NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: Sweet Sixteen, Friday Night

Posted by KDoyle on March 29th, 2013


We continue the Sweet Sixteen tonight with games from the South Region in Arlington, Texas, and the Midwest Region in Indianapolis. Here are the breakdowns for tonight’s games.

#1 Louisville vs. #12 Oregon Midwest Regional Sweet Sixteen (at Indianapolis, IN) – 7:15 PM ET on CBS

It's Russ' World, We Just Live In It (Credit Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

It’s Russ’ World, We Just Live In It (Credit Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

The Midwest Regional descends on Indianapolis this weekend, with Louisville and Oregon kicking off the action in a matchup of red-hot teams. If not for Florida Gulf Coast’s otherworldly Tournament performance last week, we would likely be looking at the two most impressive teams of the first weekend. As the top overall seed in the Tournament, Louisville’s tour de force in Lexington may not have been unexpected, but it did drive home the notion that the Cardinals are still the team to beat – in this region, and beyond. On the flip side, Oregon’s pair of resounding victories were not expected (despite getting significant play as the most underseeded team in the field on Selection Sunday), but have quickly afforded the surging Ducks a lot of respect. They will head into a virtual road game as massive underdogs on Friday, but the last two weeks have proven that this is a talented and tough basketball team.

Do not expect Oregon to struggle with the aggressive Louisville defense as much as North Carolina A&T and Colorado State did. A quick briefing of the Oregon statistical profile may suggest otherwise – the Ducks are 264th nationally in turnover percentage – but that number is a bit misleading. For one, quick tempo teams are generally going to turn the ball over more, and Oregon plays fast (48th nationally in possessions per game). Also remember that starting PG Dominic Artis (I know, I know — how could we forget at this point?) missed more than half the Pac-12 season, and that backup PG Johnathan Loyd is just now beginning to hit his stride. These two guards will come as close to replicating the quickness and athleticism of that Louisville Siva-Smith combo as any duo the Cardinals have seen all season. Throw in athletes almost everywhere else on the floor – Emory and Dotson on the wings, Kazemi and Woods in the post – and there can be reasonable expectation that Oregon might actually be able to weather the turnover storm that has felled many Louisville foes.

If Oregon can manage that turnover battle, expect this to be a 40-minute game. Points will not come easily for the Cardinals against a well-school (and athletic) Oregon defense, and the Ducks are also a better rebounding team — at least on paper. Dana Altman’s X-factor will be the burgeoning freshman Dotson. If Dotson and others – here’s looking at you EJ Singler — can replicate the three point barrage that undid Saint Louis, Altman’s group has a legitimate change to swing the upset. Too much to ask for? Probably. This is not your typical #12 seed (how is Oregon a #12 seed again?), but they have run into a #1 seed that is playing its role all too well. I expect Oregon to prove a worthy challenger in all facets – managing turnovers, defending the dynamic Louisville backcourt, finding ways to score themselves – but ultimately they run into a team that is just a little better across the board. The Ducks will hang around, but Louisville should be safely bound for the Elite Eight.

The RTC Certified Pick: Louisville

#1 Kansas vs. #4 Michigan – South Regional Semifinal (at Arlington, TX) – 7:37 PM ET on TBS

