All in the Family: Episode 2

Posted by rtmsf on January 25th, 2011

We’re back with the second episode of AITF, a semi-regular piece that will take a closer look at each of the six power conferences to see what interesting tidbits relating to the national picture might be occurring.  And yes, for those of you asking, we’re still classifying the SEC as a power conference (even if KenPom has the Mountain West ahead of it). 

Power Conference Rankings

1.  Big East.

  • Everyone in the Big East has now played between six to nine conference games, so we have a somewhat decent sense as to how the pecking order in this league looks at this point.  So far, Pittsburgh (7-1), Villanova (5-1) and possibly Connecticut (4-2) have separated themselves in our eyes as the cream of the conference.  Syracuse (5-2) is just a shade below that group, but they’re going to have to figure out some things before we anoint the Orange among this year’s Big East elite – we’ll keep them at the bottom of the top tier for now, though.  The next level is a muddled mess of seven teams — Louisville, Notre Dame, West Virginia, Marquette, Cincinnati, St. John’s and Georgetown.  The most likely candidate from this group to play up to the next level is (unsurprisingly) Notre Dame after last night’s big win at Pitt, while the most likely candidate to fall completely apart is Steve Lavin’s Johnnies.  ND has already played the toughest part of its schedule whereas St. John’s is already sputtering and still faces four games versus the top tier (plus Duke and UCLA).  The lower tier — Rutgers, Seton Hall, Providence, South Florida and DePaul — isn’t likely to do much more than spring an occasional eyebrow-raising upset (witness PC’s win over Louisville on Saturday).
  • Notre Dame has been the beneficiary of the scheduling gods thus far.  The Irish have played nine games (6-3), winning five in the friendly confines of South Bend while going 1-3 away from home.  With nine games left, Mike Brey’s team has only four remaining contests at home, BUT five of their remaining games are against bottom-tier teams, more than another school in the mid-pack.  If the Irish can simply win all of those, they’ll already have eleven wins this season, good enough for an NCAA Tournament bid and a strong seed.  On the other hand, West Virginia, already with wins over three of the bottom tier en route to a 4-2 record, has four games remaining against the elites including a home date with Pitt. 
  • We’re simply not a believer in Louisville despite their 15-4 overall and 4-2 conference record.  The Cards shoot 41% of their attempts from three, and when the bombs aren’t falling, bad things happen.  In UL’s two bad performances this season, vs. Drexel and at Providence, Rick Pitino’s modern-day bombinos shot 8-39 (.205) from outside the arc.  When you keep in mind that the Cards have had a soft Big East schedule thus far and escaped Marquette on a miraculous comeback, it wouldn’t surprise us to see the wheels come off soon.
  • Rutgers is at 3-4 after defeating after defeating fellow bottom-dwellers South Florida and Seton Hall last week.  But credit is due to Mike Rice’s team for separating the Scarlet Knights a little from the true bottom of the barrel by beating those two plus Providence so far this season.  Having lost the personnel they did and to already be well past last year’s pace of five wins is a solid achievement even if the schedule toughens up from here on out.

