SPORTS ILLUSTRATED PREDICTS THERE WILL BE JUBILATION IN JAYHAWKS NATION WEST VIRGINIA, DUKE AND SYRACUSE ROUND OUT OUR FINAL FOUR HOW INEXPERIENCED AND UNDERSIZED NEW MEXICO HAS GALVANIZED A SURPRISINGLY RABID HOOPS STATE WHY A FOURTH PERFECT SEASON AND A 78-GAME WINNING STREAK AREN’T ENOUGH FOR UCONN’S GENO AURIEMMA ANGELS SLUGGER KENDRY MORALES: THE LONG ROAD TRAVELED BY A SEEMINGLY OVERNIGHT SENSATION JOSH SMITH’S NEWFOUND FORMULA FOR SUCCESS: FEWER 3’S, MORE W’S (NEW YORK – March 16, 2010) – March Madness has arrived in this week’s March 22, 2010, issue of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, on newsstands tomorrow. SI senior writer Tim Layden (twitter.com/SITimLayden) predicts that Kansas will defeat West Virginia for the national title, capping off a Final Four rounded out by Syracuse and Duke (page 62). SI’s six regional covers feature Kansas’s Sherron Collins, Kentucky’s DeMarcus Cousins, Syracuse’s Wesley Johnson, Ohio State’s Evan Turner, Villanova’s Scottie Reynolds and Gonzaga’s Matt Bouldin. WHAT TO WATCH FOR IN THE NCAA TOURNAMENT INTERNATIONAL CONNECTION: SI senior writer George Dohrmann (twitter.com/georgedohrmann) spoke with 2009–10 ACC player of the year Greivis Vasquez about playing not just for Maryland but on behalf of his home country of Venezuela (page 50): “For me to do well, to play well in the tournament, and then, later, if I can make it to the NBA—it would make a huge impact. Our society, the young kids, they need hope. There are no words to explain what it would mean to them.” PLAYING FOR A LEGACY: SI staff writer Melissa Segura (twitter.com/MelissaSeguraSI) reveals how Kansas State junior guard Jacob Pullen plans to help the Wildcats gain ground on their more-ballyhooed in-state rival. Recalling his recruitment, Pullen says (page 50): “I didn’t know anything about Kansas State. Then I did my research and found out the program has history, and it’s our chance to bring it back…. We have to [get] people’s attention so they say there’s two good schools in Kansas.” TENNESSEE TOUGH: SI staff writer Andrew Lawrence explains how Tennessee center Kelley Cain’s recovery from two knee surgeries has inspired her Lady Vols teammates. Says junior guard Angie Bjorklund (page 52): “We’d see her fighting through it and just when we’re thinking she might not make it, she’s saying, ‘No, I’m staying in anyway.’ That meant a lot for us because we’re going to need her out there to help us fight through some of those tougher games [in the tournament].” PLAYING THE MONEY GAME: When seventh-seeded Richmond takes the court, school officials will be putting on a full-court press to gather alumni donations. SI senior writer George Dohrmann (twitter.com/georgedohrmann) interviewed Spiders athletic director Jim Miller about the school’s fund-raising plans. Says Miller (page 53): “Everyone likes to be successful, so while you have their attention you show them what it will take to maintain that success. For years the pitch has been, ‘This is what we need to build the program.’ Now it is, ‘This is what we need to keep winning.’ ” NEW MEXICO: THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM – L. JON WERTHEIM As their beloved Pit undergoes a $60 million face-lift, the third-seeded New Mexico Lobos have completed a renovation of their own, transforming from Mountain West Conference afterthought into a 29-win force to be reckoned with. SI senior writer L. Jon Wertheim (twitter.com/jonstennistweet) details how coach Steve Alford has led an inexperienced, undersized group to the verge of one shining moment while capturing the affection of an entire state. Says New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, a regular at home Lobos games (page 58): “We’re a small state, and we don’t have a major league franchise. Everybody roots for Lobos basketball, especially at the time of an economic downturn. It’s really been this unifying force.” The 2009–10 season has been sweet vindication for Alford, who went from a hoops program at Iowa that played second fiddle to the school’s football team to a surprisingly rabid basketball state. Describing his move to Albuquerque in 2007, Alford says: “I was going to a place where you don’t have to work tireless hours to market and sell and [appease] the fan base. Whenever you have loyal fans, you can put all your attention into the X’s and O’s and your team. That’s a huge advantage.” UCONN LADY HUSKIES: MAKING A RUN AT PERFECTION – KELLI ANDERSON Connecticut’s fourth undefeated season isn’t enough for