The Week That Was: NCAA Tournament Edition

Posted by rtmsf on March 22nd, 2011

David Ely is an RTC Contributor

What We Learned

It's Foolish To Think That the Big East's 2011 Tournament Record Proves That It Wasn't the Best Conference All Season

  • The Big East is not overrated; it’s just not as good as it was made out to be. The conference sent an NCAA record 11 teams into the field of 68 and Vegas set the over/under of total wins for the conference at 15.5. This year’s March Madness was supposed to be the cherry on top of an historic season, but instead the tournament has been a complete and utter disaster. Only two teams from the Big East will be playing next weekend (Connecticut and Marquette), and the only reason there are two teams remaining is because each squad beat a conference foe to advance to the Sweet 16. But let’s not jump the gun and label the Big East as the most overrated conference in the nation. For one thing, assessing the merits of a conference over a single weekend slate of games is somewhat foolish. That’s a ridiculously small sample size, especially considering during the regular season the conference posted a 34-19 record against tournament teams, according to the New York TimesNate Silver, who’s been spot-on with his analysis this month. The Big East was justified in getting 11 teams in the field — after all, Marquette made the Sweet 16 — but it was just a good conference, not an especially great one. If anything, we’re guilty of overlooking the fact that most of the teams in the Big East lacked NBA talent on their rosters (a key ingredient to any successful Final Four run). When Kemba Walker is your conference’s top NBA prospect, you know you have a talent deficit.

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Set Your Tivo: 02.08.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on February 8th, 2011

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

An intriguing non-conference game, Bruce Pearl’s return and an ACC bubble battle headline tonight’s schedule. All rankings from RTC and all times Eastern.

Xavier @ Georgia – 7 pm on ESPNU (***)

Mack Is Still An Underrated Coach, In Our Opinion

These teams last met in the first round of the 2008 NCAA Tournament, the year Dennis Felton’s Georgia team made an incredible run through the SEC Tournament to steal the automatic bid. Xavier has won eight of nine games coming into tonight’s matchup while Georgia has won two straight after starting 3-4 in SEC play.

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BGTD: Early Games Analysis

Posted by jstevrtc on January 22nd, 2011

The noon-to-3pm stretch today was one of those that helps make the case in favor of an electronics upgrade here at the RTC Southern Compound, specifically for a multi-screen video wall. Having two games like Ohio State @ Illinois and Villanova @ Syracuse happening at the same time was both fantastic and painful. Then Tennessee @ Connecticut after that, as well as Temple @ Xavier and the small matter of Texas @ Kansas? Oh, yeah. we’re hittin’ the electronics store at some point this weekend. But not until the games are done.

