Kentucky’s Youth and Inexperience: Does It Matter?

Posted by KDoyle on January 25th, 2012

Kevin Doyle is an RTC correspondent. Follow him on Twitter @KLDoyle11. He filed this report from the Kentucky-Georgia game in Athens Tuesday night.

Shortly after the Top 25 poll was released for the week of January 23, Kentucky head coach John Calipari was no doubt a bit uneasy seeing his Wildcats perched atop of the rankings. In Kentucky’s first stint as the #1-ranked team in America back in December, they fell to an upstart Indiana team in what has been, without question, the game of the season to date. The Wildcats led in the final minute, but two late missed free throws allowed the Hoosiers to have one final shot to win it and the rest, as they say, is history. Fast forward a month and a half and 11 games — all UK victories, by the way — and Kentucky found themselves in a similar position. In an article released by The Louisville Courier-Journal recently, Calipari explains how experiencing adversity and knowing what it feels like to lose again may not be the worst thing in the world:

I did tell them the way this is going, we probably need a loss so that we’ll come together and say, ‘We’re not losing like this.’ In other words, getting manhandled. We’re getting manhandled and winning close games, so they think it’s OK. So my thing is, let’s take it on the chin. Now whatcha gonna do? You going to say it’s OK? I don’t think they’re going to say it’s OK.

In last night’s contest at Stegeman Coliseum before a sold-out crowd of Georgia fans (although Big Blue Nation certainly made their presence felt), Kentucky was the team that did, as Calipari would call it, “the manhandling.” It was not the most aesthetically pleasing basketball game to watch as the teams combined for a mere 101 points, but Kentucky powered their way to a comfortable 13-point victory, 57-44. Georgia hung around for much of the first half, but after the under-four media timeout Kentucky exerted their will and coasted. The Bulldogs never got within single digits in the second half.

The Unibrow Is a Dominant Defender Only Scratching the Surface of His Ability

Looking back at Cal’s remarks, it is easy to side with him and say that a tough loss may be good for team morale as it would ostensibly rally the squad together and force them to refocus. He can say that the target is even bigger on their backs now since they are riding a 12-game winning streak, undefeated in the SEC, one of only three 20+ game winners, and the #1 team in the country. But, let’s be honest, they are the University of Kentucky — Big Blue Nation — the target is always on their back and every time they step on the floor the spotlight is squarely on Cal & Co. Would a loss change Kentucky’s mindset as to how they approach a future game?

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Morning Five: 12.08.11 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on December 8th, 2011

  1. It was a busy day in the ongoing Bernie Fine investigation. The District Attorney investigating the case at Syracuse has come out and said that the allegations by Zach Tomaselli, the third alleged victim of abuse, do not match up with the evidence. While the District Attorney did not give many details about the potentially exculpatory evidence, he said it challenged Tomaselli’s claims about his whereabouts at the time of the alleged abuse and would be handing it over to Fine’s defense team. He also added that the claims by the other two alleged victims appeared to be credible while criticizing The Post-Standard for not handing over the recently released tape that many point to as the tipping point in Fine’s firing even though it would not have led to a prosecution of Fine at the time because the statue of limitations had passed.
  2. One of the strangest traditions in college basketball will occur again this Friday night when Taylor University takes on Ohio-Midwestern in what is known as the “Silent Night” game. As part of the tradition, which is nearly two decades old at this point and is held on the Friday before finals week, the Taylor fans are to remain silent until the team scores its tenth point of the game at which point they will finally cheer. Then at the end of the game they will sing “Silent Night”. Fortunately, the Trojans are pretty good (#21 in the NAIA D-II poll) or the silence could go on for a long time. If you are interested in watching this, the game is available online for $4.95 (hey, we just bring you the news; we aren’t telling you to actually buy it).
  3. Oregon suffered a major blow when Jabari Brown decided to transfer, but they will be getting a boost in the form of Minnesota transfer Devoe Joseph, who will finally get to play for the Ducks this Saturday against Fresno State. Joseph, who averaged 11.3 PPG and 3.5 APG in his last season at Minnesota before deciding to transfer after being suspended, should immediately be one of Oregon’s top offensive threats and could be the piece that helps them stay towards the top of the Pac-12 despite the early season defections.
  4. This season has been an unmitigated disaster so far for UCLA and yesterday it got a little worse as freshman guard Norman Powell had to be taken to the hospital after suffering an allergic reaction at practice and will remain in the hospital overnight for observation. According to reports, Powell broke into hives and had trouble breathing during practice before being transferred to Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center where he was stabilized. Given the severity of the reported symptoms and the fact that they are keeping him overnight for observation, we would be surprised if Powell played in the team’s next game, which is against Penn on Saturday.
  5. Finally, we don’t typically find mailbags that interesting, but Seth Davis manages to make his worthwhile by finding a handful of good questions and making some interesting points. This week’s edition is no different as Seth talks about tempering expectations for freshmen including those of a fan who compares Ryan Boatright to Kemba Walker and delves into the Scott Machado debate. As usual we agree with Seth on most of the stuff he says and as we have pointed out before people tend to overreact to the performance of freshman as well as many other things. As for Machado, we agree that he is a great college point guard, but it will be tough to glean too much from his performance the rest of the regular season due to a mediocre remaining schedule so in the end most of the nation will be forced to judge him based on his NCAA Tournament performance.
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Night Line: Tu Holloway States Early Case For Nation’s Best Point Guard

