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  When UM athletic director got spooked by Williams’ association with prior NCAA violations at Minnesota, the school rescinded its offer.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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Morning Five: 08.18.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 18th, 2010

  1. It was unsettling kind of day, as two lawsuits involving high-major coaches were settled yesterday.  Perhaps they saw Louisville coach Rick Pitino’s fifteen seconds of infamy and decided to hedge their bets, but former Seton Hall head coach Bobby Gonzalez and current Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy both settled their ongoing lawsuits yesterday.  Gonzalez was embroiled in a wrongful termination suit with Seton Hall after getting the axe in March on the heels of a  public blowup with the law school dean, claiming he was owed two more years of salary.  Kennedy settled his defamation suit against a cab driver and valet over a dust-up in 2008 where the pair accused the coach of using racial slurs because the cabbie wouldn’t allow the five people in Kennedy’s group into his vehicle (the max is four).  Details of both settlements were not released, which is just as well for everyone involved.
  2. While on the topic of lawsuits, the Pitino/Sypher saga won’t die in Louisville.  Defense attorney James Earhart now claims that he has new information that specifically leads him to believe that some of the prosecution’s witnesses perjured themselves while under oath.  He’s asking for a 45-day extension to further research these allegations and believes that it will ultimately lead to a mistrial on appeal.  Maybe this is Earhart’s way of saying that it might have been a good idea to call some witnesses who could have impeached their testimony during the trial?
  3. The legacy of John Wooden will live on in the form of the contents of his den — all the hundreds of pieces of memorabilia that the Wizard held onto over the years — which will be moved en masse over to the UCLA campus for fans to enjoy as a virtual Wooden terrarium.  We’ve already got plans to visit UCLA’s JD Morgan Center later this year to see this.
  4. We had the privilege of seeing all six of Butler’s NCAA Tournament games live last year, and in each game more than the last, we came away impressed with the poise and abilities of the Bulldogs’ Shelvin Mack.  Luke Winn writes that Mack, more than any other player on the summer circuit of camps and USA Basketball, has elevated himself to the point where he’s getting rave reviews from veteran guards in the League.  Case in point: Mack was chosen over quite a few big names for his spot on the USA Select team, players such as Scoop Jardine, Scotty Hopson, Jacob Pullen and Jimmer Fredette.  Could Mack, Ronald Nored and Matt Howard propel Butler toward another Final Four next year?  They may be closer than conventional wisdom says even after losing star forward Gordon Hayward.
  5. Fanhouse put together a cool idea — figuring out who should make up the College-Forever team.  Using the general criteria of great collegiate players who barely earned a cup of coffee in the NBA (or none at all), who would populate your top three teams of the modern era (1985 to present)?  We only saw one major omission, and that was Arkansas’ Scotty Thurman, who despite a brilliant college career never logged a single second in the NBA.  Nevertheless, he was an absolute assassin for Nolan Richardson’s “40 Minutes of Hell” Razorbacks, winning multiple games with his smooth stroke in late-game situations, most notably from the wing over Duke in 1994.  He should have been on the first-team over Ed Cota, and at worst second-team.  Cool concept, though.
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Morning Five: 08.06.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 6th, 2010

  1. Good grief, could yesterday have been any busier in the college basketball world on a random August Thursday?  Between the Karen Sypher verdict, the release of several holiday season tournament brackets, coaching APRs and eligibility issues flying around, it felt like January around here.  Let’s talk Pitino
  2. The Chicago Sun-Times in response to its writer Michael O’Brien’s allegation (later removed) that Kentucky had paid Anthony Davis‘ family $200,000 in return for his commitment?  _________________________________________(crickets chirping)___________________________________________.  A slightly revised article on the S-T website, “Davis No Longer a Hidden Talent,” makes no mention of any payment nor offers a retraction or correction of any sort.
  3. On a normal summer day, we might have a blast with this story from Kansas that they’re enlisting the help of students to redo their fight song now that Colorado and Nebraska are no longer members of the Big 12.  The winner will be announced on Oct. 23 this fall at Homecoming, but we can already say that the winner in our hearts and minds will be the clever student who comes up with a ditty trashing Texas, Texas A&M and Oklahoma for holding the rest of their conference brethren over the proverbial barrel and bringing it Deliverance-style in June.  C’mon, KU fans.  Send us something smart.
  4. We dove into the Maui Invitational tournament brackets yesterday, in part because it has the best field and also because of the potential juicy Kentucky-Washington semifinal matchup, but several more tournament brackets were released as well.  Ready for some .pdf brackets?  The CBE Classic (Duke-Marquette and Gonzaga-Kansas State in the semis); the 2kSports CvC (Pitt-Maryland and Illinois-Texas); the Old Spice Classic (Ladies, look at your man…); and the 76 Classic were all bracketed yesterday.  Andy Katz has a tremendous breakdown of all the best pieces of the various tournaments here. 
  5. The gray line between advisor and agent is holding up the NCAA’s confirming the amateur status of Kansas’ Josh Selby, according to’s Gary Parrish.  The question of Selby’s amateurism stems from an association with fellow Baltimore native Robert Frazier, who acts as Carmelo Anthony’s “business manager” and has admitted he acted as an “advisor” to Selby and his mother during his recruitment.  Parrish’s article also contains quotes from Bill Self and Selby’s mom, neither of whom sound terribly worried.
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Morning Five: 08.05.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 5th, 2010