  • Wayns’ World. One of the basic strategies against any zone defense is to use quick perimeter passing  and penetration to create openings for shots and passing lanes. Of course, it’s never a bad strategy to just get hot from outside and shoot over the zone, and that’s what ‘Nova did early on against the Orange. When the defense extended, that opened up gaps for those quick, fearless Wildcat guards and even some nice interior passing between Mouphtaou Yarou and Maurice Sutton. We’d say Jim Boeheim didn’t game-plan for Maalik Wayns, a 20% three-point shooter on the year (40% overall), to drill a trio of threes and go 6-11 from the field.
  • Blue Horseshoe Loves ‘Nova Basketball. We know a lot can happen between now and March, but if I’m playing the college hoops market, I’m pulling a Gordon Gekko on Villanova. I’m getting in there at a 45-degree angle and gobbling up all the Wildcat stock that I can. Top-flight coach, quick guards who can shoot as well as break down defenders anywhere on the floor, long big men who play even longer on both ends of the floor, and not to mention that they have guys who were in the Final Four two seasons ago? Time to accumulate.
  • A Buckeye Beauty. No, we’re not talking about a girl on the Columbus campus. We’re talking about one of the great performances of the season, this one by Jared Sullinger. Certainly, the 27 points and 16 rebounds are impressive, to say the least. We’re just as impressed by the 40 minutes played, though – ten minutes above his average — and the mere two personal fouls. You don’t get 27/16 if you’re not on the floor, or don’t know how to stay on the floor. And you’ve seen Sullinger. Not exactly a little guy who shies away from contact. We all knew Sullinger could play basketball, but he showed us today that he’s got guts as well as game.
  • The Arts of Craft. Another note from OSU’s win: Deshaun Thomas (a pair of threes, 8 pts in 12 minutes) sparked that second half run when the Illini had the lead, and Jon Diebler (15 pts, 3-5 from three) was his usual steady self. When your team takes a fair number of treys and shoots better from three-point range (46.7%) than your opponent does from the field (43.1%), you’re going to be fine most of the time. But we need to give some props to OSU freshman point guard Aaron Craft. He only had five points, but that’s not something they necessarily need from him. In his 31 minutes (more than two of the starters), he dished four assists, only turned the ball over once — he leads the team with a 2.3-to-1 assist/turnover ratio — and, most importantly, he found himself on Demetri McCamey for most of the game and covered the Illinois star like red ants on a Snickers bar.
  • We’re Cold, But Kemba and Melvin Aren’t. For the first half, Tennessee-Connecticut has been more evenly matched than we anticipated, and Kemba Walker needed that buzzer-beating three to give the Huskies the halftime lead. As we’ve mentioned often around here, you never know which of Tennessee’s multiple personalities you’re going to get on a given night, and for the first half the “good UT” has shown up. The Vols have done a good job bodying up to Walker and have held him to just eight points so far, including that three before the half. Melvin Goins has been UT’s best player, surpassing his 8.0 PPG average with ten points and he’s perfect from the field. By the way, it’s about 14 degrees outside and there’s a whole lot of action yet to come today. We ain’t goin’ anywhere…
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Set Your Tivo: 01.21-01.23

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 21st, 2011

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

Almost all of the action is on Saturday but what a day it will be. A couple of huge games start us off right away at noon but the rest of the day will not disappoint. It’s very unfortunate but #21 St. Mary’s @ #23 Vanderbilt is not on television and neither is Belmont at East Tennessee State on Sunday, a battle for first in the Atlantic Sun. You obviously won’t be able to watch those games unless you’re attending but definitely check and see how they play out. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

#1 Ohio State @ #18 Illinois – 12 pm Saturday on CBS (****)

Sylvester and the Buckeyes Had the Last Laugh When Illinois Was #1 in 2005

It should be a crazy environment in Champaign on Saturday when the #1 team in the land pays a visit. Illinois is having a good year but probably not as good as some of the more optimistic Illini fans would have hoped. That can change in a big way with a marquee win over the Buckeyes. You’ll recall what happened almost six years ago in Columbus. Illinois was #1 at 29-0 on the last day of the regular season and lost on a Matt Sylvester three with five seconds to play as the unranked Buckeyes knocked off the eventual national runner up. By the way: Gus Johnson was working that one in 2005 and he’ll be in Champaign on Saturday if you even needed another reason to tune in.

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Set Your Tivo: 01.11.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 11th, 2011

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

Three key conference clashes from different leagues take place tonight with two of the home clubs desperately needing a win. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

#17 Wisconsin @ #20 Michigan State – 7 pm on ESPN (****)

Leuer Made the Midseason Top 30 Wooden Award List, Yet Many Fans Couldn't Pick Him Out of a Lineup.

