Set Your TiVo: 12.01.11

Posted by bmulvihill on December 1st, 2011

Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @themulv on Twitter.  See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

The conference challenges roll on as the Big East / SEC Challenge gets started with two games at home for the SEC.  Let’s take a look at the action for Thursday night.

John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats face another young team in St. John's in the Big East / SEC Challenge

St. John’s at #1 Kentucky – 7:30PM EST on ESPN2 HD (**)

  • After a quick 3-0 start, St. John’s has dropped its last three out of four including a home loss to Northeastern. With such a young team and Steve Lavin’s health situation, Red Storm fans should expect this type of up and down play all season. The Red Storm have four starters scoring in double figures, but their bench is extremely thin. When faced with an athletic, hard-charging team like Kentucky fatigue will probably be a factor by the second half. While the Red Storm shoots a very respectable 54% from two, their three-point shooting is an abysmal 27.7%.  Look for Kentucky to pack the lane and clean up the defensive boards.
  • Kentucky’s defense has been incredible all year. Granted the Wildcats have not faced an extremely difficult schedule thus far, they are still holding teams to an eFG of 36%. Additionally, their block rate is an astronomical 25%. If St. John’s continues to struggle from outside the arc and cannot extend the Wildcat defense, expect a block party in Lexington. The UK offense is firing on all cylinders as well. John Calipari’s team has five players averaging double figures and key contributors off the bench in Kyle Wiltjer and Eloy Vargas. If Kentucky continues to play offense and defense like they have thus far, this game will not be close.
  • Playing in Lexington is a tall task for any team. However, playing without your coach (Lavin needs more time to recover from prostate surgery) and playing with such a young team makes the task nearly impossible. While St. John’s may be able to keep the game close for a short period of time on sheer athleticism, expect this one to get ugly by the second half.
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SEC Morning Five: Thanksgiving Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on November 24th, 2011


  1. Alabama’s 6-0 start has put the college basketball community on full alert. Pat Forde of Yahoo! Sports writes about the ten things that have impressed him so far in this early season, and Alabama’s solid play is the first mention. He cites the excellent defense from Anthony Grant‘s Crimson Tide and assertiveness of forward Tony Mitchell. Mitchell and his thunderous dunks have been impressive thus far, helping this Alabama squad enter the discussion as one of the SEC’s best teams, an exclusive club of which they were not a member in the preseason. Grant’s exciting athletes and intense defense has brought praise not only for the Crimson Tide, but the legitimacy of the Southeastern Conference.
  2. But don’t get too comfortable, Alabama fans. The injury bug that has hit multiple SEC teams thus far is headed to Tuscaloosa. JaMychal Green was held out of Wednesday’s game Alabama A&M with a hip pointer. And the Tide’s leading scorer, Mitchell, left the game on crutches. The Daily Bama Blog reports that Mitchell’s injury appears to be only a sprained ankle.  “When it happened I’m sure it was painful, but I think our medical staff will do a great job making sure he’s healthy,” coach Grant said. A huge sigh of relief for Alabama as both Mitchell and Green are crucial to the Tide’s success. Alabama returns to action Sunday against VCU, and both players should be back in action.
  3. The guys at Anchor of Gold spent some time praising Jeffery Taylor’s outstanding defensive presence. Taylor was assigned to Oregon State star Jared Cunningham who was coming off a 35-point effort against Hofstra and a 37-point massacre of Texas. When Taylor matched up with Cunningham one-on-one, Cunningham went 2-6 and managed 7 points in 28 minutes of action. Defensive specialist Dai-Jon Parker spelled Taylor for spurts and held Cunningham to 2 points in 8 minutes. Taylor and Parker’s perimeter defense remains key to Vanderbilt‘s success this season. A number of athletic and high scoring guards from Kentucky, Florida, and others will come into Nashville this season, and Taylor will need to repeat his “ferocious” defensive effort for the Commodores to continue to string together victories.
  4. John Calipari‘s Kentucky Wildcats played a little 2-3 zone in their 88-40 route of Radford on Wednesday night. “I think it’s something that we need to think about doing some,” Calipari said. “And we’ve got to get better than we are right now.” A zone could be a viable option on defense for the Cats because of Kentucky’s length and athleticism.  “I don’t see us giving up wide-open shots because we’re so big,” Calipari said about the possibilities of playing more zone. “I would probably do it with a big lineup so that every shot is a contested shot.” Kentucky has just over a week and a half to figure out what defense to play before the Cats take on the number one ranked North Carolina Tar Heels.
  5. It’s an abbreviated Morning Five today as we encourage you to enjoy the holiday. And of course, enjoy lots and lots of college basketball. Happy Thanksgiving to all SEC fans. May your dunks be thunderous and your defense be ferocious.
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Breaking Down the Play: The Effectiveness of Alabama’s 2-3 Zone