  1. The University of Kentucky responded with some legal saber-rattling as a result of yesterday’s Chicago Sun-Times article that alleged a $200,000 payment to super-recruit Anthony Davis.  In parsing the letter from UK’s attorneys to author Michael O’Brien, we find it notable that the second paragraph asserts that no member of UK or its athletic department “offered or paid any money or other illegal benefits to the [redacted] family.”  That’s all fine and well, but even the most naive of us knows that direct payments from universities to players is soooo ’80s.  All the money and illegal benefits run through runners and wannabe agents these days.  We’re not saying any payment of any kind was made to anyone in this case, and in fact it’s most likely that O’Brien simply soiled the bed here, but we do find it interesting how the UK legal team strategically phrased that paragraph.
  2. In the ongoing saga known as the trial of Karen Sypher, the defense rested yesterday without so much as calling a witness.  This is an interesting legal strategy, but it clearly represents that Sypher’s attorney believes that the prosecution didn’t meet its threshold of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.  The jury will now deliberate on what they’ve heard over the last two weeks and we should know the result presumably in the next day or two.
  3. The Legends Classic bracket was released yesterday, with Syracuse, Georgia Tech, Michigan and UTEP slotted into the semifinal round in Atlantic City, New Jersey during Thanksgiving weekend.  The Yellow Jackets will face UTEP in one semi, while ‘Cuse will play Michigan in the other.  Keep an eye out for the release of the bracket (featuring UConn, Michigan State, Kentucky and Washington) for arguably the best 2010 holiday tournament, the Maui Invitational, later this afternoon.
  4. Ready for a trip down memory lane?  This re-published Hartford Courant article from June 1986 discusses UConn’s fresh new hire, a fiery New Englander who goes by the name of Jim Calhoun.  The other two finalists for that (at the time) woeful job?  Fairfield head coach (and current Siena top dog) Mitch Buonaguro and Canisius head coach Nick Macarchuk.  Amazing.  Calhoun said that leaving Northeastern to take the UConn job was the hardest thing he’d ever done, a statement that seems borderline absurd colored by a quarter-century of history but made complete sense at the time (NE was in much better shape).
  5. This LA Times article about college basketball announcing icon Dick Enberg is mostly about his current gig doing local television games for the San Diego Padres, but there are several jewels in the piece relating to our game.  You can tell he has a deep fondness for the sport, referring reverentially to Final Four Saturday, John Wooden (“Other than my own father… the greatest man I have ever known.”), and Al McGuire throughout the article.  Great read; make sure to check it out.
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Morning Five: 08.04.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 4th, 2010