2.  Big Ten.

  • There was some consternation over the weekend about Michigan State suffering its seventh loss of the season and whether that puts Tom Izzo’s team in danger of falling onto the bubble, and that worry is misguided at this point.  According to Pomeroy, MSU has played the toughest schedule in the nation to date, and various bracketologists (Glockner – #7; Lunardi – #6; Hayes – #6) as of this morning have the Spartans still feeling comfortable.  Still, the Spartans are a couple of bounces away from having lost six in a row (instead of three of six), and it’s clear that Michigan State is struggling to find answers.  Kalin Lucas still doesn’t appear to be himself, and the continued inconsistency of Durrell Summers and Delvon Roe remains perplexing.  Sparty needs to win its next three easily (vs. Michigan, vs. Indiana, @ Iowa). 
  • Big Ten schools must be so tired of Bo Ryan and Wisconsin.  Year after year no matter the personnel the guy finds a way to become an annoying thorn in the side of every team in the league.  After a road destruction of Northwestern in Evanston on Saturday, the Badgers sit at 5-2 in the league with four shots to overtake league leaders Ohio State and Purdue on the horizon.  Since the Big Ten expanded to an 18-game conference schedule, the Badgers have averaged a 13-5 record, with Purdue (13.3 wins) and Michigan State (13.7 wins) just barely ahead.  Would you bet against them? 
  • Illinois has been close-but-no-cigar in losses to Texas and Ohio State this season, and there’s a general sense that Bruce Weber’s team is just one little thing short of being truly elite.  That one thing is interior defense.  Despite having the very large Mikes (Tisdale and Davis) inside to man the post, Jared Sullinger and Tristan Thompson shredded the Illini frontline for easy scores when they needed them down the stretch.  If Illinois had made stops in those situations (in addition to losses to UIC and Wisconsin), they would very likely be 17-3 or thereabouts and sitting in the top eight of the polls. 
  • It’s no big surprise, but Northwestern’s NCAA prospects are dim and fading to black after the beatdown that Wisconsin put on the Wildcats Sunday.  Now at 3-5 in the league with Minnesota away followed by Ohio State and Illinois at home, it’s very likely that the next two weeks will finish them off.  The sad part is that both Michigan State losses were there for the taking; had Northwestern won those, we would be handicapping a very different situation.

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RTC Top 25: Week 9

Posted by rtmsf on January 10th, 2011

With all the ranked teams losing over the weekend, there was quite a bit of movement after the top six teams in this week’s poll.  QnD analysis after the jump…

(ed. note: we revised the original Top 25 after a data entry error surfaced)

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Vegas Odds to Win the Super Six Conferences

Posted by rtmsf on October 28th, 2010

Last week we took a look at the Vegas odds for the 60 or so teams that sportsbooks offer futures wagers on to win the 2011 national championship.  In a complete surprise to nobody, Duke was at the very top of the list, but there were several mild eyebrow-raisers in the slots after the Blue Devils — Kentucky at #2, Memphis at #5, UNC at #7.  This week we thought it might be interesting to take a look at another futures bet that is offered: the odds for each team to win its conference regular season title.  Again, these odds aren’t necessarily an indication of what Vegas “thinks” will happen; it’s more a combination of market forces and line shading toward the more popular teams.  But these gambling establishments are not in the business of losing money, so there are some nuggets of information that we can draw from their established odds (e.g., if you think anyone but Duke will win the ACC this season, you’re a steaming hunk of moron).  Let’s break it down.  Each conference will have a few thoughts after its table.

Ed. note: keep in mind that Vegas doesn’t set its odds to add up to 100%; if they did that, they’d never be able to sucker people and make any money on long-term futures bets.  So these percentages do not represent the “true” chances of winning the conference; rather, they represent what Vegas is willing to risk on those teams. 

Quick ACC Thoughts.

  • Are there any surprises here?  Not really.  Duke is a prohibitive favorite for a reason — even if they have injuries, there’s not a lot of depth to this league right now.  UNC, an NIT team last year who lost its top three scorers, getting love as a strong second tells you a lot about the uncertainty of this conference beyond the Blue Devils.
  • Vegas doesn’t like Virginia Tech nearly as much as the pundits — that clearly has something to do with its recent history as an underachiever. 
  • Look at Maryland pretty far down the list — that’s not a typical position for the Terps to be in under Gary Williams.  Given their “brand name” value-add, Vegas must really not be fond of Jordan Williams and company this coming season. 

Quick Big 12 Thoughts.

  • This is a crazy grouping at the top, with four schools basically acting as co-favorites — Baylor, Kansas State, Kansas and Texas.  Again we see another school (the Longhorns) living off its recruiting prowess and not its actual performance with such a high placement.
  • In our opinion, Missouri is a darkhorse candidate to not only win the Big 12 this season but also go to the Final Four.  Yet there the Tigers sit at +800 and 11.1%.  We’re not sure there’s a better value in this entire post if you’re so inclined.
  • There may not be a better duo in the Big 12 than Alec Burks and Cory Higgins at Colorado, but the Buffs aren’t getting any love from Vegas.  The CU situation is an interesting comparison with Georgia in the SEC — both teams bring back two all-conference caliber players from a mediocre squad last year.  Yet, while the experts seem to like the ‘Dawgs this year, Colorado hasn’t gotten the same traction.  Is it a Big 12 vs. SEC thing; is it the coaching (Mark Fox vs. Tad Boyle)?