Posted by Brian Joyce on November 21st, 2011

Breaking Down the Play is a regular feature during the season to provide in-depth analysis on the Xs and Os of an SEC team. Today’s Breaking Down the Play goes in depth on Alabama’s use of the 2-3 zone.

Alabama’s defense is the key as to whether the Crimson Tide will simply make the NCAA Tournament or advance deep into it this season. Anthony Grant’s teams always pride themselves on the defensive end, and this year he has the athleticism to compete with anyone. JaMychal Green, Tony Mitchell and Trevor Releford fill the stat sheet on offense, but it’s their length and hustle on the other end that earns their team marks in the W column. For the perfect example, Alabama’s rematch with Wichita State shows how much difference a year can make. In last year’s game, the Shockers shot 50% from the field, including 46.7% from three-point land. This year was a different story. Friday night, Wichita State shot just 33.8% from the field. Alabama was extremely active on the defensive end throughout the game, but Grant’s switch to a 2-3 zone in the second half ended any chance the Shockers had at making a comeback.

Below are three defensive plays by Alabama that show the effectiveness of its 2-3 zone against Wichita State:

Play 1 (11:09 remaining in second half)

Alabama switches to a 2-3 zone, and displays excellent spacing throughout the floor. The Crimson Tide defenders are prepared to cover almost any area of the court. The first picture shows the end of the defensive set for Alabama as Wichita State has allowed the shot clock to dwindle down to nine seconds.

The Tide are spaced out in the 2-3 zone

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Alabama’s Defense the Key to Making the NCAA and Beyond

Posted by Brian Joyce on November 20th, 2011

Alabama didn’t make the NCAA Tournament last year. Even though they were a bubble team by the end of the year, the Crimson Tide didn’t have the resume necessary to get over the hump. They just weren’t able to string together enough quality wins (or any quality wins other than a home win against Kentucky, a team that struggled mightily on the road in the SEC last season) to make a good argument. But this year, the Tide are hoping things will be different.

If Alabama continues to play the kind of defense they have played thus far this season, there is no reason that Bama won’t make it to the Big Dance. They have plenty of opportunities to get good resume wins (games against Georgetown, Detroit, Oklahoma State and many others, not to mention conference games against the big three in the SEC). But Friday night’s rematch of the NIT championship game against Wichita State proves this year’s Bama squad is much different than last year. Unlike 2010-11, Alabama will win big games because of its improved defense.

JaMychal Green and company hope to go dancing this season

Alabama’s defense has been smothering so far. In four games this year, the Tide are holding opponents to 34.9% shooting from two-point range and 22.5% from outside the arc. They are dominating the rebounding battle as well, including a +18 rebounding margin against Maryland this past week. Here are some quick stats showcasing the Tide’s dominant defensive performances from Alabama’s first four games:

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ACC Game On: 11.17.11 Edition

Posted by KCarpenter on November 17th, 2011

ACC Game On will periodically review recent games involving ACC teams and take a look forward at key upcoming matchups.