Posted by EJacoby on November 29th, 2011

Evan Jacoby is an RTC columnist. You can find him @evanJacoby on Twitter. Night Line will run on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s slate of games.

As is the case every year, guard play dominates college basketball. A lead guard’s responsibilities – facilitating offense, team leadership, and defensive execution – are essential to a team’s success. In Monday night’s exciting matchup between Xavier and Vanderbilt, the point guards essentially decided the outcome. In crunch time of a tight game, Vandy’s Brad Tinsley made poor decisions for his team; while Xavier’s Tu Holloway dominated on both ends of the court to lead his team to an overtime road win. He’s already had his name in the conversation since preseason, but tonight Holloway made an early statement for why he — not Kendall Marshall, not Jordan Taylor, not anyone else — is the nation’s best point guard. The senior displayed in Nashville why he’s he capable of leading Xavier to a special season.

Xavier's Tu Holloway Shot His Team Past Vanderbilt on Monday Night (Credit: Mark Humphrey, AP)

Holloway is one of the true do-it-all players in the country, and he makes it look easy with his poised demeanor. He plays the game at his own, controlled speed and knows when to kick it up an extra gear for big moments. Tonight was a clinic in that respect, as Holloway sealed the game with back-to-back three-pointers in overtime, where he poured in 10 of his game-high 24 points. He also totaled five rebounds, four assists, and just one turnover in 42 minutes while hitting nine of his ten free throws. His 6-20 shooting line wasn’t the most efficient offensive output you’ll see from him, thanks in part to a solid defensive effort by Vandy, but his command of the floor and complete contributions ultimately led his team to a road win in Nashville.

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Big East Morning Five: 11.21.11 Edition