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Set Your Tivo: 01.05.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 5th, 2011

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

An important in-state rivalry game and a heavyweight clash in the Mountain West headline tonight’s college basketball schedule. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

Memphis @ Tennessee – 9 pm on ESPN2 (***)

Each team has faced some turmoil this season but in vastly different ways. Memphis has barely skated by a host of inferior opponents on their way to an 11-2 record while Tennessee has lost four of six after starting 7-0. This is Bruce Pearl’s final game before his eight game suspension begins this Saturday at Arkansas. The Volunteers have struggled defensively during this lackluster stretch of games and allowed Charleston to shoot 58% in the Cougars’ win last week. Tennessee’s defense simply must get better, and that starts with Melvin Goins. Pearl’s senior point guard has a reputation as a great on-ball defender and he’ll need to bring it against a guard-heavy Memphis squad.

After This Rivalry Game, Pearl Will Sit For a While

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Set Your Tivo: 12.14.10

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 14th, 2010

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

A pair of games on the “U” highlight tonight’s schedule, the best of this slow week. Can the two home favorites avoid a letdown after big wins this past Saturday?  All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

Oakland @ #4 Tennessee – 7 pm on ESPNU (***)

UT Needs to Avoid the Letdown Bug Tonight

After their huge win over Pittsburgh on Saturday behind Scotty Hopson’s career-high 27 points (10-13 FG), the Volunteers return home to face a 5-5 Oakland team out of the Summit League. Sounds easy, right? Not true, Oakland is not your ordinary .500 team. The Golden Grizzlies are in the midst of a brutal non-conference schedule, one that has already included games against West Virginia, Purdue, Illinois and Michigan State and still has Michigan and Ohio State to come after tonight’s game. Oakland nearly upset Michigan State on Saturday, falling by just a single point. Tennessee will look to use its speed and athleticism against Oakland as Bruce Pearl features a lineup of versatile guards and forwards. By contrast, Oakland features a solid front line of Keith Benson and Will Hudson. The 6’11 Benson averages 18/12 plus three blocks a game, a dominant force in the paint. Tennessee needs a strong effort out of Brian Williams in order to defend him. Stopping Hudson will also be key to a Tennessee win as he shoots 66% from the floor. Pearl may even look to a zone in order to defend the Oakland bigs or just use a double team on Benson. Tennessee, which shot 7-11 from three against Pitt, has the potential to outshoot Oakland from deep as the Golden Grizzlies rank just #281 in defending the trey. Reggie Hamilton (16 PPG, 4 APG, 39% 3pt FG) has to be on his game along with Benson and Hudson for Oakland to have a chance to win. Oakland doesn’t shoot it well from deep but Hamilton is their biggest threat, though he’s just five for his last 19 (26%). With Hopson and Tobias Harris, Tennessee has two extraordinary weapons at 6’7 and 6’8 that Oakland can’t quite match. Greg Kampe’s team is going to have to get the job done in the paint with his front court duo and that’s where rebounding comes in. Both teams are excellent rebounding units, especially on the offensive end. Each ranks in the top 15 in the country in offensive rebounding percentage though Oakland could only muster 30 total rebounds against Michigan State. Winning the rebounding battle is critical to any success Oakland hopes to have in this game. Turnover margin is the other key battle to keep an eye on. The Vols struggle handling the ball, averaging 17 turnovers a game including 20 against Pitt. Point guard Melvin Goins does a nice job but it’s really the other players that cause most of the turnover problems. They made up for that with 56% shooting against the Panthers but don’t expect that to happen again. Oakland turns it over 16 times per game so they’ll need to pay attention to this as well since they don’t force many turnovers at all. Tennessee gets to the foul line better than anyone else in D1 and Oakland’s starters play a lot of minutes. Combine those two statistics and you have a potential depth issue for the Golden Grizzlies. If players start fouling out, particularly Benson or Hudson, it’s going to be very difficult, almost impossible, to win. Expect an up-tempo game with Tennessee trying to avoid a letdown after Saturday’s terrific performance. If the Vols don’t take this game seriously, Oakland will hang around all night and have a chance to win. If Tennessee plays their game and doesn’t turn the ball over, expect the home team to come away with a nice win.