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Morning Five: 09.24.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 24th, 2010

  1. Put.  The.  Phones.  Down.  UT-Chattanooga was placed on two years probation by the NCAA for “major” violations that AGAIN included a situation where the head coach John Shulman was busily texting recruits during a no-contact period.  The Mocs will not suffer a postseason ban as a result of these violations, but we simply cannot understand why coaches continue to fall victim to such an easily traceable mistake.  Every husband in the entire world knows that you don’t text or call your mistress using the phone that your wife can access — yet coaches seem oblivious to this codified man-law, so time and time again we see problems arise in this area.  Gary Parrish discussed this last week, but coaches have proven to be slow on the uptick here.  Get some burners, fellas — hell, use Skype — just stop this nonsense already.
  2. Speaking of Parrish, his latest article captures John Wooden’s mantra of “don’t mistake activity for achievement” really well.  Too many coaches waste too much time trying to recruit prospects that they never had a shot with to begin with.  To continue with the analogies, it’s like the guy who sadly yet consistently shoots for 9s when everyone in the bar knows that he should be focusing on the 6s.  Finishing second or third in recruiting is like hearing the click with five more bullets in the barrel — you end up in the same place regardless.
  3. Scathing.  That’s how we’d describe the latest piece by Fanhouse’s Ray Holloman about the Bruce Pearl/Tennessee recruiting violations that were exposed last week.  Better than any other article we’ve seen written on this situation, Holloman perfectly exposes the true underlying motives of the “executive officers of a multi-million dollar athletic program.”  The lesson here, and we sorta already knew it: treat these guys like politicians or CEOs by assuming that everything that comes out of their mouths is a half-truth or outright lie.  Start there, and then figure out the rest.
  4. We rarely mention women’s college basketball here but this was too bizarre to ignoreUNC-Wilmington head coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke (this is not a joke) apologized for a punishment that her assistant Johnetta Hayes put junior guard Julia Finlay through during practice on Monday.  Apparently Hayes forced Finlay to ‘log roll’ up and down the court at least twelve times in a row during a half-hour period as a penalty for getting booted from practice last week.  She’s suffering from plantar fasciitis, so incredulously, Hayes believed this would be an appropriate punishment in place of the normal sprints a player gets as punishment.  Finlay vomited several times during the “puke-and-roll”, and we’re pretty certain that a little piece of America died as a result of this story.
  5. “Dumb Catholic boys.”  Oh, Bob Knight, always making friends.  Just days after enjoying his roast in Hammond, Indiana, Knight took shots at both the NCAA and Notre Dame during a speaking engagement at the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Indiana yesterday.  In reference to whether Notre Dame should join the Big Ten, Knight ripped the ND brass, suggesting that being in the Big East in all sports other than football hurts their recruiting.  Surely this will come up at some point during Gameday with Digger Phelps this coming season, although we think we already know how this ends, right?  Do we even need to say it?
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Morning Five: 09.22.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 22nd, 2010