  1. The big news of the day came from East Lansing, as twice-consecutive Final Four team Michigan State announced that it will no longer require the services of rising senior guard Chris Allen, a player who started 27 games last season and averaged 8/3/2 APG in a balanced offensive attack.  Tom Izzo stated that Allen had not met the standards required by him as a player in the MSU program, but he will help Allen transfer to another D1 program for his senior year (incidentally, Allen is the first player Izzo has ever booted).  After a year sitting out as a transfer, some lucky school will be the beneficiary of an athletic perimeter defender with the ability to knock down threes in rhythm (40% last year and 97 on his career).  As for preseason top five team Michigan State, the general consensus is that this loss will be negligible.  Their depth in the backcourt just got much thinner, but the feeling is that Korie Lucious, Durrell Summers and Keith Appling will be able to handle the additional burden.  Frankly, we believe that Izzo could take a team filled with incorrigible circus animals to the Final Four, so the Spartans will be fine.
  2. If you believe Tre’Von Willis‘ lawyer, the senior UNLV guard facing domestic battery charges in Sin City expects to play a full season for the Runnin’ Rebels this coming season.  Willis is accused of choking his girlfriend in late June, but his attorney pleaded not guilty for him today and his preliminary hearing will not occur until November 22.  This could mean that any possible trial on this matter (if it came to that) could begin well into 2011, potentially freeing him up to play the entire season.
  3. The Big 12 announced its conference composite schedule yesterday, and we’re happy to report that both Sunflower State showdowns will be televised nationally this year.  The game in Lawrence is slotted for Saturday, January 29 (ESPN), and the return game in Manhattan is two weeks later on Valentine’s Day.
  4. Can you imagine a 20-team Big East that covered land from Kansas to NYC east-west and Boston to Tampa north-south?  Yeah, half the country, basically.  Adam Zagoria reported yesterday that the conference was looking at this opportunity should the Big 12 have ultimately disbanded earlier this summer.  In a related matter, Big East commissioner John Marinatto emphatically denied the persistent rumor that the conference was set to add Memphis to its lineup.
  5. Count Mike DeCourcy among those who think the renewed calls for Rick Pitino to be fired from Louisville to be meritless.  It doesn’t really make much sense to us either, so little in fact that even last summer we never seriously entertained the idea that Pitino might actually lose his job there.  As we all know, basketball is serious business in Kentucky, and Pitino has done very well (although not extraordinarily so) there.  To fire him now (or last summer when the allegations came out) would not only put a huge financial burden on the school, but it would also set back the recruiting arms race that the arrival of John Calipari on the scene in Lexington has put into overdrive.  As for the Sypher trial, the prosecution rested its case on Tuesday; it’ll now be up to the defense team to poke tortellini-sized holes into it.
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Morning Five: 08.02.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 2nd, 2010

With the summer heat frying most of the nation, it only seems like this summer has been interminable.  But over the weekend, the calendar flipped over into August and we’re actually closer to the start of a new college basketball season than we are to the end of the last one.  Savor it.

  1. The Rick Pitino/Karen Sypher trial will continue today and we’ve already had too much fun for a quarter-minute encounter.  Some of the excitement is over now that Pitino has finished testifying but a key question is whether Sypher will actually be convicted as a result of this mess.  KSR examines the possibilities, coming to the conclusion that there’s no slam dunk among the group of charges against her.  They also highlight the top ten moments from last week’s testimony, and make sure, if you read nothing else this week, to read #1.
  2. Third on the Flourishing Five list was a bit of a surprise to us — Ohio State.  We figured that the Bucks would be one of the top two (along with Texas).  Now it seems that Florida will join UT at the top, but which school will end up at #1?  Three or four years ago, UF would have been easily first, but nowadays that’s a tougher case, isn’t it?
  3. BiaH shows off his Excel skills with the consensus top 100 rising seniors coming out of the July evaluation period.  Everybody seems to love Mike Gilchrist long time.  Austin Rivers, the #2 player coming out of the summer, is apparently a chip off the old doc (not our pun).  Seriously, though, if Calipari gets both of these players, it could be Wall/Cousins part two.
  4. We learned over the weekend that the reason for Bob Huggins’ fall that resulted in seven broken ribs and a five-day stay in the hospital was due to him becoming lightheaded after taking medicine on an empty stomach.  Cover story, much?  This article posits that either Huggins is a) injury-prone, or b) has a dangerous medical condition that he should probably get checked out, considering that this was his third collapse in an many years where he hurt himself.
  5. CNNSI’s Andy Glockner takes a look at some of the most prominent expected impact transfers coming into new programs in 2010-11.  Steve Alford’s New Mexico program stands to gain the most, with two high-impact players coming in the form of former Tennessee forward Emmanuel Negedu and UCLA forward Drew Gordon.
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Morning Five: 02.01.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on February 1st, 2010

