Peeling back the curtain on the last four college hoops teams still standing and how each could claim this year's title.
Welcome to the Weekend Read. This week you’ll find Sports Illustrated’s best stories of the week, insight into each one of the Final Four teams and the story behind an iconic SI photo.
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• The Exit Interview: Dwyane Wade looks back on his legendary career during his final run in the NBA. (By Rohan Nadkarni)
• Boos, bat flips and blasts: Behind the scenes of Bryce Harper's unforgettable return to D.C. (By Tom Verducci)
• Think coaching against Giannis Antetokounmpo is hard? Imagine being tasked with maximizing the talents of a player with tools no one has ever seen before. (By Chris Ballard)
• The three-pointer has taken over the NCAA tournament, and the Final Four could be next. (By Andy Staples)
• After a promising start, the AAF is suspending operations. The legal ramifications of that collapse could extend far and wide. (By Michael McCann)
What We’ve Learned About Every Final Four Team
Michigan State: Outside of Cassius Winston, you never quite know where Michigan State’s production will come from on a given night—and it’s used that as a strength. Winston is the clear go-to guy, but consider this: against Duke, the other high-scorer was Xavier Tillman with 19; against LSU, it was Aaron Henry (20 points) and Gabe Brown (15); against Minnesota, five other players besides Winston scored at least nine points; and against Bradley, Tillman and Matt McQuaid combined for 26, matching Winston’s output. The Spartans can beat you in a number of ways, and have a point guard who can take over a game. That’s why they’re so dangerous. — Molly Geary [Find our full Michigan State preview here]
Texas Tech: Tariq Owens is a force to be reckoned with. The St. John’s transfer earned All Big 12 defensive honors in 2018-19, yet still entered the NCAA tournament flying below the national radar. That should change over the weekend. Owens anchors the nation’s No. 1 defense, per kenpom, and he ranks No. 7 in the nation in blocks. He limited WCC Player of the Year Rui Hachimura to 8-of-19 from the field in the Elite 8, including a key block on a three-point attempt from Hachimura late in the second half. Jarrett Culver is Texas Tech’s headliner, but don’t forget about Owens and his mammoth wingspan. — Michael Shapiro
Virginia: Defense just might be able to win championships—if you’ve got the right balance. Between Virginia and Texas Tech, two of the country’s top three defensive teams are heading to the Final Four, but they also boast a hoard of talented two-way players to keep their offenses afloat. Even while Kyle Guy, the Cavaliers’ leading scorer, was struggling through a shooting slump in the first three games of the tournament, Virginia walked away with wins as his teammates stepped up. Tony Bennett has enough depth on his bench to navigate two more wins. — Emily Caron [Find our full Virginia preview here]
Auburn: The Tigers are not daunted by anything. Higher seeds? Prestigious programs? A horde of NBA-bound talent? A team that beat them by 27 five weeks ago? Needing to reinvent themselves without a versatile burgeoning star? Auburn has stared down all of those things in the last two weeks and not flinched yet, continuing to play with infectious confidence derived in part from, of all things, its underdog mentality. Also, the Tigers are going to keep shooting threes no matter the score and whether they’re falling or not, so they can mount comebacks and build leads in a hurry. — Dan Greene [Find our full Auburn preview here]
Story Behind the Photo
As Tiger Woods got set to tee off on the 18th hole on Sunday at Augusta in 2001, he needed to make par to win his second Masters and cap off what would become known as the Tiger Slam. It was the height of Tigermania, and the hordes that followed golf's biggest star were never better captured than by photographer Fred Vuich, who was covering his first event for SI.
Vuich decided to shoot the 18th from one of his favorite spots: the broadcasting tower behind the tee box. He took a rangefinder camera fitted with a wide-angle lens for two reasons. First, it used medium format film—about four times larger than the standard 35mm—which made for sharper images that would reproduce well as a magazine spread. And the camera had no motor drive or mirror mechanism (which accounts for the clicking noise), meaning it could be used to capture the golfer mid-swing. "I heard Jim Rome was ripping me apart for shooting [Woods] at the top of his backswing," Vuich says, "but that particular camera was silent."
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