The Atlantic Coast Conference remains unbeaten, although it took a timely jumper by North Carolina State’s Deshawn Painter to maintain the currently perfect winning record of all conference teams. The Wolfpack’s game against Princeton was the highlight of a mostly lackluster slate of games last night. Mark Gottfried‘s team, already playing without C.J. Leslie, lost Scott Wood to an ankle injury two minutes into it. That, combined with insanely hot shooting by Princeton in the first half made a manageable game suddenly very challenging. Despite being down by three at the half, N.C. State rallied behind the sterling play of Lorenzo Brown to pull out the win in the final seconds. Brown led the team in points, assists and steals, contributing sixteen, eight, and five respectively, as well as snagging five rebounds.

Lorenzo Brown Came Up Big For N.C. State

Clemson and Florida State easily took down their opponents, using highly effective offenses to complement already lethally effective defenses. Both teams shot over 50% from the field, with Florida State managing an impressive 57.1%. For Clemson, the all-round play of Tanner Smith has continued to help the Tigers in myriad ways. Smith led his team in assists and rebounding while also scoring eleven points.

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Set Your TiVo: 11.17.11

Posted by bmulvihill on November 17th, 2011

Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @themulv on Twitter.  See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Now that you have fully recovered from ESPN’s 24 Hours of Hoops Marathon, it’s time to jump into the first of the exotic preseason tournaments.  The Puerto Rico Tip-Off gets going today, along with the big boys’ rounds of the 2K Sports Classic benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer.  Let’s take a look at the action.

Maryland vs. #16 Alabama – 5:00 PM EST on ESPN2 HD (**)

JaMychal Green and Anthony Grant Lead Alabama into the Puerto Rico Tip-Off

  • Rarely do you see a team hit zero three-point shots and still win a game.  However, that is exactly what Maryland did in its first game of the season against UNC-Wilmington.  The Terps finished 0-9 from downtown, but managed to drain 58% of its twos.  Mark Turgeon’s squad is going to have a tough time hitting such a high percentage of shots inside the arc against Alabama’s vaunted defense.  While Terp forwards James Padgett and Ashton Pankey both scored in double figures in the opener, neither consistently demands enough attention to take scoring pressure off the guards.  Sophomore guard Terrell Stoglin needs to have another big game in order for the Terrapins to have a chance.  If the Alabama defense can lock him up, there is not enough fire power elsewhere on Turgeon’s team to beat the Crimson Tide.
  • Alabama is all about defense.  They picked up right where they left off last year giving up only 0.8 points per possession through their first two games of the season.  However, senior forward JaMychal Green should not be overlooked as a big time offensive threat.  Green is averaging 18 points per game in only 25 minutes of action per night.  Coach Anthony Grant’s team needs to improve its shooting, though.  Alabama shot under 50% eFG in 20 of it’s 37 games last season and that trend is continuing again this season.  While they finished a remarkable 10-10 in those games because of a stellar defense, it’s very difficult for a team to have major success shooting under 50% eFG.  If the Tide is hitting more than half of its shots against Maryland, the game will not be close.
  • This game hinges on Maryland’s ability to create baskets in transition.  Maryland plays at a much faster pace than Alabama.  If they get locked down in a halfcourt match-up with the Crimson Tide defense, the Terps’ offense will bog down because they do not have enough weapons in the low post.  The team that dictates the pace and style of this game will ultimately win.

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ACC Team Previews: Maryland

Posted by mpatton on October 27th, 2011

Maryland was very unlucky last season. It ranked 330th out of 345 schools according to Ken Pomeroy’s statistical “Luck” element, falling just in between ACC compatriots Clemson and Georgia Tech. However, the team’s flaws contributed as much to its close losses as anything else. First and foremost, Sean Mosley took a step back from a very promising sophomore season and became a virtual non-factor on offense. Terrell Stoglin‘s brilliant play masked Mosley’s absence for much of the season, but the lack of a consistent third option killed the Terrapins down the stretch. Additionally, Jordan Williams had an Achilles’ heel: poor free throw shooting. Williams was the rock of last year’s Maryland squad, but his inability to shoot foul shots well forced him to take on a reduced role at the end of games.