The last time Michigan advanced this deep into the NCAA Tournament was all the way back in 1994 with the Fab Five coached by current San Diego State head coach Steve Fisher. Ranked in the Top 10 for much of the season, John Beilein’s team certainly won’t be content just advancing to the second weekend; it is Atlanta or bust for the young Wolverines. To advance to Sunday’s South Regional Final, they will have to knock off a team with a wealth of NCAA Tournament experience in the Kansas Jayhawks. Kansas advanced to the championship game last season losing to Kentucky, but are missing two key components of that squad—Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor. While Bill Self has led Kansas to another very successful season—a Big 12 regular season and tournament championship and 30+ wins for the fourth straight year—this edition of Kansas basketball is lacking a rock-solid point guard and dominant scorer. One could certainly make the argument that freshman Ben McLemore is that scorer, but he has largely been a no-show in Kansas’ first two games scoring just 13 points on 2-14 shooting from the field. The combination of Elijah Johnson and Naadir Tharpe at point guard has dished out 11 assists to ten turnovers. Nobody will argue their frontcourt dominance anchored by the defensive prowess of Jeff Withey, but seniors Kevin Young and Travis Releford are prototypical role players and not go-to threats. As such, when looking up and down the roster, this has been yet another good coaching job by Bill Self. If Kansas is to defeat Michigan and advance to Atlanta, Ben McLemore must play up to his Top 5 NBA Draft pick ability. Kansas’ most glaring weakness happens to be Michigan’s clear strength: point guard play. This game will be decided in the backcourt, and Trey Burke along with Tim Hardaway Jr. are simply playing much better basketball than Elijah Johnson and Ben McLemore. Also, let’s not forget the emergence of freshman Mitch McGary who has stepped up in a big way with Jordan Morgan’s nagging ankle injury. Morgan may return to the regular rotation tonight, but he is just 6’8” and would struggle handling Jeff Withey on the insdie. John Beilein doesn’t expect McGary to have a double-double kind of game like he had against Virginia Commonwealth, but if he is able to neutralize Withey then it is mission accomplished. Kansas would be the first one to tell you that they played just 20 good minutes of basketball in their first two games. If they get off to another slow start out of the gate like they did against Western Kentucky and North Carolina, they’ll be hard-pressed to climb their way back into the game.

The RTC Certified PickMichigan

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Big 12 M5: 03.05.13 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on March 5th, 2013


  1. The fall of Baylor has been underpublicized this season. The Bears have crashed and burned this season with another influx of blue-chip talent under Scott Drew, and they’re now in major bubble trouble after losing at Texas last night. The loss drops Baylor to below .500 in the league, and it’s also the eighth loss in 11 games for this team. The resume doesn’t look anything like an NCAA Tournament team, but the collection of individual talent on the floor sure does. Pierre Jackson’s production has not dipped, and Isaiah Austin and Cory Jefferson are statistically two of the best rebounders and shot-blockers in the Big 12. But everything imaginable has gone wrong during league play this winter, and it’ll only feed the Scott Drew haters during the offseason.
  2. Senior Night is always special. It’s even more special when guys like Kevin Young decide to go out with a bang and do stand-up comedy. One of his top quotes: “I had a long speech prepared. It got lost in my hair.” The actual game between Kansas and Texas Tech was a big joke itself, with the Jayhawks knocking out TTU by 37 points. It’s a good thing top high school recruit Andrew Wiggins made his visit for this particular game and got to see a stellar performance. Apparently, the fans chanted “We Want Wiggins,” which will not win awards for creativity but certainly gets the point across.
  3. Senior Day will also be a little different in Manhattan tonight. After Frank Martin left for South Carolina last year, some of the senior class considered transferring. They decided to stay, and that’s why their final game at Bramlage Coliseum will mean so much more. Rodney McGruder, Martavious Irving and Jordan Henriquez are now the winningest class in Kansas State history, and they have their team in the top 10 of the national rankings and in position to possibly win a Big 12 title. You can infer that they made the right decision.
  4. Iowa State is the quintessential bubble team. After an eye-opening loss to Oklahoma this weekend, Fred Hoiberg is blaming himself for the missed opportunity to impress the NCAA Tournament selection committee, but at least one writer blames the players instead. No matter who you blame, the Cyclones could be a very dangerous team if they find a way to sneak into the field. They’re very good on the boards, they’re set with a solid point guard and they have a lot of scorers and shooters. If they can’t seal the deal during the next two weeks (including the Big 12 Tournament), the NIT better watch out.
  5. We’ll leave you on a Brittney Griner note. This is normally a site for the men’s game (a women’s basketball RTC might be quite the gold mine if there’s a self-starter out there), but performances like Griner’s are too good to pass up here. The Baylor star scored 50 points against Kansas State last night, and she’s now second on the all-time scoring list. Oh, and she’s a senior, and we’ve had the pleasure of watching her for multiple seasons without leaving for the pros. Sounds nice.
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Four Thoughts as Kansas Survives Against Iowa State In Overtime

