Lineup

April 02, 2006

BASEBALL PREVIEW2006

40 PureHitters
Not all the reminders of the Steroid Era are gone, but there's a new, toughdrug policy. Fans are falling for a more exciting, cleaner game
by Tom Verducci

44 20 People toWatch
Everyone knows A-Rod. The appeal of the coming season lies with those on andoff the field who have raised their game and will make news

• FELIXHERNANDEZ
A gem at 20, he's already polished and must be handled with care
by Tom Verducci

58 ScoutingReports
An in-depth look at all 30 teams, with lineups, modest proposals and minorleaguers on the make

FEATURES

COLLEGEBASKETBALL

Final Four
Taking March Madness to a new level, 11th-seeded George Mason made the mostimprobable run ever to the Final Four
by Grant Wahl
PAGE 32

SCOUTINGREPORTS
From opposing assistant coaches, find out what it will take to knock off eachof the teams in Indianapolis

WOMEN'S HOOPS
The Cardinal's Brooke Smith has been one of the tournament's breakout stars

NEW KIDS ON THEBLOCKS
Three precocious, ferocious post players have led their teams toIndianapolis

Departments

8 Leading Off
16 Letters
19 Air and Space
A college hoops assistant took a $52,000 pay cut--and found himself richer forit by Steve Rushin

20 Scorecard
• Advisers who play the race card
• Carlos Boozer's bad karma
• What happens after weigh-ins

30 Faces in theCrowd

140 Life ofReilly
How hurricane-ravaged, dead-broke Ehret High won Louisiana's 5A basketballtitle by Rick Reilly

Inside ...

134 MotorSports
•Matt Kenseth's early-season surge

135 The NHL
•Dallas is primed for the playoffs

136 The NBA
•Kings have the look of spoilers

Cover
PHOTOGRAPH BY WALTER IOOSS JR.
INSET PHOTO: John Biever

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In the 67-yearhistory of the NCAA tournament, there has never been a championship gamebetween SEC teams. Can redshirt freshman Tyrus Thomas (above) help LSU get tothe finals for a potential showdown with Florida, which beat the Tigers twicethis season? Or will UCLA and George Mason continue their thrilling runs? Get aFinal Four preview and tournament coverage at SI.com/collegebasketball.

Follow all theaction from the women's Final Four in Boston at SI.com/collegebasketball, withreporting and analysis from Kelli Anderson, Richard Deitsch and TracySchultz.

The Pistons,Spurs and Mavericks are in a dogfight for the best record in the NBA. But aretheir coaches willing to risk wearing out such stars as Rip Hamilton (below) inan effort to land the playoff-long home court advantage, which comes withwinning the most regular-season games? Find out what the coaches told MartyBurns, at SI.com/nba.

If you're notfamiliar with Ian Kinsler, Josh Barfield and Kenji Johjima, chances are thatyou will be soon. In John Donovan's look at impact rookies, he shares histhoughts on Kinsler, a Rangers second baseman; Barfield, a Padres secondbaseman whose father, Jesse, was an outfielder for the Blue Jays; and Johjimaof the Mariners (above), the first Japanese-born catcher to play in the bigs.Read about it at SI.com/baseball, where you can also find out who Tom Verduccithinks will win the MVP, the Cy Young and other major awards.

PHOTOJOHN W. MCDONOUGH (GUILLEN) 58BACK-TO-BACK?
Behind manager Ozzie Guillen, the White Sox have all the pieces to win theirsecond straight Series.
THREE PHOTOSBASKETBALL (FROM TOP): JOHN BIEVER, ERIC GAY/AP, DAVID E. KLUTHO PHOTOTIMOTHY HEITMAN/WIREIMAGE.COM (MODANO) 135 MO'BETTER
Captain Mike Modano centers a top line that has sparked the Stars to morecome-from-behind wins than any other NHL team.
THREE PHOTOSBOB ROSATO (THOMAS); GREG NELSON (HAMILTON); BRAD MANGIN (JOHJIMA)

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)