  1. See that number two up there?  Yeah, the second month of the year… folks, it’s February.  Although a short month in terms of days, it’s not short on importance.  In fact, it’s without a doubt the most important month of the regular season, as a majority of teams will make or break their case for the Big Dance over the next twenty-eight days (Selection Sunday is seven weeks from yesterday).  Right now there’s a pool of roughly 75 teams in contention for the 34 at-large NCAA berths, and as each week goes by, that number will continue to shrink.  Buckle in and enjoy, because it’s time to separate the pretenders from the contenders.
  2. The New York Times takes a look at the domino effect that would likely occur if or when the Big Ten makes a decision to expand by one or more schools.  The best part of this piece is Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon throwing the Big 12 under the bus by comparing quality of academics at certain [not unnamed] institutions.
  3. John Wall, on his game and coach, John Calipari after beating Vandy on Saturday:  “I didn’t think I played that bad. I don’t know what to expect. [Calipari]’s probably going to say I played bad today too so. I don’t know. I just try not to listen to him and go out and play basketball and try and help my team win.”  Is the presumptive #1 pick in this June’s NBA Draft hitting the proverbial wall?  His five least efficient games of the season came in January (Georgia, Vandy, South Carolina, Louisville, Auburn), and he’s only shooting 39.5% from the field and committing 4.2 turnovers/game in SEC play.  Are teams figuring out how to handle Wall, or is he losing some of his focus?
  4. We’re still trying to track down a photo of this, but the WVU student section came up with a creative response to the AD’s criticism that they were not acting appropriately during last week’s game against Ohio State (a few F-bomb chants were thrown around).  They printed up white t-shirts that looked like tuxedos with the slogan “Keeping it Classy Since 1863” written across the back.  In the spirit of benevolence, they then proceeded to chant Rick Pitino paramour Karen Sypher’s name throughout the game.
  5. You’ve probably already heard that President Obama was at Saturday’s Duke-Georgetown game in DC.  If you haven’t heard his segment as a commentator with Verne Lundquist and Clark Kellogg, you can check it out below.  But in one of the great all-time examples of why political writers should never write about sports (and vice versa), check out this pool report from the NY Post’s Charles Hurt.  Hurt couldn’t have misunderstood, well, just about everything, any worse than he did in his piece.  Taking shots at liberal elitism?  Talking about the “kick-off” and the “playoffs?”  Completely missing the tongue-in-cheek back-and-forth between Obama and the CBS team about “going left?”  Good grief.  Clearly Hurt has never witnessed a basketball game in his life.
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Morning Five: 12.23.09 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on December 23rd, 2009

It’s a travel day around here, which we’re sure is also true for many of you out there in Hoopsland.  Apologies if things get a little quiet after tonight, as there is only one game over the next three days (Saturday’s West Virginia at Seton Hall tilt).  Have a safe, happy and tremendous Christmas celebrating however your family chooses to do so (or not at all), and remember to give that little extra, whether time, attention, or cashmoney, to those in need this weekend.  Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everyone!

  1. Georgetown’s Nikita Mescheriakov will transfer at the end of the semester, according to school officials, marking the fifth such transfer from the Hoya program in the last three seasons.  Mescheriakov wasn’t getting much playing time as JT3 continues to utilize a very short bench this year, but we wonder if his style of coaching isn’t grating on some of these players who are leaving?
  2. Rick Pitino has suspended forward Terrence Jennings for Wednesday night’s game against Louisiana-Lafayette for an undisclosed violation of team rules.  Recall that in October Jennings and teammate Jerry Smith were involved in an altercation with police outside of a party in nearby Jeffersonville, Indiana.  Speaking of Coach P, Karen Sypher pleaded not guilty yesterday to (new) charges of retaliation against a witness.
  3. Tubby Smith is acting the role of the eye-rolling parent by stating yesterday that the status of Royce White, who retired from college basketball and the University of Minnesota in a strange YouTube clip we wrote about last week, has not changed.  Probably for the best.
  4. Hear about that UK2K thing from Monday night?  Check out this cool graphical interpretation of the winningest programs in college basketball history by decade.  Trust us, you’ll enjoy it.  Promise.
  5. This is fairly interesting. rated the top 25 “franchises” in both professional and college sports for the 2000s.  Their top CBB “franchises?”  #10 – North Carolina, #13 Kansas, #17 Michigan State, #20 Florida, #22 Duke.  Interesting how that matches up with our very own Team of the 2000s we set forth last summer — same top five, slightly different order.
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Morning Five: 11.19.09 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on November 19th, 2009