Posted by mlemaire on November 21st, 2011

  1. The biggest basketball-related story in the conference is still the allegations that Syracuse assistant coach Bernie Fine molested two former ball boys, but we would prefer to cover the reactions in more depth in a post to run later this morning. That said, it is worth noting that recruiting has already been affected as highly regarded Class of 2014 prospect and New York native, Isaiah Whitehead, dropped the Orange from his list of schools. It’s worth pointing out that Whitehead won’t be matriculating anytime soon, so plans could change based on how the story develops, but in reading the quote from Whitehead’s mother, she didn’t exactly leave the door wide open. Whitehead’s high school coach later told ESPN New York that Whitehead’s mother was confused and thought the allegations were about head coach Jim Boeheim. Regardless of the truth, the rumors and accompanying misinformation are indicative of the fact that Boeheim will have his work cut out for him on the recruiting trail as these allegations continue to swirl.
  2. It was a rough weekend in their home gym for Steve Lavin and St. John’s. Hosting the 2K Sports Classic, the Johnnies held Arizona to 41% from the floor but turned the ball over 17 times in an 81-72 loss to the Wildcats in the semifinal. Then, in the third-place game against Texas A&M, Lavin’s young club went just 22-38 from the free-throw line including two missed by Nurideen Lindsey with 2.3 seconds left that made the difference in a 58-57 loss. But the low point was undoubtedly having Anna Cate Kennedy — daughter of Aggies’ new coach Billy Kennedyreceiving her fair share of credit for the win for her ear-splitting screams during St. John’s free-throw attempts. The story is old by now so not much else needs to be said, but it can never be fun when the media only half-jokingly claims you were beaten by a seven-year-old girl.
  3. While some Big East teams have struggled against lesser opponents in the early going, Marquette has not been one of them. The Golden Eagles scored their third 30-point win last night, a 96-66 win over Mississippi in the Paradise Jam semifinals, to improve to 4-0 on the season. The hometown Milwaukee Journal Sentinel quotes head coach Buzz Williams in saying “we have struggled defensively.” I am not sure what numbers he is looking at, because the Golden Eagles currently rank No. 22 in defensive efficiency, but since they are No. 6 in offensive efficiency, I guess defense is the “problem.” The real issue will be deciding on a starting point guard, where Vander Blue and Junior Cadougan are battling for the majority of the minutes.
  4. As if the country needed any more proof about the ability of Connecticut sophomore Jeremy Lamb, the All-American candidate sprained his ankle in Saturday’s practice and still scored 25 points in 37 minutes against an overmatched Coppin State team. Coppin State is not very good, but Lamb was apparently touch-and-go for the game even as he arrived at the arena. There are still some doubters who think UConn can’t repeat without star guard Kemba Walker. Those people need to start watching Lamb because as good as he was last year, he is going to be a different player this year.
  5. There was lots of high praise for the Cincinnati Bearcats heading into the season. Letting an underwhelming Presbyterian team rally for a 56-54 win after being down 15 points with less than eight minutes to play is the kind of dud to make that praise look foolish. CBS Sports columnist Gary Parrish gave the loss his “loss to hide from” this weekend and deservedly so. Mick Cronin‘s team better hope they don’t end up on the bubble when February rolls around, because that kind of embarrassing loss, even early in the season, won’t look great in the eyes of the tournament committee.
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Focal Point: Shabazz Napier

Posted by mlemaire on November 16th, 2011

Junior co-captain Alex Oriakhi may be Connecticut’s elder statesman, sophomore Jeremy Lamb may be the team’s best player, and freshman center Andre Drummond may be the team’s best NBA prospect, but even coach Jim Calhoun knows that sophomore point guard Shabazz Napier will be the key to the Huskies’ success this season. Calhoun admitted as much to CBS Sports’ Jeff Goodman more than a week ago, but most Huskies’ fans didn’t even need Calhoun’s affirmation to understand just how vital Napier will be to the team’s chances at repeating.

Shabazz Napier just might be the key to Connecticut's chances of repeating as National Champions

A Massachusetts native, Napier was rated the No. 25 point guard in the class of 2010 and became an instant contributor for Jim Calhoun’s squad. Of course, despite playing 23 minutes and averaging nearly eight points per game, those contributions were merely an afterthought thanks to the performance of star guard Kemba Walker. Napier spent most of the regular season playing in Walker’s rather large shadow, spelling him when he was tired and playing lockdown perimeter defense on opponents. But as the season progressed, Calhoun needed Napier’s steady hand and perimeter defense on the floor in crunch time, and his season peaked in the Final Four when he hit a pair of game-clinching free throws in the team’s 56-55 victory against Kentucky.

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Behind the Numbers: Considering Point Guard “Purity”

Posted by KCarpenter on November 10th, 2011

Kellen Carpenter is an ACC microsite staffer and an RTC columnist. Each week, BTN will take an in-depth look at some interesting aspect of college basketball’s statistical arcana.