Posted by KoryCarpenter on January 9th, 2013

A Melvin Ejim jumper that put Iowa State up 77-73 with 25 seconds left looked like it might end Kansas‘ 30-game home court winning streak, but the Jayhawks were able to force overtime thanks to some late-game heroics that included a banked three-pointer by Ben McLemore. Once they were able to force overtime, the Jayhawks cruised to a 97-89 victory. It was the second nail-biting home win in a row for Kansas after beating Temple on Sunday, 69-62. Here are four thoughts about what we learned about Kansas after Wednesday’s close call:

Ben McLemore Is As Good As Advertised.

Ben McLemore Has Proven to be as Good as Advertised

  1. Ben McLemore Is As Good As Advertised. He might be the #1 overall pick in the NBA Draft. The redshirt freshman guard had 33 points on 10-of-12 shooting and was a perfect 6-of-6 from beyond the arc. We heard all the glowing praise for McLemore last season while he sat out due to academic issues, but it was hard to fully believe a teammate’s or coach’s compliments until you saw him in live action. And through 14 games, McLemore has surpassed even those lofty expectations. He is averaging 15.6 PPG and 5.5 RPG and has scored over 20 points five times now. While his game still needs a little work (see his disappearing act against Temple), has McLemore at #4 on its latest NBA Mock Draft while updated their mock to put him #1 overall this week.
  2. Naadir Tharpe Need Not Shoot 11 Times in a Game. He was 2-of-11 from the field and finished with eight points. It was the second time this season he has taken 10 or more shots, the other coming against Southeast Missouri State on opening night, when he went 4-of-11 including 1-of-6 from three-point range. Tharpe took more shots Wednesday night than every Jayhawk not named Ben McLemore, and that isn’t a winning recipe for Kansas this season. Tharpe can be a good backup to spell starting point guard Elijah Johnson when he needs to rest or is in foul trouble. He is beginning to get more acclimated to Bill Self’s system and can become a capable floor leader, someone to move the ball and keep the offense flowing. He is not, however, a guy who should ever take 11 shots a night. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big 12 M5: 12.11.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on December 11th, 2012

  1. The first step to recovery is admitting there’s a problem. The Big 12 has a problem: It’s not playing very well right now. It’s bad enough that the league only has two ranked teams — the worst showing in the polls since 2008-09 — but the Kansas City Star breaks down some even more appalling numbers from November and early December. Right now, the league is 2-8 against the Top 25 and has dropped below the Atlantic 10 and Mountain West in terms of conference RPI ratings. Perhaps things will change if/when Myck Kabongo returns for Texas, if Kansas State can earn a headline win against either Gonzaga or Florida later this month, or if Baylor remembers how to play basketball. Frankly, only Oklahoma State has really overachieved and surprised anybody at this point. Everybody else, besides Kansas of course, has flopped for the most part so far.
  2. Speaking of the Longhorns, it’s a disaster in Texas right now. For perhaps the first time in college basketball history, the UCLA/Texas game on Saturday actually made headlines for being a terrible, horrendously executed game on both ends. At this point, the Longhorns are lost, and even Sheldon McClellan admits there’s an issue. “Guys don’t think we can win,” he said after the 65-63 loss to the Bruins over the weekend. Understandably, a team without its star point guard and a roster consisting exclusively of freshmen and sophomores will have growing pains. It’s just that nobody thought they’d be this severe.
  3. Kevin Young is the forgotten man for Kansas, so let’s go ahead and not forget that he scored 16 points, missed just one field goal and had eight rebounds in the Jayhawks’ romping of Colorado this weekend. That’s drawing some high praise from Bill Self, who called him the “best we have.” Now, Steve Fisher and San Diego State are really jealous he didn’t go there.
  4. Congratulations to Rodney McGruder, your newest Big 12 Player of the Week. This won’t be the last time he wins this award, so get used to it. He went off for a double-double against George Washington, but the competition will stiffen when the Wildcats head to Seattle soon for a showdown with Gonzaga. Coach Bruce Weber’s old team, Illinois, just knocked off the Zags, and Kansas State could really use a big-time victory this weekend after falling short against Michigan in November.
  5. Finally, a little tidbit out of Oklahoma: Lon Kruger’s nephew, Jarrod Kruger, has left the program to focus on his schoolwork. Interestingly, Oklahoma is actually the third Big 12 school the walk-on has played for. He started at Kansas State and then transferred to Kansas before landing at his uncle’s school. Although there are no signs that he plans on suiting up elsewhere, perhaps he should go for Oklahoma State or one of the Texas schools next, just to fill in some of the remaining blanks.
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Big 12 M5: 10.29.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on October 29th, 2012

