Pairing up college basketball’s biggest rivalries, SI presents four regional covers:
Louisville’s Russ Smith and Kentucky’s Julius Randle
Kansas’ Wayne Selden Jr. and Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart
NEW YORK – 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.
SI’s College Basketball Rankings
3. Michigan State
10. Oklahoma State
11. Ohio State
12. North Carolina
18. Wichita State
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
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.”