  1. Shaun Assael of ESPN’s The File Blog (Insider) published the complete 208-page transcript of Rick Pitino’s courtroom testimony from the trial of extortionist Karen Sypher back in July.  Even if you don’t have time to read all of it (and really, who does?), he gives a nice rundown of what Pitino the Man faced in the spring of 2009 at the time he first received extortion demands from Sypher, while Pitino the Coach was trying to win the Cardinals’ first-ever Big East title on the court.  Interesting primary source material there.
  2. While we’re on the subject of litigation, Tubby Smith may have saved himself a quarter-million bucks — well, the Hennepin County justice system may have — as the monetary damages awarded to Jimmy Williams from the trial against Smith and Minnesota was lowered from $1.25M to a cool $1.0M.  You may recall that Williams successfully sued Smith and the University of Minnesota for misrepresentation based on Smith offering Williams an assistant coaching job that led him to resign from Oklahoma State.  When UM athletic director got spooked by Williams’ association with prior NCAA violations at Minnesota, the school rescinded its offer.  Williams was left high and dry, and thus, the verdict went in his favor.  Minnesota isn’t satisfied yet, though, as the school plans to appeal to the Minnesota Court of Appeals in an effort to vacate the verdict completely.
  3. The Big 12 took the initiative and announced monetary settlements with Colorado and Nebraska on Tuesday that will allow both schools to become members of their new conferences — the Pac-10 and Big Ten, respectively — on July 1, 2011.  So what is the going rate for a conference buyout these days?  Try $6.863M for the Buffs and $9.255M for the Huskers.  Nebraska has a provision in its settlement that will allow it to reduce its penalty by $500k if the school is invited to a BCS bowl this football season.  Initially both schools were taking the stance that they owed nothing because the league was on the verge of dissolution, but saner heads prevailed and ultimately the fans of both sides (schools and conferences) will be better off for it.
  4. It’s down to Duke, UNC or Kansas for Rivals #1 player Austin Rivers.  Just over two years ago Rivers committed to play for Billy Donovan at Florida, but the nearby Gators are now officially off of his list in favor of three of the biggest names in the game.  He plans on visiting all of his finalists in October, including UNC (Oct. 8), Duke (Oct. 15 – Midnight Madness) and Kansas (Oct. 22).  Carolina is so juiced for his visit to Chapel Hill that they’re already writing haikus about the kid.
  5. In case you missed it, yesterday our very own columnist Andrew Murawa released the first of an eight-part series called In Their Words: Life at the Mid-Major Level, a tremendously informative overview of the difficulties that mid-major coaches and athletic staff face by virtue of limited resources and restricted budgets.  It’s not often that we promote our own stuff (note: this is not true), but the insights Murawa weaves from the voices of those at the mid-major level is well worth a read.  In Their Words will release every Tuesday morning for the next two months.
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NCAA Basketball 2010: The BCS Version

Posted by nvr1983 on April 2nd, 2010

With all the talk about the coming 96-team tournament, many in the sports media have forgotten that there is already another ridiculous major college sport championship in place: the BCS. We took you through this process in a post last year, but it’s worth going over again as the blogosphere is ablaze with opinions on changing our beloved NCAA Tournament.

Here are the basic ground rules:

  1. We are following the BCS Football guidelines as closely as possible. Obviously there are some differences. A college basketball team is expected to win more than 9 games (we kept a cut-off at a 75% winning percentage). We replaced the Notre Dame rule with the Duke rule since they both have sketchy TV contracts (Notre Dame with NBC and Duke with ESPN).
  2. I used the AP and ESPN/USA Today polls as the human polls and’s InsiderRPI,, and Sagarin’s ratings as the computer polls. The computer polls include data from the NCAA Tournament, but as you will see it didn’t affect the results that significantly.
  3. We used the traditional BCS calculations for determining each team’s score weighing the two human polls and the combined computer poll average as 1/3 of a team’s total score each.

Here are the results:

We will let you digest that for a minute and will provide more information/analysis and the BCS Bowls after the jump.

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Morning Five: 03.09.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on March 9th, 2010