The phrase “pure point guard” is loaded. It implies that there is a Platonic notion of point guard which all mortal players can only aspire to. We are just fools in a cave looking at a shadow on the wall, but that is all we have when the purest conception of the point guard is beyond our field of vision. I can only assume that this unknowable figure looks something like Bob Cousy. It also implies that outside of “pure point” play, there exists a realm of impure play where the division of basketball labor isn’t as orthodox as it is inside Plato’s basketball cave.

This is What a Pure Point Looks Like

In a point guard, “purity” is code for being a pass-first lead guard. To the traditional school of thought, the roles on a basketball team are strictly regimented: The point guard passes, the shooting guard shoots, but not as much as either forward. The center, near-immobile but Mikan-like in his hunger for loose balls has a single task: rebound the basketball and get it to the point guard. Of course, this idea of the traditional division of labor in basketball hasn’t really held since the days of Mikan himself. Modern basketball, by which I mean basketball since the mid-sixties, has embraced the hybridization of positions. Basketball has for years acknowledged the idea that team roles are mutable and that positions are flexible.  While few have embraced the full-on positional revolution explicated by Bethlehem Shoals and the NBA-heads of the dearly-departed Free Darko, most of us have made peace with the idea that it’s okay for point guards to score occasionally. Kemba Walker and Jimmer Fredette were the break-out stars of the past college basketball season and both undoubtedly play point guard in a thoroughly impure way. If those guys aren’t pure then shouldn’t we all hope to be dirty?

In all seriousness, the concept of the purity of the lead guard is a silly concept to dwell on. Still, like all sports cliches, the idea persists because it’s a convenient way to sum up the play of pass-first point guards, who somehow pay homage to a golden era of basketball which is more than ancient history. Still the idea of the pass-first point guard is an intriguing one in this era of high-scoring combo guards. Like the crocodile, the pass-first guard is a relic of a by-gone epoch, a living fossil and a reminder of the dinosaurs who ruled the earth during that time. Is the crocodile a better predator than the tiger? This isn’t a debate that I’m interested in. The pass-first point guard, by mere value of their odd, antiquarian style is a unique species worth studying.

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RTC Top 25: Preseason Edition

Posted by KDoyle on November 7th, 2011

Today is the day! Not only does this evening mark the opening night of college hoops, but it is also represents the unveiling of our preseason edition of the weekly Top 25. From now until the conclusion of the regular season, you can count on our editing team here at RTC to provide you with their rankings of the Top 25 every Monday afternoon. In the interest of full disclosure, we’ll be sure to show our editors’ ballots so if you’re wondering how on earth your team could possibly be ranked so low, you’ll know who the culprit is that didn’t give your guys the respect. In conjunction with the rankings, we’ll also provide our quick ‘n dirty analysis that notes any trends and interesting items each week to give the poll a little more context. To see how we did last year, check out our 2010-11 preseason poll – some good (Butler, Kentucky); some not so much (Michigan State, Villanova).

QnD after the jump…

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Where 2011-12 Happens: Reason #9 We Love College Basketball

Posted by rtmsf on October 28th, 2011

Another preseason preview gives us reason to roll out the 2011-12 edition of Thirty Reasons We Love College Basketball, our annual compendium of YouTube clips from the previous season 100% guaranteed to make you wish games were starting tonight. We’ve captured the most compelling moments from the 2010-11 season, many of which will bring back the goosebumps and some of which will leave you shaking your head in frustration. For the complete list of this year’s reasons, click here. Enjoy!

#9 – Where Broken Ankles Happens

We also encourage you to re-visit the entire archive of this feature from the 2008-09, 2009-10, and 2010-11 seasons.

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20 Questions: What is the Best November Tournament This Season?

Posted by dnspewak on October 24th, 2011

Danny Spewak is the RTC correspondent for the Sun Belt Conference and a Big 12 microsite writer.

Question: What is the Best November Tournament This Season?