coach Geno Auriemma. SI senior writer Kelli Anderson describes how the Huskies’ coach won’t be satisfied until his team delivers 40 minutes of mistake-free basketball (page 64): “Before the Huskies’ first game [this season], against Northeastern, he wrote 50 on the locker room whiteboard, setting the limit on how many points the visitors should be allowed. When he returned a while later, a player had crossed out 50 and written 40. ‘I said, ‘You guys are out of your minds—they’re going to have 40 by halftime,’ ’ recalls Auriemma. ‘I say stuff like that, and it pisses them off. So we play eight or nine games, and teams can’t get to 40, can’t get to 50. I’m like, These guys are taking this seriously! This is a big deal to them! A team is at 38, 39, and guys on the bench are screaming, Get in your stance! Rotate over!” Says Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale, whose team lost to Connecticut 76–60 on Feb. 15: “My theory is that [the Huskies] don’t get anybody’s best game. Typically, when you’re the best team in the country, you’re going to get everyone else’s best shot. I think [the Huskies] moved beyond that to some kind of ethereal place where [their opponents] are beat before they even start.” COLLEGE BASKETBALL’S FIRST CINDERELLA – ALEXANDER WOLFF AND MICHAEL ATCHISON SI senior writer Alexander Wolff and author Michael Atchison tell the tale of the 1943–44 Utah Utes. Led by Japanese-American guard Wat Misaka, the Utes peaked at just the right time and became the unlikeliest of national champions. Who was on the team is just part of this amazing story (page 70): “The Utes included two Japanese-Americans, one on release from an internment camp outside Delta, 120 miles away. The other, a 5' 7" reserve [Misaka], was thrust into the lineup when the Utes’ center—their captain, best athlete and leading scorer—went down with a sprained ankle on the eve of the postseason. And war with Japan be damned, that Nisei, or second-generation Japanese-American, would enchant crowds during tournament play.” After bowing out in the first round of the NIT to Kentucky, the Utes were asked to fill out the NCAA bracket at the last minute and proceeded to run the table, including a 42–40 upset of heavily favored Dartmouth in the final. Two nights later Utah faced St. John’s, the NIT champion, with a chance to prove themselves college basketball’s undisputed best: “The New York fans might have been expected to favor the local team, St. John’s, but the Garden then served as the home floor of several other colleges too, and followers of those teams didn’t care to see the Redmen win. More than that, the Utes had won over New Yorkers during the previous two weeks with their fluid, hustling play. Misaka, in particular, ‘was so well received in New York,’ [forward Abe] Ferrin recalls. ‘The port was closed, and there were troop ships there, but people responded to how hard he played.’ ” KENDRY MORALES: ARRIVAL OF AN ANGEL – BEN REITER SI staff writer Ben Reiter (twitter.com/SI_BenReiter) takes a closer look at Kendry Morales’s journey to the major leagues. For the best hitter to come out of Cuba in a generation, the road to Anaheim was anything but short and easy despite his immense natural talent (page 34): “Morales was a fixture on [scout Eddie] Bane’s radar by the summer of 2001, when the young Cuban used a bat held together with duct tape to hit an opposite-field home run off a 17-year-old American lefty named Scott Kazmir in the Junior Pan American Championships in Camagüey, Cuba. Morales, a corner infielder and outfielder, also pitched a complete game in the tournament, blowing away hitters with a 92-mph fastball.” After successfully defecting—he had tried and failed more than 10 times before landing in the Florida Keys in June 2004—Morales signed an incentive-laden six-year, $4.5 million deal, with a $3 million signing bonus, on Dec. 1, 2004. Recalling Morales’ initial development, Angels manager Mike Scioscia says: “Everyone could see the extraordinary talent he had, but Baseball 101, it was not there. In everything from baserunning—his secondary lead was not even there—to positioning himself in the field. Kendry had just played baseball, and probably they’d just let him swing the bat. He had to learn to play the whole game.” JOSH SMITH: THANKS, I THINK I’LL PASS – CHRIS BALLARD SI senior writer Chris Ballard (twitter.com/SI_ChrisBallard) explains how Josh Smith is the latest player to realize that often the key to doing more is doing less. By halting the inaccurate