Drexel @ #20 Louisville – 9 pm on ESPNU (***)

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Set Your Tivo: 12.10-12.12

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 10th, 2010

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

Friday’s schedule is barren but Saturday has a bunch of terrific matchups. Two ACC conference games highlight a soft Sunday to close out the weekend. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

#13 UNLV @ Louisville – 12 pm Saturday on ESPNU (****)

Rick Pitino’s Cardinals are a surprising 7-0 but when you really look at their schedule you realize they haven’t played top teams. Louisville’s best win is over Butler, a team clearly not even near the level it was last year. Including Butler, Louisville’s opponents have an aggregate record of just 25-31. That changes on Saturday when 9-0 UNLV heads to the KFC Yum! Center. The Rebels have already played five games away from home so they’ll be ready for a tough environment. UNLV is a strong team on both sides of the ball but they’ve really piled up the numbers on offense. They’re in the top ten in effective field goal percentage behind Chace Stanback and his 59% shooting. Stanback is a 6’8 wing/forward type player who can cause a lot of problems for the opponent matching up with him. His game extends to the three point arc as well, hitting 41% of his treys this year. It’ll be interesting to see if Pitino puts Rakeem Buckles (10/9) or Terrence Jennings (56% FG) on Stanback. Buckles is the better rebounder so Louisville may not want him drifting away from the basket trying to defend UNLV’s leading scorer. Buckles has made significant strides in his sophomore season, a theme seen throughout Louisville’s starting lineup. Pitino’s top five scorers have increased their scoring by a total of 31 PPG, making up for a lot of what they lost from last year’s team. We recall Pitino saying he’d have a bunch of guys averaging 8-15 PPG and that’s exactly what he has so far. Louisville is a strong defensive club, rated eighth in defensive efficiency. UNLV gets a lot of points from two point range (#5 in two point %) so Louisville will have to live up to their defensive billing in order to win. The Cardinals rank in the top ten in three point defense and effective field goal percentage against so UNLV point guard Oscar Bellfield (53% from three) has to have a good game controlling the ball and getting quality shots for himself and his teammates. Louisville will look to use their pressure defense to push the pace and create turnovers. Pitino said he’s been using a 24-second shot clock in practice so expect Louisville to really get up and down the floor looking for extra possessions. The Cardinals like to shoot a lot of three’s but they aren’t very good at it (32%). Mike Marra should hoist the most, averaging nine three point attempts per game while converting just 30% of the time. With Tre’Von Willis back in the fold, Lon Kruger can go nine-deep if he so chooses. Fresh legs will be needed against Louisville and could play a role late in the second half. UNLV should look to get to the free throw line to stop the flow of the game and take advantage of a Louisville team rated just #252 in opponents’ free throw attempts per field goal attempts. The Cardinals should have an edge on the boards (42 RPG) as UNLV struggles to keep opponents off the offensive glass. This is going to be a really good game, one that may come down to the very end. Louisville will probably be favored to win at home but we wouldn’t be surprised to see the Runnin’ Rebels pick up a key road victory, either.

Wisconsin @ Marquette – 2:30 pm Saturday on ESPN2 (****)