The pick: Maui Invitational

Participants (with preseason rank): Island: Duke (#6), Memphis (#9), Kansas (#13), Michigan (#18), UCLA (#20), Tennessee, Georgetown, Chaminade; Regional: Belmont, Middle Tennessee, UNC Greensboro, Towson

The theme at the Maui Invitational this fall is history. Sure, it’s impressive that the field includes five teams ranked in the preseason Top 20 in the Coaches’ Poll, but the bracket will also provide us with all kinds of wonderful nostalgia. On one side of the bracket, Duke and Michigan might play a rematch of the 1992 National Championship in the semifinals; or, Memphis and Tennessee could battle for in-state supremacy once again (except the game is, you know, in Hawaii). The possibilities are endless — and that’s the case on the other side too. The winner of Georgetown/Kansas will likely face UCLA, and those three programs have 15 combined NCAA titles. And hey, if Memphis and Kansas keep winning, they could meet in a rematch of the 2008 title game. Mario Chalmers won’t be allowed in the building this time.

John Wooden is Just One Legend This Historic Tournament Will Remind Us Of

At this point, you may be physically shaking at some of these matchups. We don’t blame you. That’s how enticing these games are: they’ve got historical value, star power, legendary coaches and terrific fan bases. And you think that’s all the 2011 Maui Invitational has to offer? Take a look at the regional rounds, which also includes Belmont, widely considered one of the top non-BCS programs this season with the majority of an NCAA Tournament team returning. The Bruins dominated the Atlantic Sun in 2010-11, and it’ll face Duke in the regional round of this tournament at Cameron Indoor Stadium. The result of the game won’t determine who flies to Hawaii — Duke will automatically advance — but the Bruins are likely to put a scare into the Blue Devils (2008 NCAA tourney, anybody?).

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Who’s Got Next? More Eligibility Issues, Prospects Discuss Midnight Madness, Big Men Make Big Commitments

Posted by Josh Paunil on October 19th, 2011

 

Who’s Got Next? is a weekly column by Josh Paunil, the RTC recruiting guru. We encourage you to check out his website dedicated solely to college basketball recruiting, National Recruiting Spotlight, for more detailed recruiting information. Once a week he will bring you an overview of what’s going on in the complex world of recruiting, from who is signing where among the seniors to who the hot prospects are at the lower levels of the sport. If you have any suggestions as to areas we’re missing or different things you’d like to see, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Lead Story: Trio of Class of 2011 Prospects Experiencing Eligibility Issues

This Is Probably How Bill Self Reacted When His Two Top Freshmen Were Ruled Ineligible.

Kansas Duo Out For 2011-12 Season, Louisville’s Blackshear In Danger. Kansas freshmen small forward Ben McLemore  and power forward Jamari Traylor were ruled ineligible by the NCAA, head coach Bill Self announced Friday. The pair of forwards were declared partial qualifiers meaning they can’t take part in any team activities until the beginning of the second semester and can’t participate in any games in the upcoming basketball season. This comes as a shocker since the Jayhawks’ coaching staff thought the duo would indubitably qualify although this isn’t the first time Kansas has had trouble with freshman qualifying. Just last month, the NCAA deemed freshman power forward Braeden Anderson a partial qualifier who can’t accept a scholarship for the 2011-12 school year. Louisville freshman shooting guard Wayne Blackshear is also undergoing eligibility issues. Although Cardinal head coach Rick Pitino remains optimistic regarding Blackshear’s chances of being cleared, this isn’t the first time a Louisville freshman faced eligibility issues either. Last month, shooting guard Kevin Ware (yes, that Kevin Ware) was ruled ineligible for the year although he could play games in the spring semester if his SAT scores increase (which he’ll be re-taking next week).

What They’re Saying [About Midnight Madness]

We’ve had a lot of coverage here at RTC on Midnight Madness from the best events to the best dunks and the best stories via Twitter, but now we get to take a look at what the best prospects in the country had to say about the celebrations to kick off the college basketball year.

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The Ultimate Kentucky Villain Will Coach In Rupp Arena

Posted by jstevrtc on October 4th, 2011

Kentucky basketball fans, get ready. He…is…coming.