  1. The rush of conference awards are rolling in…  here are some conference POYs that were announced on Monday: James Anderson, Oklahoma State (Big 12); Jerome Randle, California (Pac-10); Evan Turner, Ohio State (Big 10); Darington Hobson, New Mexico (Mtn West); Kevin Anderson, Richmond (A10).  As for conference COY: Matt Painter, Purdue (Big Ten); Steve Alford, New Mexico (Mtn West); Herb Sendek, Arizona State (Pac-10), Frank Martin, Kansas State (Big 12), Fran Dunphy, Temple (A10).  The ACC, Big East and SEC are expected to announce their choices on Tuesday.
  2. At the national level, The Sporting News has selected Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim as its national COY, and has listed their all-americans.  Their first team has five guards on it — John Wall, Kentucky (also FrOY); Greivis Vasquez, Maryland; Evan Turner, Ohio State; Scottie Reynolds, Villanova; James Anderson, Oklahoma State.  Of course, we think that’s cheating, and RTC will have its position-specific AA team later this week.  Watch for it.
  3. Next year’s Coaches vs. Cancer Classic will feature Pittsburgh, Maryland, Texas and Illinois as the four regional hosts who are slotted into the semifinals at Madison Square Garden the week before Thanksgiving.  This could be a very interesting and talented field if the majority of underclassmen on these teams decide to stick around, as they should.  Maryland and Texas lose some key pieces in Vasquez, Milbourne, James and Pittman, respectively, but there are a bunch of really good underclassmen on all of these teams.
  4. Talk about really early entry.  Seattle University’s Charles Garcia is wasting absolutely no time in declaring his intention to go pro this spring.  Seattle is an Independent, so their season is now over unless the Redhawks are invited to one of the lower postseason tournaments such as the CBI or CIT.  What is most notable about Garcia aside from his 19/8 scoring/rebounding average is his ability to draw fouls from the defense.  Garcia picks up an astonishing 10.6 fouls per game on his defenders, which as you may imagine, puts the 6’9 forward at the line nearly ten times per game.
  5. As always, here’s some great analytical work from Vegas Watch, who takes an alternative (and much more defensible) approach to seeding the field of 65.  Keep fighting the good fight, VW, with logic, reason and most importantly, data.
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ATB: Regular Season Coda

Posted by rtmsf on March 8th, 2010

The End of the Regular Season.  Since there was so much going on this weekend, we’re going to separate today’s ATB into two separate posts.  This post exclusively covers the major conference teams, none of whom have gotten to the postseason portion of their schedules yet.  We’ll also have another ATB tonight that solely focuses on the mid-major conference tournaments — that post is here.

It’s Kyle Kuric’s World, We’re Just Living In ItLouisville 78, #1 Syracuse 68.  Rick Pitino loves these games, as it takes him back to the early days of his coaching career as the underdog at Providence or his early probation-era Kentucky teams.  With a possible NCAA bid on the line and the air filled with the pomp and circumstance of the closing of Freedom Hall, the Cards found the unlikeliest of heroes in the second half after guard Jerry Smith hurt his thumb and had to leave the game.  A little-used sophomore by the name of Kyle Kuric who had logged eight scoreless games this season found a groove from seemingly everywhere on the court.  Dunks, threes, rebounds, assists, you name it — Kuric did it.  He scored all 22 of his points in the second half, including a stretch of four treys in five minutes that gave Louisville some breathing room as Syracuse kept going inside to their big men.  It was an unbelievable performance that you have to figure will never be duplicated in that young man’s career.  With the win, Louisville moved into the #6 seed in the Big East Tournament and will await the winner of Cincinnati and Rutgers on Wednesday.  As for Syracuse, we’re not going to read much into this loss on the road where UL was playing for everything and Jim Boeheim’s team was playing for nothing, but it should be noted that the Cardinals defeated the Orange twice this year, and the Cuse only lost three times.  The way that the Cardinal players attacked the SU zone in the two wins should be Cliff Notes material for every team that the Orange faces the rest of the way.  You have to have athletes who understand good offensive spacing, and it doesn’t hurt to have a Kyle Kuric draining everything he throws up, but it can certainly be done.

Think Louisville's Next Opponent Might Scout Him? (C-J/S. Upshaw)

KU HangoverIowa State 85, Kansas State 82 (OT).  This is why we’re not sold on K-State as a Final Four contender this year.  Mere days after getting run out of the gym against rival Kansas in the Phog, we would expect a top five team to rebound at home on Senior Day to obliterate a vastly inferior team like Iowa State.  Instead what we got was an uninspired performance by Frank Martin’s team that included poor shooting (34% FG and 3-23 from three) and even worse decision-making.  Often the K-State players decided on a forced shot when there were better opportunities available, and it showed as Denis Clemente and Jacob Pullen combined for 11-38 from the field (3-21 from three).  ISU led for most of the game, but when Kansas State finally tied it up in the last minute, you figured that the better team would eventually pull it out.  Didn’t happen.  There’s an element of undisciplined and scattered play that we’ve repeatedly noticed in the KSU attack this year, and while the Wildcats are definitely a dangerous team, Martin agrees that his team is not yet at a championship level of play.  It will be interesting to see how a team that doesn’t have a lot of postseason success to hang its hat on will handle going into the Big 12 Tournament next week as the #2 seed.