This annual rivalry is one of the most underrated in the country. Wisconsin holds a 63-53 edge but there’s an added twist this season. Marquette freshman Vander Blue originally committed to Wisconsin before signing with Buzz Williams and the Golden Eagles giving Marquette a valuable piece for the future. Each team has a star player going at it in this one, Marquette’s Jimmy Butler and Wisconsin’s Jon Leuer. They’re similar, but Leuer is taller and has a better three point game. The UW big man shoots 48% from deep and is the key man in Bo Ryan’s deliberate offensive system. With Marquette giving up 39% shooting from three on average, expect Leuer and his Badger teammates to have a big game from long range. Wisconsin’s tempo is one of the slowest in the country but they run their offense well and take terrific care of the basketball with Jordan Taylor running the show at the point guard position. Taylor has a stunning 3.92 assist to turnover ratio and teams with Leuer to provide Wisconsin with just under half of their points. Taylor is also a strong defender who will look to disrupt Marquette’s offensive flow. With Dwight Buycks questionable for this game (he did not play Tuesday against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi), Buzz Williams will turn to the inexperienced Junior Cadougan who missed most of last season with a ruptured Achilles tendon. Wisconsin is solid just about everywhere but they’re vulnerable on the three point line. Unfortunately for Marquette, they shoot just 31% as a team from three and that’s where Darius Johnson-Odom comes in. When hot, the dynamic junior can be one of the best shooters you’ll see. He broke out against Milwaukee on November 27 (29 points, 5-7 from three) but struggled in the two games since. For the year DJO is shooting just 29% from three, down almost 20% from last season’s 47% mark. He can get it going at any time though and that’s what makes this game unpredictable. If Johnson-Odom is on, Marquette has an even better chance to pick up a home win over their rival. Tuesday night’s Marquette game saw Vander Blue break out, scoring 21 points on 9-13 shooting. However it also included the loss of Joseph Fulce, an important glue guy for Marquette. The 6’7 Fulce went down with what appeared to be a serious knee injury, the same knee that had been giving him problems before. How Marquette responds to the loss of one of their emotional leaders will be important in this game. Don’t expect Wisconsin to get to the foul line much at all so they’ll have to make up for that disadvantage with strong defense and efficient offensive sets. Marquette is third in the country in keeping opponents off the line while Wisconsin is near the bottom of D1 in getting there. The Badgers are a very good rebounding team and they should hold an edge there against smaller Marquette. Though inexperienced, Cadougan is a talented player who’s capable of replacing Buycks at the point if necessary. Look for Marquette to use Butler and fellow forward Jae Crowder inside the arc, trying to penetrate the stout Wisconsin defense. Rivalry games are usually close and this one figures to be no exception. There are a lot of unknowns on the Marquette side in this game but it would be a very big resume-building win if they can get it in front of the home folks at the Bradley Center.

SEC/Big East Invitational: #11 Tennessee @ #3 Pittsburgh (CONSOL Energy Center) – 3:15 pm Saturday on ESPN (*****)

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One Man’s Opinion: Contenders After One Month

Posted by zhayes9 on December 6th, 2010

Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist for Rush the Court.

After engulfing myself in a nightly binge of college basketball over the first month of the season- taking in games from the Big Apple to the Little Apple and from Cancun to Maui- here is one man’s evaluation on some of the top teams in the country and where they stand heading into the final weeks of non-conference play:

Kyrie Irving has surpassed expectations thus far

Duke- It’s going to take a near perfect effort to beat Duke this season. Being able to lure Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler back to campus coinciding with a severe down year in the ACC was truly the perfect storm of circumstance. One chance a team may have to dethrone Duke is if they lure Mason Plumlee into two early fouls, keep them in the halfcourt and the Blue Devils become three-happy, but Duke does have five players who can catch fire from deep at any time. Kyrie Irving has surpassed any and all expectations during the first month of the season. His court awareness is reminiscent of a 10-year NBA veteran rather than an 18-year old college freshman. His use of the hesitation dribble, ability to split screens, explode to the basket and display innate court awareness has vaulted Irving to stardom. What makes Duke so lethal is that they have a plethora of options that can explode for 25 points on any given night, just as Plumlee did against Marquette or Singler against Oregon or Irving against Michigan State.  There’s three potential lottery picks on this team, but selfishness is never an issue and they flow together seamlessly on the court. I have a hard time pointing out exactly where Duke slips up this season; after all, they don’t face a currently ranked team the rest of the slate.