Just under two weeks ago, several Kentucky outlets reported that another one of these NBA lockout-induced games was in the works, this time one that would pit a squad of former Kentucky players against a team comprised of guys considered “villains” of the UK program. We’re talking about players like Kemba Walker, who, along with the rest of Connecticut mates, bumped Kentucky from the Final Four last season. Tyler Hansbrough would certainly be a candidate for such a team; UK thought they had Hansbrough wrapped up during his recruitment in 2005, and his eventual signing with North Carolina seriously irked Kentucky fans. Then he came into Rupp Arena for an ESPN GameDay game in 2007 and put 14/11 on the Wildcats en route to an 86-77 win.

If It Happens, Surely It Was Predicted in the Book of Revelations.

So, as far as the Team of Villains, you get the idea. We have to admit — it’s a darn good one. We were even inspired (cue shameless self-promotion) to have some fun and come up with other villain teams for other schools. But to actually stage a game like this in Kentucky, where passion for college hoops — and the ability to hold a basketball grudge — resides in the very bone marrow of its citizens, is a strong play.

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Morning Five: 09.02.11 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on September 2nd, 2011

  1. Yesterday we mentioned the piece by SI.com’s Andy Glockner listing five teams that finished near the bottom of Ken Pomeroy’s luck statistic and why they should be in for some better fortune in the upcoming. Who, you may ask, finished dead last in that stat? Who was the unluckiest team in college hoops in 2010-11? The answer: the same team that finished last in luck in 2009-10! In fact, they did it under two different coaches. On Tuesday (not sure how it got by us), Mr. Glockner examined what exactly the luck statistic is and how this squad can avoid a three-peat of ill fate.
  2. Whatever happens, DeQuan Jones at least knows that his family and friends have his back. The mother, high school coach and AAU coach of the Miami (FL) senior swingman released an understandably spiky response to “friend of the program” Nevin Shapiro’s allegation that a family member of Jones’ asked for $10,000 to insure Jones’ commital to the Hurricanes from high school. The most compelling part of their story is the timeline; Jones had already verballed and signed his letter of intent to attend Miami a full seven months prior to the time Shapiro says the payola request was made. Certainly not the end of the matter, but the linked article by the Miami Herald‘s Michelle Kaufman will bring you up to speed.
  3. If you’re reading a college basketball blog, you’re likely aware that there are many players who are not just student-athletes but also innocents abroad from their foreign homes. There’s a pretty big international competition called the Summer Olympics in about a year, and a couple of fellows recently learned that they may find themselves in London playing for their respective national teams. Saint Louis’ Rob Loe was called up to New Zealand’s national side for a best-of-three series against Australia next week for the right to go to the Olympics, and College of Charleston’s Andrew Lawrence — a native Londoner — made the final cut for the national team from Great Britain, meaning he’ll get to play in the Olympics in his hometown. This seems like as good a time as any to remind you that, because of their uniforms, the formidable NZ national rugby team is called the All Blacks. Playing off that, New Zealanders call their basketball team…the Tall Blacks.
  4. College basketball fans have seen the occasional boon resulting from this whole NBA lockout nonsense, and another one just came to fruition. We didn’t get to see a Jimmer Fredette vs. Kemba Walker matchup last season, but the two have agreed to participate in a pair of games in Utah featuring two teams comprised of NBA rookies, presumably a bunch of guys trying to understandably stay in playing shape. BYU head coach Dave Rose will lead Fredette’s team, while San Diego State boss Steve Fisher will coach the Walker side. We don’t know who else will be involved, but we wouldn’t mind if Kemba and The Jimmer just ended up playing what would amount to a full-court 1-on-1 game while the others rebounded for them.
  5. The people who run Kelley Farms in Lexington, Kentucky undoubtedly love two things: John Calipari, and — evidently less so — corn. As basketball fans, it would be difficult for them to go all Ray Kinsella and clear out crop space for a court, since that wouldn’t make quite the economic impact as Kevin Costner’s character’s baseball field, and basketballs don’t bounce well on uneven dirt. Instead, they decided on a John Calipari corn maze, open for the public to get lost in on September 23. We’ll be waiting to hear if any ghosts from Kentucky’s glorious past emerge from the stalks. Perhaps farm owner John Kelley heard a voice telling him, “If he comes, you will build it.” Yeah, we know — enough with the Field Of Dreams references.
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