped bring hockey back. This is the third time the Blackhawks have appeared on an SI cover.

The ‘Hawks, who’s win streak finally came to an end last Friday,  have sprinted out to the best NHL start since 2006-07 and done so in a compressed schedule that has featured numerous close wins. Along the way, Brian Cazeneuve writes on how they’ve reinvigorated the spirits of Chicago fans still upset over the departure of key players from the 2010 Stanley cup team (a sign at a recent game read: “#23 isn’t just about Michael anymore”) and shown the resilience of the NHL (arenas are filled to 96.7% of capacity since the season started, and 109.4% in Chicago.) Cazeneuve says: “And just like that—from completely locked out to totally locked in—Chicago has given the league a much needed boost.” (PAGE 39)

GM Stan Bowman headed the revitalization process prior to the season by adding gritty role players instead of marquee free agents. Bowman’s faith has allowed former castoff players like Daniel Carcillo (the man nicknamed “Car Bomb” who scored a game-winner with 49.3 seconds left to extend the streak against the Avalanche last week) and goaltenders Corey Crawford and Ray Emery to thrive.

“The Miami Heat can win 15, 16 games in a row, but how many teams can really win an NBA Title? Three? Four? I mean, the Kings won the Cup as an eight seed last year. In our league, if the 30th team beats the first team one night, it’s not a big deal. No game is a gimme,” said Kane (PAGE 36)

No player has stepped up more in the streak than Kane, who was previously known more for his off-the-ice antics than his amazing skills on it. Cazeneuve writes that Kane used the lockout to develop as a person, moving to an apartment with his mother in Biel, Switzerland, while he played in the Swiss League. “The biggest thing about this year is that I didn’t want to disappoint my parents…Hurting myself was one thing; hurting people close to me woke me up.” (PAGE 39)

Despite the surging streak, Toews and the Blackhawks know it’s not how you start, but how you’re playing once the Stanley Cup playoffs come around.

“The wins now are great, but we know they won’t mean anything if we can’t reset our sights on winning in June.” (PAGE 39)

Inside This Week’s SI Cover

09COVv26Miller_PromoThis time of year has everyone in the sports world gearing up for March Madness. Yet, the start of spring football also enters the sports spotlight—and fans always have an appetite for some college football. That’s why we chose to do something a bit different and  feature two outstanding college football players, Braxton Miller and Jadeveon Clowney, ripping through a “Where’s Waldo” compilation of college basketball images, on regional covers of the March 4, 2013 SPORTS ILLUSTRATED.

Multiple layers went into designing this ambitious 3D quality cover. First, our Art Director Edward Truscio oversaw putting together the compilation of college hoops images. We’ve been using this Where’s Waldo technique for over ten years now at SI and it’s no easy task. Ed did an amazing job.

Simultaneously, we worked on the tear technique that shows these players literally ripping through the college basketball images. To do this, we actually ripped pieces of paper until we got the perfect tear. Then, our talented imaging department got to work to put it all together and make it look as real as possible. The challenge was a steep one—being a weekly magazine, the main components of the cover were finalized with only eight hours until the final deadline. As always, our team got it done.

The result: A timeless cover with March madness flavor that also appeals to our reader’s fascination with spring football.  And the beautiful action shots of these players running at you symbolically shows how they are breaking onto the national scene.  Kudos to Simon Bruty, the photographer who captured a brilliant shot of Clowney.

09COVv26Clown_PromoI’m proud of our entire team…on to the next one…

- Chris Hercik (@Chercik), Sports Illustrated Creative Director

Rule Tide: BCS Champ Alabama on the Cover of This Week’s Sports Illustrated


Alabama running back Eddie Lacy, the offensive MVP of Monday’s BCS title game, tramples over two Notre Dame defenders on the cover of the Jan. 14, 2013, issue of Sports Illustrated, on newsstands Wednesday. This is the 23rd time that Crimson Tide football has appeared on the cover, which includes 12 covers in the past four seasons. You can purchase this week’s cover here.

Alabama’s 42-14 dominating victory over Notre Dame earned the Crimson Tide their third BCS Title in four years, firmly securing Alabama’s place in history. Fans and players alike, including Alabama senior center Barrett Jones couldn’t help but speak of a dynasty.  Jones spoke to senior writer Tim Layden (@SITimLayden) on the field after the game. He said: “There’s a SPORTS ILLUSTRATED cover hanging in my room because I’m on it—from 2010. It says, DYNASTY. CAN ANYONE STOP ALABAMA? I’ll never forget looking at that thing and wondering if we really could be a dynasty. Three out of four. I’m no dynasty expert, but that seems like a dynasty to me.”

Even more impressive is the run by Alabama head coach Nick Saban, who has now coached teams to national championships in four of the past 10 seasons. Only Paul “Bear” Bryant’s six titles at Alabama compare, yet Saban told Layden: “There is no continuum of success. History can’t help us win.”

The Notre Dame Miracle: Fighting Irish Football on the Cover of This Week’s Sports Illustrated

Following a wild weekend of upsets in college football, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish are ranked No. 1 in the BCS standings for the first time in school history, and No.1 in the Associated Press poll for the first time since November 1993. This rise to the top lands them on the cover of this week’s Sports Illustrated, marking the 24th time the Notre Dame football program has been featured on the cover, and the first national cover since Maurice Stovall on September 30, 2002. You can purchase this week’s cover here.

The Irish are marching onward to the national championship game – and downward from the moral high ground they have claimed for a century. In this week’s Sports Illustrated, senior writer Tim Layden goes inside the football culture change at Notre Dame, a place where the team can’t merely be good; it must also call to mind the glory of a century-long football tradition. This year’s team is the first one in awhile to do both.

Says current Minnesota Vikings safety Harrison Smith, who played five years at Notre Dame, including two under current head coach Brian Kelly: “You’re expected to go to class and not just be a football player. That’s real. It’s going to be hard academically, just like it’s hard academically at a lot of schools. But we’re all just college kids, we’re all playing football, and we’re all going to make mistakes. Notre Dame is not some golden perfect place. It’s a place that tries to do the right thing” (page 57).

Kansas’ Elijah Johnson Featured on Regional Cover of This Week’s Sports Illustrated

Kansas point guard Elijah Johnson is featured on a regional cover of Sports Illustrated’s College Basketball Preview issue, highlighting the senior’s place as the leader of the Jayhawks’ young talent. Johnson is the first Kansas player to appear on the cover since Thomas Robinson on November 12, 2011.

The Jayhawks are SI’s preseason #3 pick, the highest-ranked team in the Big 12.

The full Top 25. 

Syracuse’s Brandon Triche Featured on Regional Cover of This Week’s Sports Illustrated

Syracuse guard Brandon Triche is featured on the third of four regional College Basketball Preview issue covers, which highlights his readiness to lead the team as he returns for his senior season. Triche is the first Syracuse player to appear on the cover since Wesley Johnson on March 21, 2010.

SI ranks the Orange #11 in its preseason poll, the second-highest ranking in the Big East behind #2 Louisville.

The full Top 25. 


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 130 other followers