  1. Looks like Fred Hoiberg’s not finished taking Division I transfers. Former USC point guard Mo Jones announced this weekend that he will transfer to Iowa State, and he’ll gain eligibility next fall after sitting out 2012-13. Jones had no choice but to leave the Trojans after the school found him academically ineligible and coach Kevin O’Neill dismissed him from the team. He could have improved his grades and then re-applied to the university, but he’ll instead make a major impact in Ames with his superb defensive skills and quickness. Jones, who led an atrocious USC team in scoring a year ago, took almost all of his team’s shots and had to do it all with little to no help. He’s still a very effective point guard, though, and he played an important role on the Trojans’ NCAA Tournament team as a freshman in 2010-11. Hoiberg and the Cyclones are lucky to add another transfer of this quality.
  2. Kansas may have a chance to develop its frontcourt depth early in the season now that forward Kevin Young has broken a bone in his hand. Young had surgery and will miss a few weeks, including both exhibitions and the season opener on November 9. Coach Bill Self said that he should be available for the showdown with Michigan State the following week, though. Until then, the injury could mean big minutes for freshman Perry Ellis, as well as an extra chance for Jamari Traylor and others to prove themselves and fight for more playing time down the road.
  3. Jeff Withey may be a block machine for Kansas, but it’s easy to overlook a fellow center just down the road in Manhattan. Jordan Henriquez’s defensive skills are underrated on a Big 12 and national level, but he’s quietly becoming a centerpiece for Kansas State in coach Bruce Weber’s first season. He’s also a writer’s dream, the kind of guy who will say anything to anybody. Weber even calls him the “Mayor of Manhattan,” to which Henriquez objects: “I think there is a mayor of Manhattan, correct, so I don’t want him to think I’m taking his title because I sure don’t want to have the job he does.” Well said, Mr. Henriquez.
  4. Oklahoma State is not an easy team to project this season, and that’s because it’s hard to tell just how good Le’Bryan Nash will be. On a team depleted by injuries and roster losses a year ago, Nash fought through a few difficult stretches but generally improved as the season progressed. Now, as a sophomore, that learning curve won’t be an excuse anymore. With Marcus Smart now taking the pressure off in the backcourt, Nash might be the key to this team’s success in 2012-13.
  5. We’re a little late on this, but it’s too priceless not to mention. When all of the league coaches gathered at Big 12 Media Day, they looked like a collection of white-collar businessmen and lawyers attempting to secure a deal with a corporation or prosecute a criminal in a jury trial. We’re talking fancy suits, hundred-dollar ties, that sort of thing. Except for one guy. See if you can spot who was a little, well, underdressed at Big 12 Media Day.
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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 03.30.12 Edition

Posted by WCarey on March 30th, 2012


  • Bill Self has enhanced his already strong coaching reputation by leading a Kansas team with not as much talent as Kansas teams of the past to the Final Four.
  • Mike DeCourcy of The Sporting News believes the career of Tyshawn Taylor mirrors that of a Shakespeare character. DeCourcy notes that Taylor’s career has consisted of conflict, resolution, dramatic twists, and ultimate redemption.
  • Despite the fact that Danny Manning and Barry Hinson have taken head coaching jobs at Tulsa and Southern Illinois respectively, Bill Self assured the public that all of Manning and Hinson’s attention is on Kansas this weekend.
  • Kevin Young compiled a career-best 14 points when Kansas defeated Ohio State on December 10. Young, a transfer from Loyola Marymount, arrived at Kansas via some unusual circumstances.