Ohio State- Here’s the one team I feel would have a good shot at knocking off Duke on a neutral floor right now. They can come close to matching the Blue Devils at every position on the floor if William Buford runs the point. Jared Sullinger has been overrated a bit in the early going. Most of his production has come off easy dunks and layups and I haven’t seen an array of post moves quite yet, although I trust that they exist in his arsenal. It’s his fellow freshmen that should be receiving more attention. DeShaun Thomas is scoring 13 PPG in just over 17 MPG of play and shooting 56% from the floor. I’ve also been wildly impressed with the headiness and intelligence of Aaron Craft at the point. He’s compiled a near 2/1 assist/turnover ratio in the early going and has done a fantastic job finding shooters Diebler and Lighty off screens or Sullinger in low post position. David Lighty is this team’s MVP. He’s a lockdown defender and has really improved his outside jumper, while Buford may have the best mid-range game in the Big Ten. One should always anticipate Tom Izzo’s team to improve as the season wears on, but the Buckeyes have to be the odds-on favorite to win this conference as of now.

Pittsburgh- I know it’s horribly cliché when talking about Pittsburgh, but “tough” is the first word that comes to mind. Jamie Dixon’s teams are never outworked and currently lead all of college basketball is offensive rebounding percentage. Pitt seemingly has an assembly line of big men they can trot off the bench to give Gary McGhee, Nasir Robinson and Talib Zanna breathers. Dixon loves to run Ashton Gibbs off screens for open looks and the junior sharpshooter is connecting better than ever, although he still lacks true point guard skills. Although the rotation will eventually be trimmed down, Dixon has the luxury of digging 10-deep into his bench that Big East rivals like Georgetown and Connecticut simply do not have. McGhee is the type of bruiser inside that every team would love to throw out there for 20 MPG. He gives Pitt’s offense extra shot opportunities and shuts down opposing big men inside. Pitt doesn’t necessarily have the star power of other Final Four contenders, but their toughness and execution as a unit may be enough to carry them to Houston.

Kansas- I think we all need to take a moment to applaud the job Bill Self has done in Lawrence. This program lost two lottery picks and an All-American and have taken maybe one step back. This is a credit to the tremendous depth Self has compiled at Kansas and his staff’s ability to develop players. When Josh Selby is eligible on December 18, this team becomes Final Four good. He could be lumped into the same category as Irving, Walker and McCamey come March. I’ve been wildly impressed with how well the Jayhawks know their roles. The Morris brothers complement each other with Marcus as the inside-outside scoring threat (18.6 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 65% FG, 9/15 from deep) and Markieff perfectly content with doing the dirty work on the boards and in the paint. In and out of Self’s doghouse during his tenure at Kansas, Tyshawn Taylor has done a quietly solid job filling in for Selby at the point distributing the basketball.  A player who also flies under the radar is Brady Morningstar. Most just view him as a spot-up shooter, but he’s a valuable cog for Self ushering the fast break and setting up teammates for open looks.

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Checking in on.. the SEC

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 1st, 2010

 

Jared Quillen is the RTC correspondent for the SEC.

A Look Back

  • So Bruce Pearl gets slapped with an eight game suspension and what does Tennessee do but turn around and win the NIT Tip-Off championship.  Last year, Bruce Pearl dismissed Tyler Smith from the team after he was arrested on misdemeanor gun and drug charges and suspended Cameron Tatum, Melvin Goins and Brian Williams, who were all arrested with Smith.  How did Tennessee respond then?  They held #1 Kansas to 38 percent shooting and beat the Jayhawks 76-68.  Tatum, Goins and Williams were reinstated and Tennessee went on to the NCAA Elite Eight, the Volunteers’ best finish in the NCAA Tournament in the history of the program.  Talk about responding to adversity.  Hey, maybe if Tennessee fields an all walk-on team with Richard Simmons as head coach they’ll make a Final Four appearance.
  • NBA scouts are abuzz about Kentucky’s Terrence Jones who has probably played his way into top five pick status.  He handles the ball as well as any big man in America and in three games against Oklahoma, Washington, and Connecticut he averaged 23 points, 11.3 rebounds and 3.3 blocks, good enough for SEC freshman of the week honors.
  • As I have said before, the East is much stronger than the West and I’m going to continue to harp on it.  The East has three teams in the RTC top 25 (Kentucky #14, Tennessee #15, Florida #19).  The West has none.  While I do expect Mississippi State to enter the top 25 at some point, I’m not sure if any other team from the West will get a sniff at it.
  • As of now the SEC East is 29-6 (.829) with no bad losses.  By way of contrast, the SEC West is 19-12 (.613).  Ok so they’re not the NFC West, but they definitely need to step it up.  The West already has the following losses:

Bad

  • LSU 53 Nicholls State 62
  • Arkansas 65 UAB 70
  • Alabama 78 Seton Hall 83
  • Alabama 47 Iowa 55

Dreadful

  • LSU 53 Nicholls State 62
  • Alabama 49 St. Peters 50 (St Who?)
  • Auburn 69 UNC Asheville 70
  • Auburn 68 Samford (and son?) 79
  • Auburn 54 Campbell 61
  • Auburn 55 Jacksonville 55
  • Mississippi State 59 Florida Atlantic 61

I’m not giving Mississippi State a bye on their loss to Florida Atlantic even if they’re playing shorthanded.  There should still be plenty of talent here to beat a team that lost to American University.

  • Time will tell if Mississippi’s loss to Dayton will look bad as the season progresses.  It’s not looking good right now though.  A week after beating Mississippi, the Flyers were doubled up by Cincinnati 68-34 in a mercy killing.  Losing to a very average Miami (FL) team doesn’t help the Rebels either.  Mississippi’s 78-71 win over Murray State is the West’s best win so far.  Murray State is now 3-3 and will have to win a lot of games the rest of the way to help Mississippi’s reputation.

Power Rankings

So let’s get down to business here.

  1. Tennessee (5-0): Can there be any question here?  Scotty Hopson was named the SEC’s Player of the Week as he averaged 18.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists while leading the Volunteers to the NIT Tip-Off championship.  He was also named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, leading his team to victories over VCU and then seventh ranked Villanova, whom they held to 34.5 percent.  If history holds, Tennessee will probably be holding teams to 25 percent once Brucey’s suspension begins.
  2. Florida (5-1): took care of business this week getting wins against in-state foes Florida Atlantic at home and Florida State away.  The 55-51 win over the Seminoles wasn’t pretty, though.  The Gators shot only 38.1 percent from the field and had 17 turnovers to only 8 assists.  You’re usually lucky to come away with the win in a game like that, especially on the road.  But a good road win it is for the Gators.
  3. Vanderbilt (5-1): Unfortunately, the shine on that win over North Carolina is already coming off.  UNC played a close one against College of Charleston this week and then lost in a game that they never even showed up for at Illinois.  All Vanderbilt did this week was trample one of the worst teams in the country, Grambling State, 92-59 in a game in which they outrebounded the Tigers 60-21.  They followed that up with an 86-73 win over Appalachian State.  Not bad for a week’s work.
  4. Kentucky (4-1): Well, the Wildcats got a great win over Washington 74-67, but they laid an egg the next night against a surprising Connecticut team that had beaten then-#2 Michigan State the previous night.  Kentucky allowed Connecticut to shoot 57.7 percent while only shooting 36.7 percent themselves.  After the Wildcats’ first game, Doron Lamb stated that the Cats hoped to be the best shooting team in the nation.  I guess he wasn’t talking about free throw shooting.  Prior to Kentucky’s game against Boston the Cats were shooting an embarrassing 59.7 percent from the line.  Insert Calipari teams’ free throw shooting comment here.  Against Boston, the Wildcats shot 59.3 percent from the field, 62.5 percent from three and 70.8 percent from the line.
  5. LSU (5-2): Three wins this week, albeit against Centenary, South Alabama and Houston, is good enough to be the highest ranked team out of the West.  LSU doubled up Centenary 78-36.  Now I don’t care if Centenary’s 0-6, anytime you double up a team and hold them to 28.3 percent shooting, you’ve played well.   LSU beat the teams they were supposed to beat, soundly.