Terrell Stoglin and Jordan Williams Would've Made a Dynamic Duo at Maryland

Looking back at Maryland’s year is like reading The Little Engine That Could(n’t). Gary Williams‘ squad was competitive, only being blown out twice by a middling opponent (once by Miami and once by Virginia Tech). Those two bad losses, though, were balanced byonly two decent wins (vs. Clemson and Florida State). For whatever reason Maryland couldn’t break into that next tier last year.  The year was so frustrating that after hearing Jordan Williams was departing for the NBA Draft, Hall of Famer Gary Williams departed for the cool breezes of retirement. While inconsistency — especially on the recruiting trail — marked the last few years of his tenure, Williams-coached teams regularly flourished during ACC play in the early 2000s especially the 2002 National Championship team headlined by Steve Blake, Lonny Baxter and Juan Dixon. But the stresses of constantly having to reload from lost players and assistant coaches finally caught up to the head coach after Jordan Williams left his team with very few players and nothing to speak of in the front court. The good news is that the very capable Mark Turgeon was hired away from Texas A&M to take the helm in College Park. Read the rest of this entry »

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SEC Morning Five: 10.25.11 Edition

Posted by Gerald Smith on October 25th, 2011

  1. The Southeastern Conference’s official preseason media poll was released yesterday. You know what that means: Time for Nerdfightin‘! It is hard to argue against Kentucky being picked as the overwhelming favorite to win the conference championship. Receiving 18 (of 23 total) first-place votes, the Wildcats topped Vanderbilt (four first-place votes), Florida (one first-place vote) and Alabama (no first-place votes). South Carolina was voted the last place team.
  2. Also ripe for your nitpickin’ and message board forum fighting: the media’s All-SEC Teams. Kentucky sophomore Terrence Jones was voted SEC Player of the Year and joins Vandy’s John Jenkins and Jeffery Taylor, Alabama’s JaMychal Green and Mississippi State’s Dee Bost on the First Team All-SEC list. Three more Kentucky players — senior Darius Miller, sophomore Doron Lamb and freshman Anthony Davis — join Vanderbilt’s Festus Ezeli and Florida’s Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker as members of the six-player Second Team All-SEC.’s Gary Parrish threw the first nerdfight punch when he complained that Anthony Davis (like former Kentucky player John Wall before him) should be on the preseason First Team since Davis is arguably the most-talented player in the conference. We tend to agree and wonder why if there can be a six-member Second Team why there couldn’t be a six-member First Team?
  3. Hope you didn’t miss our piece on Christian Laettner‘s appearance in Rupp Arena last night. Another player with more recent Kentucky history made an appearance during the Big Blue All-Stars exhibition game: Former Wildcat Enes Kanter. The Turkish-born Kanter was ruled ineligible by the NCAA for accepting benefits above an allowable amount while part of Turkish club team Fenerbahce. At last, Enes was freed, but his first game at Rupp was slightly underwhelming. Kanter looked out-of-sorts with the pace of the game and his NBA peers. Eager to involve the big man, All-Star teammate Rajon Rondo tried working with Kanter on several pick-and-roll plays; Kanter was surprised at the speed of Rondo’s bounce passes and lobs. Eventually Kanter settled into cleaning up offensive rebounds, made some mid-range jumpers and finished with 14 points and 10 boards. But his performance was not the kind of dominating debut Kentucky fans were hoping to see of the highly-sought big man.
  4. Free Missouri! The school seemingly wants to join SEC Expansion 2011: ALL YOUR TEAMS ARE BELONG TO US. Though in a meeting of Big 12 presidents and athletic directors Monday evening, Mizzou did not formally withdraw from the conference. Interim Big 12 commissioner Chuck Neinas told the Kansas City Star that, “a strong desire for the University of Missouri to maintain its Big 12 affiliation was expressed” at the meeting. Yet when asked after the meeting about the Big 12, Missouri chancellor Brady Deaton said, “I wish them the best and all that. So we’ll see where that goes.” Sounds like where that is going is the SEC offices in Birmingham.
  5. One of Missouri’s concerns about a move to the SEC is how it would affect Kansas City. The Big 12 will likely no longer hold its annual basketball tournament in KC. When Mizzou’s Board of Curators directed Brady Deaton to explore other conference options, they gave him explicit instructions to set up a holiday tournament for Kansas City. There is some pessimism regarding the success of a team-oriented tournament; ESPN’s Andy Katz wrote, “few power-six schools play in these non-exempt two-game tournaments anymore. … Most non-elite tournaments have shut down because of the difficulty of scheduling these games.” We think the next best option is to make a semi-home conference game in Kansas City with a familiar foe: Texas A&M. The two schools could promote the game as “The Battle for the Greener Pastures“.
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SEC Morning Five: 10.19.11 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on October 19th, 2011

