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ESPN The Magazine 03.27.17

ESPN The Magazine is for the NEXT generation of sports fans who want to stay on top of the athletes, teams, topics and upcoming events in their own sports world. The Magazine celebrates not only sports, but the cultures and lifestyles that are an integral part of them - all with ESPN's unique personality and authority.

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3 min.
one-track mind

Senior writer Tim Keown on the power of purpose: “Russell Westbrook hates to run. Or, more specifically, he hates to run without a purpose. In high school, Westbrook was known as a relentlessly competitive player on the court, a 3.7 student in the classroom and a slug on the track. ‘He was embarrassingly terrible,’ his former coach Reggie Morris says. Westbrook agreed: ‘I can run all day in the gym, but I hate the track.’ This hatred is so deep-seated, he made it part of the recruiting process, asking every college coach the same question: ‘Do you guys condition on the track?’ According to Westbrook, UCLA coach Ben Howland said no track. ‘Guess what,’ Westbrook said, shaking his head. ‘First day of practice: on the track.’” MORE ON PAGE 50 In…

2 min.
baseball’s breakout stars for 2017

Kyle Schwarber C/OF | CUBS Schwarber tore his left ACL and LCL in just the third game of 2016 but returned to flash his amazing bat in the World Series (7-for-17, .971 OPS). His bat is so special that his potential this season, his third, is in the .310/.380/.580 range with 25 to 30 homers and 100 RBIs. Schwarber has exceptional bat speed, a clean setup and stance and a direct path to the ball that accounts for consistent sweet-spot contact. Alex Bregman 3B | ASTROS Bregman, the No. 2 pick in 2015 behind now-Braves SS Dansby Swanson, went 2-for-38 (.053) in his first 10 games of 2016. But from Aug. 5 to season’s end, he hit .313 with 34 RBIs and 24 extra-base hits, leading the Astros in all three categories over that time.…

1 min.

Free for Mag subscribers THE ONLY PLACE FOR EXCLUSIVE ANALYSIS AND CONTENT FROM OUR EXPERTS. HERE’S HOW TO BECOME AN ESPN INSIDER! Turn back to the cover and find your account number on the mailing label of your ESPN The Magazine. It starts with ESN and is 10 digits long. Fire up the internet and go to Enter your account number and click “Activate your Insider account.” Fill in the required fields to create an Insider member name and password. Click “Finish.” Congrats! You’re already smarter than the average fan.…

3 min.

I watched George Mason play UConn in a 2006 regional final of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament in my small postcollege apartment in Columbus, Ohio, with a handful of friends. We’d been spit out into the uncertainty of adulthood entirely unprepared, and we were hoping to witness a small miracle; in this era of our lives, miracles were how a lot of us survived. A surprise extra shift at the bookstore where I worked meant I could afford a few pizzas for me and my crew for the game that day. Finding $20 in the dryer meant I could pay my cellphone bill. The Patriots, from the Colonial Athletic Association, were a team of no stars and a couple of seniors, slow and not terribly exciting. Most of their buckets came…

5 min.
dominance defined

Connecticut women’s basketball should make us sorry for using the word “dominant” to describe anything else, ever. • The Huskies didn’t just head into the NCAA tournament with 107 straight wins. They pasted 59 of those opponents by 40 or more points. They held one (SMU) to two points in a quarter. They defeated 10 ranked teams this season despite losing their three best players from last year to the top three picks of the WNBA draft. UConn is simply on a different plane from the programs that should be its competitors, which makes it hard to evaluate the Huskies properly. They’re gunning for their fifth consecutive national championship, so you might compare them to dynasties across sports and throughout time: UCLA from 1967 to 1973, or the 1957-66 Celtics. But…

7 min.
the fall of giants

Decisions, decisions. For 11 years, as we have prospected for March Madness Cinderellas, our Giant Killers project has followed one principle: Isolate the statistical elements common to big favorites and deep underdogs from the past, so as to screen new contestants for those traits to predict the future. Works pretty well, but now—thanks to math professors Liz Bouzarth, John Harris and Kevin Hutson, our Giant Killer colleagues at Furman Universitywe’ve added a wrinkle, one that reflects more intuitively how humans make tough choices. It’s called decision tree analysis, and it allows us to look at all the Giant vs. Killer contests in our database (which dates to 2007), then ask a series of questions to split the games into purer and purer groups of matchups with similar outcomes—upsets and non-upsets.…