three-point barrage that plagued him in his first five seasons, Smith has the Hawks surging. Ballard writes (page 40): “It may seem like a minor change, but the effect has been profound. At week’s end Smith was averaging 15.9 points and shooting 51.4%, the highest of his career, emerging as an increasingly valuable player on a team that has overtaken the Celtics for the third spot in the Eastern Conference. When he’s on the floor, the Hawks, who were 42–23 through Sunday, are a whopping 15.2 points better per 100 possessions than when he’s not. (With the All-Star [Joe] Johnson, by comparison, the team is only 8.6 points better).” Smith’s epiphany came last summer while watching film with his father, Pete. The elder Smith reminded his son that basketball wasn’t all about scoring. It was about knowing when to shoot, when to pass and, finally, where to shoot. Recalls Pete: “He came up with the idea to stop shooting threes. And I was really proud of him. I always tell him that I think basketball is an outward expression of your inner life. And I see him maturing as a man. He doesn’t need to shoot those threes to prove anything to anyone. He’s realizing that all you need to do is prove it to yourself.” SI PLAYERS NBA POLL Who is the toughest defender in the NBA? (page 13) Ron Artest, Lakers F….42% Kevin Garnett, Celtics F….6% Kobe Bryant, Lakers G….13% Shane Battier, Rockets F….4% Dwight Howard, Magic C….12% [Based on a survey of 173 NBA players] FAST FACTS Josh Smith, the only NBA player with 100 blocks and 100 steals this year, did not receive a single vote…. Phil Jackson, the coach of Artest and Bryant, has coached four NBA All-Defensive first-teamers during his 19-year career…. Only three true centers received any votes, the least of any position by far: Howard, the Pistons’ Ben Wallace (2%) and the Celtics’ Kendrick Perkins (1%). POINT AFTER: A LIFE IN BALANCE – PHIL TAYLOR Arizona State junior wrestler Anthony Robles was born with his right leg missing all the way up to the hip. But that’s done little to deter the reigning All-America in the 125-pound class, who is in contention for the 2010 national championship. SI senior writer Phil Taylor writes (page 84): “Once, when Robles was a [high school] sophomore, [Mesa High coach Bob] Williams made each wrestler run laps while holding a 20-pound sandbag after the team’s poor performance at a meet. He didn’t expect Robles to carry one, but he didn’t tell him not to, either. Robles dropped his crutches, picked up the sandbag and hopped a few steps before falling. He got up and hopped a few more times. Another fall. He rose again and again. He fell again and again. But he didn’t stop until the rest of the team did. Is it any wonder that one of his nicknames is Braveheart?” SCORECARD: ARI FLEISCHER’S EMPIRE STATE OF MIND – L. JON WERTHEIM SI senior writer L. Jon Wertheim (twitter.com/jonstennistweet) breaks down former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer’s plan to make the sports world spin round. When discussing his newest client, Tiger Woods, Fleischer said (page 12): “Obviously what Tiger did was horrendous in his personal life. But he’s under no obligation to tell anyone the details about it. I believe he should draw a line in the sand between his golf and private matters. Being in public life doesn’t mean you have to succumb to the overwhelming curiosity factor that permeates everything in our society.” SIGOLF+: GOLF MAGAZINE TOP 100 TEACHERS POLL Can Tiger Woods win the Masters without playing in another tournament first? (page G12) Yes….63% No......37% -SI- About SPORTS ILLUSTRATED SI is a multimedia sports brand that takes the consumer into the heart and soul of sports. The SI franchise is anchored by Sports Illustrated, the most respected voice in sports journalism which reaches a weekly audience of nearly 21 million adults, and www.SI.com, the magazine’s 24/7 sports news website that delivers more than 150 original stories to its users each week. The SI franchise also includes Sports Illustrated Kids (www.sikids.com), a monthly magazine targeted to kids age 8 and up; Golf Magazine and www.Golf.com; www.FanNation.com, a social networking and sports-news aggregation platform; SI Presents, the magazine’s specialty publishing division; as well as SI Books, SI Pictures, SI Productions, SI Digital and SI Events. Founded in 1954, SI is a division of Time Inc., the world’s leading magazine publishing company and a subsidiary of Time Warner.
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