  1. Jason King wrote his first article since joining the ESPN crew on what he knows about college basketball. He wrote, “The Big East will (again) be the country’s top conference this season, but I’m more excited about the SEC. Kentucky, Florida and Vanderbilt are Final Four contenders, and no team intrigues me more than Mississippi State.” I couldn’t agree more. It will be a great season to be an SEC basketball fan.
  2. Gary Parrish of CBS turned in his 50 player ballot for the Naismith Award. Lots of SEC love as ten conference players made the list, including five Kentucky players. The SEC list consists of Brad Beal (Florida), Dee Bost (Mississippi State), Anthony Davis (Kentucky), JaMychal Green (Alabama), John Jenkins (Vanderbilt), Terrence Jones (Kentucky), Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Kentucky), Doron Lamb (Kentucky), Jeffery Taylor (Vanderbilt) and Marquis Teague (Kentucky). If you love lists, and since you’re reading one now I bet you do, you will love the excellent coverage at as they have also unveiled a list of the Top 100 players in college basketball and a Preseason All-America list. Of course, the SEC is well represented on both with Vandy’s Jenkins placing as a first team All-American. However, it was Jeff Goodman’s placement of Terrence Jones on his fourth team All-America list that sent mobs of angry Kentucky fans Goodman’s way. Goodman placed Thomas Robinson of Kansas on his first team over Wildcats Anthony Davis and Jones. I ask you, loyal SEC fans, is the best power forward in the country from the SEC?
  3. Not sure whether to add ESPNU to your cable package? Well, ESPN released its television schedule with more than 1,450 regular season and Championship Week games across ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPN3, ESPN4… sorry, I got carried away. The release is a 23-page document with 11,122 words in it, so make sure you have a couple of hours to go through it all. Just want the highlights? College Gameday will visit the SEC once in Nashville for the Kentucky/Vanderbilt matchup on February 11. Super Tuesday returns with a Big Ten/SEC doubleheader on ESPN, and an ACC/SEC doubleheader on ESPNU. That should make your decision on ponying up a few extra bucks for the U a little easier. Finally, the SEC Tournament semifinals and championship games will be televised nationally on ABC.
  4. It was initially believed that Florida may violate NCAA rules by using two basketballs during game action to ensure they have enough shots to go around for their ball-hoggin’ backcourt, but a Gainesville Sun article says Billy Donovan is impressed with the unselfish behavior of his guards. He pointed out that point guard Erving Walker has taken the third fewest shots on the team in the early going of practice. Donovan said, “he has really tried to grasp and understand who he is playing with on the floor. His assist to turnover ratio has been really good. I think he has an idea of the challenges in front of him.” Donovan has challenged his point guard to lead the SEC in assists this season. We’ll have to wait and see if Walker accepts that challenge, but he seems to be distributing the ball well in the early going.
  5. Kentucky fans who have been clamoring for more Dribble Drive Motion Offense will finally get their wish. On his website, John Calipari wrote his six observations from the first six days of UK’s practice. In number six, Cal wrote, “this may be a Dribble Drive team. Instead of using it 30 percent of the time, we may use it 70 percent of the time. They’re reacting quickly and they’ve got a feel for what’s going on. They’re doing pretty good with it.” The outspoken head Wildcat has never been one to hand out too much praise for his Wildcat teams, especially early on, but he’s been nothing but positive to start out this year. He even agreed with former Kentucky coach Joe B. Hall when Hall said that this year’s team is “way ahead of where we were a year ago.” That’s great news for Cat fans who will be quick to remind us that last year’s Final Four team wasn’t too shabby.
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SEC Morning Five: 10.18.11 Edition