  • Assistant coach Richard Pitino noted that there has been a pretty prominent change in the way his father, Rick Pitino coaches. The younger Pitino believes his father has a much better relationship with his players than he used to.
  • News broke that Rick Pitino will not be a member of this year’s Naismith Memorial National Basketball Hall of Fame class. Considering Pitino’s resume, this is a bit shocking.
  • Rick Pitino has been through a lot in his coaching career and his life, so it would be unfair to define the man solely based on the Karen Sypher extortion scandal.
  • Gorgui Dieng and Russ Smith might be the most unlikely roommates of all-time, but the two are great friends and are keys to Louisville’s success.
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ACC in the NCAAs: Scouting North Carolina State vs. Kansas

Posted by KCarpenter on March 23rd, 2012

North Carolina State, by this point, has hopefully demonstrated that it has the talent to match up with just about any team in the nation. The Wolfpack has height, speed, athleticism, and skill. Kansas, however, has all that, tournament-tested experience and perhaps the second best player in college basketball, a guy named Thomas Robinson. Like so many games that NC State has competed in this season, this is a game that may very well come down to foul trouble. To win this game, C.J. Leslie, Richard Howell, and DeShawn Painter need to stay on the floor, which may be a challenge considering how good the Jayhawks are at drawing fouls. Yet, in Kansas, NC State faces a team that shares their weaknesses as well as their strengths.

Gottfried Was A Controversial Hire, But He Has The Wolfpack Back In The Sweet Sixteen

Lorenzo Brown, Leslie, and Howell are all excellent at drawing fouls and Kansas’s big men are fairly susceptible to foul trouble. Jeff Withey‘s physical style means that he often finds himself with more than a few fouls while the rest of the big man rotation, outside of Thomas Robinson (who still gets called for 3.5 fouls per 40 minutes), fouls like there is no tomorrow. Kevin Young gets called for 5.4 fouls per 40, while Justin Wesley‘s 8.6 fouls per 40 is about as double-take inducing as it gets. If  NC State can win the foul battle, avoiding fouls on defense while drawing contact on offense, the Wolfpack may be able to leverage an advantage in the frontcourt while picking up easy points from the free throw line. NC State’s ability to keep Georgetown‘s Henry Sims on the bench with foul trouble was a major key to last Sunday’s upset and I think a Friday night victory follows a similar game plan.

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Big 12 Tournament Semifinals Thoughts

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 10th, 2012

Brian Goodman is an RTC editor. He filed this report from the Big 12 Tournament semifinals in Kansas City. You can follow Brian on Twitter at @bri_goodman.

Baylor 82, Kansas 71

The Baylor Bears have deservedly had their share of doubters all season. After starting the campaign 17-0, Scott Drew‘s team was swept by the top two teams in the Big 12 and suffered losses to the other two squads in the conference that are locks for the NCAA Tournament. While Baylor played one of its most complete games of the season in a drubbing of Kansas State on Thursday in Kansas City, the knock remained that the talented Bears didn’t have the defensive toughness, focus and heart to match up with its seemingly endless supply of tools and athleticism the other teams offered. One game doesn’t erase an entire reputation, but Baylor put a dent in that line of thinking by withstanding a furious Kansas run in front of a de facto road crowd to hold on for the win in the first Big 12 semifinal Friday night. “This was a night we grew up,” Drew later said.

Brady Heslip's Late Threes Were Key to the Baylor Victory

The outcome derailed what hoopheads have been hoping for in a rubber match between Kansas and Missouri, but the Bears are hardly concerned with such matters. With Thomas Robinson battling foul trouble, Baylor went on a 13-4 run to take a 13-point lead early in the second half. Kansas was taxed physically, but the Jayhawks weren’t going to go down without making a run of their own, and that’s exactly what they did. Kansas answered with a 19-4 spurt, keyed by great defense from Jeff Withey and a collective effort on offense, and briefly surged ahead. “Tonight, you knew they were going to make a run,” Drew said after the game. The Bears, prone to disappointment despite a slew of young talent, were tasked with answering. Perry Jones III led the response, scoring six of his game-high 18 points to help Baylor pull ahead for good, but it was one of the overlooked Bears, Brady Heslip, who delivered with the knockout punches. A pair of threes by the sophomore guard put BU ahead for good and Drew’s biggest smile of the night came during the postseason press conference as he spoke about Heslip’s background. “He has an unbelievable work ethic (with) a good bloodline.”