Quincy Acy, Dunking Machine.  We had to mention this because we’re not sure we’ve ever heard of such a thing.  In Baylor’s win against Texas on Saturday, forward Quincy Acy had 24 points on 12-15 shooting, an amazing ten of which were on dunks.  Acy is a very nice swing player, but it’s not like he’s Shaq or Dwight Howard standing in the paint all night.  How a single player can throw down that many dunks, many of which were earth-shaking in force, is as indicative as anything that Texas’ defense has checked out for the season.

Acy is a Raging Dunkaholic (AP/M. Bancale)

Conference Recaps.  As of tonight, there’s only one regular season game left (Penn-Princeton), and it’s meaningless to the national picture, although certainly important to fans of that rivalry.  Let’s recap how the final weekend of the regular season shaped up in the major conferences.

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ATB: Ashton Gibbs Had It All Along…

Posted by rtmsf on March 5th, 2010

Close Calls.  In two closer-than-expected games, #12 Michigan State and #18 Pittsburgh held on to their positions in the Big Ten and Big East, respectively, with quite a bit still on the line.  For MSU, it’s a shot at a shared Big Ten regular season title; for Pitt, it was a double-bye in the Big East Tournament next week.

  • #18 Pittsburgh 73, Providence 71.  In a closely contested game throughout, it was Ashton Gibbs who saved Pittsburgh from what would have been their worst loss of the season at full strength (the IU loss in December was without several players).  With 3.5 seconds remaining, Gibbs (25/4/3 assts) received the ball at the right hash mark on the opposite end of his basket, took two dribbles before stopping and pulling up from about 28 feet to drain a game-winning three at the horn.  The bucket moved the Panthers to 12-5 in the Big East, and with a win over Rutgers this weekend in combination with a Villanova loss to WVU, the preseason-unranked kids from the Steel City would be the #2 seed in next week’s Big East Tournament.  Simply amazing considering the talent in that league this year.

Ashton Gibbs: "I Got This." (PPG/M. Freed)

  • #12 Michigan State 67, Penn State 65.  We’re really not going to fall into this trap that Tom Izzo likes to set for us seemingly every year.  His teams always win a bunch of games, but many of those wins seem to come by a mere point or two, and they also lose a few more than you might expect.  Then the Spartans get into the NCAA Tournament and the very same players who were somewhat underwhelming during the regular season put it all together for another run to the Final Four.  So we’ll reserve judgment on this year’s MSU team until we see what happens later this month.  Tonight Penn State had the ball with five seconds remaining but they were unable to get a shot off to win or tie the game.  With the win, MSU moves to 13-4 in the Big Ten and the Spartans will host rival Michigan this weekend to try to tie Ohio State (and possibly Purdue) for the top record in the league.

Should Washington Join the Bubble Conversation Along With Ole Miss, Dayton and Arizona State?

  • Washington 86, Oregon 72.  With an RPI of #53, twenty wins, and a better strength of schedule than its bubble peers Mississippi State and Virginia Tech, shouldn’t the Huskies at least be in the conversation?  They’ve beaten Texas A&M, Portland and Cal, which is a resume of quality Ws at least as good as Mississippi State (best win: Old Dominion), Dayton (best win: Xavier) and Virginia Tech (best win: Clemson).  We’re well aware how down the Pac-10 has been this year, but just because everyone has already seemed to decide that it’s a one-bid league shouldn’t make it necessarily so.  The resumes need to speak for themselves, and we’re having trouble understanding the difference between the above teams.  Quincy Pondexter had 34/10/6 assts in tonight’s win.

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RTC Top 25: Week 17

Posted by rtmsf on March 1st, 2010

Only one more of these after this week, and then unlike our football counterparts, they become completely irrelevant.  Analysis after the jump…

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