  1. The holidays are approaching and lucky for us, Karen Sypher truly is the gift that keeps on giving.  Ms. Sypher was charged today by a Louisville grand jury with the federal crime of retaliation against a witness for accusing Rick Pitino of raping her.  In plain english, this means that the grand jury found no reason to believe her claim that Pitino raped her (same as the police).  Yep, just tack that one onto all the others — extortion, perjury, etc. — if she keeps it up, she might just end up doing some serious time over all this nonsense.
  2. The SI guys (Seth Davis, Grant Wahl and Luke Winn) give us their preseason selections for various categories in bite-sized form, but isn’t it a week late for this, fellas?  (ed. note – ok, got it — it was for the magazine)
  3. This is a nice piece by Alexander Wolff on the precocious career of Josh Pastner at Memphis.  Gary Parrish also has something to say about this year’s scrappy Memphis team.  We’re a little late to Pastner’s bandwagon, but after what we saw last night in terms of strategy, energy and fight, this guy is going to be around for a very long time.
  4. This was an interesting study done by professors at Indiana (where else?) that looks at the incidence of fouls called on college basketball teams over the course of a season.  The findings were compelling, but commonsensical: a) aggressive teams are rewarded by physical play by officials’ (unconscious?) tendencies to “keep it even” in terms of foul calls over the course of a game; b) home court advantage is a clear predictor of foul differential (+7%); and c) the greater the foul differential, the more likely it is that the next foul will be called on the team with fewer fouls.  We haven’t vetted the data or methodology but most everything sounds reasonable at first blush.  The smart coaches have known this for years, and even the not-so-bright ones know that teams that clutch, hold and grab on every possession can’t get called for everything.  The only possibly confounding factor not accounted for would be if the teams that are behind in the game get more aggressive through the course of play, which explains why there’s a greater likelihood of the team with fewer fouls getting whistled more often in this situations.  Interesting study.
  5. Former FIU star and RTC Impact Player Freddy Asprilla has committed to Kansas State as a juco — another great get for Frank Martin, who is putting together a nice program there in the Little Apple.
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Pitino Enjoying Life to Its Fullest

Posted by rtmsf on October 8th, 2009

Sometimes even the spinniest of spinmeisters can make us guffaw out loud (GOL?) with their ridiculousness. 

Louisville head coach Rick Pitino could literally have his arm up to his elbow in the cookie jar and find a way to deliver a condescending lecture on why we shouldn’t be looking in the direction of that jar in the first place.  The guy is like Pooh Bear searching for the honey pot, Lucy holding the football and Wimpy asking for a hamburger all wrapped into one person – his memory capacity runs in nanofractions and he expects us to all blindly follow along.  Baghdad Bob himself must have eschewed Noam Chomsky’s treatise on propaganda in favor of one of Pitino’s missives, so artfully does he dwell in alternate universes of reality. 

Pitino With Yet Another Reach (photo credit: EH Shepard)

Pitino With Yet Another Reach (photo credit: EH Shepard)

From today’s lecture speech by Pitino at the Louisville Tip-Off Luncheon, Pitino was quoted as saying a number of things, including that he thinks his team will be very coachable this year, Edgar Sosa will become one of the best point guards in the nation, and that Louisville’s backcourt can stand up against anyone in America.  All of which are possible, perhaps even plausible on certain days.  But, oh, there was also this jewel:

Louisville coach Rick Pitino insists that he’s having one of the best years of his life.

Really.  After a mostly embarrassing summer where Pitino spent several press conferences apologizing to his wife/kids/players/fans/employer by invoking 9/11, playing the hapless victim, fibbing about health insurance, berating the media and telling everyone to focus on the important things like basketball, he has decided that 2009 represents one of the best years of his 57-year old life.   Well, let’s see about that, shall we?

Below is an enlightening chart that SI’s Luke Winn created to describe the fortunes of the Louisville program since the team was upset in the Elite Eight last March by Michigan State (coincidentally, not one of Pitino’s better coaching moments).  As you can surmise, anything below the black line is a negative thing.  Anything above it is positive.  (h/t CNNSI)  What do you guys think about Pitino’s latest claim? 

luke winn chart

Oh, we get it.  Bad means good; best means worst; and so on.  Like the kids used to say…

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