Posted by Gerald Smith on October 18th, 2011

  1. A dramatic turn in SEC Expansion 2011: ALL YOUR TEAMS ARE BELONG TO US! The New York Times’ Pete Thamel reported yesterday evening that Missouri‘s application to the SEC was “inevitable and imminent” according to an unnamed source close to the process. Thamel also reports that the SEC Presidents will accept Missouri’s application barring any legal problems that would complicate the school’s exit from the Big 12. (For the sanity of the nation, somebody please keep Baylor President Ken Starr from registering the domain name Missouri’s Board of Curators will be meeting later this week and may actually finalize an application to the SEC.
  2. What has been the hold-up for Mizzou? An excellent article published last weekend by the Kansas City Star relates the differing opinions of Missouri’s conference alignment with the diverse population. The article does an excellent job of showing that Missourians’ identity is a mixture of sub-identities: the cowboys of the west plains, the farmers of the northern midwest, the traditionalists of the south and the big-city indifference from St. Louis. If each of these factions are represented on the Mizzou Board of Curators, then perhaps we finally understand why the school has been very deliberate in making its decision.
  3. Vanderbilt’s Festus Ezeli should try being more deliberate when making travel decisions. Over the summer the senior center accepted a furnished meal and hotel room from a Vandy alumnus; a violation specified somewhere in the NCAA Huge Book O’ ByLaws. Vanderbilt Athletics self-reported the violation and he will sit out the Commodores’ first six regular season games. He will return for Vandy’s November 28 game versus Xavier. Vanderbilt’s Vice Chancellor David Williams said in a released statement that, “we have a very good compliance education process in place and this incident shows how easily someone can fall astray, even with the best intentions.” Remember, Vandy student-athletes: Don’t accept any illicit gifts, even if the gift is a near-mint copy of Detective Comics #27.
  4. It’s pretty easy to deduce that the quote war between Kentucky head coach John Calipari and Louisville head coach Rick Pitino is nothing but a little hype from two coaches that don’t necessarily get along with each other. A Lexington-area sportscaster often jokes that Pitino and Calipari are acting like “a bunch of catty schoolgirls”. Yesterday, CBS Sportsline’s Gary Parrish believes he discovered a new layer of cattiness with the Wildcats head coach: The recent emphasis of the phrase “Players First Program” to describe Kentucky is to trump the Cardinal’s newest team phrase of “Louisville First.” We tend to disagree. Most of Coach Cal’s “Players First” talk was in direct build-up of his “State of the Wildcat Nation” speech. The emphasis about “Players First” was primarily given in sections of the speech written directly for the 2012 recruits attending and those who didn’t attend but would watch the highlights later. Additionally Calipari had no problem directly dissing Coach Pitino during his speech: He left out Pitino when referencing a list of former coaches and explicitly omitted the 1995-96 National Championship team (led then by Pitino) when listing some of the great Wildcat teams of the past. The coaches will probably not stop being snippy until the Cards and the Cats play on New Year’s Eve in Rupp Arena. Maybe we should take away their cell phones and ground them from going to the mall until the game.
  5. Full team practices launched over the weekend. Check out my homeboy Brian Joyce’s SEC Practice Report from yesterday for a detailed look. Bryan ran out of time before he could preview Alabama. ‘Bama is returning one of the most powerful and experienced frontcourts in the nation which includes senior forward JaMychal Green and junior forward Tony Mitchell. Last season the Crimson Tide struggled to find consistent shooting from deep. (Last season only then-senior guard Charvez Davis made more than 40 three-pointers in the season [71].) The additions of freshmen Trevor Lacey, Levi Randolph and Rodney Cooper will more than make up for Davis’ departure due to graduation. In an interview after ‘Bama’s first practice Green said, “I think we’re a better scoring team. We’ve got better 3-point shooters this year. We have more than one.” If head coach Anthony Grant can find multiple consistent deep threats from his freshmen, they will spread out defenses and let Green and Mitchell feast in the middle. Mmmmmmm… post-up play.
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