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Big 12 Morning Five: 12.21.11 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on December 21st, 2011

  1. Oklahoma State‘s point guard spot just got even more precarious. Fred Gulley has now announced he will leave the Cowboys, leaving them with just Cezar Guerrero and Reger Dowell at that position now. Former point guard Ray Penn already transferred during the Spring, and it has been a troubled position for Travis Ford from Day One this season. The two remaining point guards really need to step up now to run this offense. With LeBryan Nash ready to break out any day now and Keiton Page starting to find his stroke, this team has offensive weapons at its disposal. Now, it just needs to put everything together and grow as a team.
  2. In the aftermath of Kansas‘s disappointing 80-74 loss to Davidson at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, coach Bill Self says the main problem with his team is a lack of depth right now. That is to be expected after losing most of his starting lineup from a Big 12 championship squad, but he’s still waiting on players like Kevin Young and Naadir Tharpe to mature. As Self puts it, “Depth isn’t great because of injuries, and depth isn’t great because of foul problems. Depth is great because when guys don’t play the way you want them to, they don’t have to play.” Couldn’t have said it better ourselves, Coach Self.
  3. At least Tyshawn Taylor is healthy for the Jayhawks. Self said Taylor’s health was fine after the Davidson loss, which is somewhat surprising considering Taylor had knee surgery just more than a week ago. He was supposed to miss three weeks, but he ended up missing zero games. Going along with the whole “lack of depth” theme, it is a minor miracle Taylor returned so quickly to this team. Without him, Kansas may have been even more lost offensively.
  4. While most of us spend Christmas with our families in the continental United States, Kansas State will head to Hawaii this holiday season for the Diamond Head Classic. This tournament has grown in recent years, and in 2011, it will feature KSU, Southern Illinois, UTEP, Clemson, Xavier, Auburn, and Long Beach State. If you’re not tuned into the NBA, this is a tournament you need to see. It’s got to be hard for the players to compete during Christmas, but coach Frank Martin at least gave his guys five days off during the Thanksgiving holiday. That’s a heck of a lot more rest than most teams get during that time period, so expect the Wildcats to look fresh in Hawaii.
  5. Iowa State is playing Lipscomb tonight. Excited? You should be: the Bison’s leading scorer is Jordan Burgason, the son of former Cyclone Steve Burgason. Jordan attended high school in Ames– the same school Harrison Barnes and Doug McDermott attended– but ISU did not recruit him. Normally in these situations, two scenarios can occur. Burgason will either struggle under the expectations of playing in his hometown for the first time, or he will rise against the school that wronged him and burn the Cyclones for 40 points. If it is the latter, we are going to have a fun storyline to follow tonight.
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Big 12 Preview Wrap-Up

Posted by dnspewak on November 14th, 2011

For the past several weeks, we’ve pretended to be experts on the Big 12 Conference here. You likely disagree with most (if not all) of our arguments, and we’ve probably made statements bold enough to send you away from RTC and never come back. If you’re still here, though, the 2011-12 season looks promising in the Big 12. It’s a wide-open league with multiple championship contenders, and it’s also a league in transition with Missouri and Texas A&M departing after the season. The realignment apocalypse has subsided for now, and we’ve got real basketball to talk about now for the next five months. As we begin our quest this season, however, let’s take a look back at our fearless predictions this fall:

The Big 12 Streak is in Tyshawn Taylor's Hands Now

RTC Big 12 Predictions

  1. Kansas
  2. Baylor
  3. Texas A&M
  4. Missouri
  5. Texas
  6. Kansas State
  7.  Oklahoma State
  8. Iowa State
  9. Oklahoma
  10.  Texas Tech

RTC All-Big 12 First Team

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