  6. South Carolina (4-1): The Gamecocks picked up a couple of wins this week by beating South Carolina Upstate 57-41 and Western Kentucky 87-85.  I’ve said it before.  I like these Cocks.  They are leading the nation in rebounding at 49.2 per game.  Rebounding comes down to hustle and this team has it.  Who knows, keep winning in the preseason and maybe there is a tournament bid for this team, but it’s an uphill battle in the stacked East.
  7. Mississippi State (4-1): An overtime win over lowly Troy (1-4) this week isn’t anything to write home about, especially since the Bulldogs took their first lead in the game against the Trojans with only 4:54 to play.  The Trojans also had a 51-38 rebounding advantage over State and that’s just unacceptable, I don’t care who is missing from your starting lineup.  And apparently there aren’t enough guns on this team to get past the likes of Florida Atlantic. After losing to FAU, it looks like the Bulldogs need Dee Bost and Renardo Sidney more than we thought.  In the mean time, Ravern Johnson is playing like a star and never getting a breather.  Prior to the loss to Florida Atlantic, Johnson was averaging 27.3 points per game, good enough for first in the SEC and fifth in the nation.  Johnson is also averaging 38.3 minutes, 4.5 rebounds and shooting 56.3 percent from three.
  8. Alabama (3-3): Well, at least they didn’t have to face St. Peter’s again this week.  Alabama beat Alabama A&M 76-50.  Here’s a tidbit. Tony Mitchell is the model of consistency.  He’s had between 12 and 15 points in all five games this season and had a 12/15 night against A&M.  Despite losing three games early this is still a team that I think will pull themselves together and finish strong.  A dominating win over the Bulldogs was a step in the right direction.
  9. Arkansas (4-1): Not much exciting going on here.  They beat Southeast Missouri State, a team that is now 0-6, and then lost to UAB.  What I do find interesting is that coach John Pelphrey is playing eleven guys at least eleven minutes a game.  Now that’s going deep.
  10. Mississippi (5-2): I’ve already picked on Mississippi, so there’s no need to get into that further except for to say that when you play a weak preseason schedule, coach Andy Kennedy, you really pay the price when you lose to those same weak teams.  Especially when there are no opportunities to make up for those losses with a quality win or two.
  11. Georgia (4-2): came out and got what looked like a good win against Colorado without Trey Thompkins and then it turned out that Colorado’s not any good.  So all they have to hang their hat on now is a hard fought loss to Old Spice Classic champion Notre Dame. They followed that loss with a loss to Temple.  At least they beat Manhattan (2-4) by three.  Thompkins just hasn’t been himself since returning from injury.  He’s shooting only 40 percent from the field and scoring 14.7 per game.  That’s 3 points less than his average last year.  Prior to his return, the Bulldogs were 3-0, since returning, 2-1.  I don’t get it.  This guy was the media’s pick for preseason conference player of the year.
  12. Auburn (2-4): I feel for Auburn.  I really do.  They lost their entire team from last year, and they weren’t any good last year.  And then this year, they lost their top two recruits, Shawn Kemp Jr. and Luke Cothron, to ineligibility.  That said, there is a time and a place to play Division II teams and it’s called practice.  There is nothing to be gained by beating Georgia Southwestern.  It doesn’t help your team gain confidence to beat a D-II team and it does nothing for the selection committee at the end of the year as they don’t factor in wins against lower division schools.  Furthermore, if you do lose to a lower division team, you look awful.  Don’t do it again, Coach Barbee.

A Look Ahead

  • Kentucky takes on North Carolina on Saturday, and even though UNC is looking pretty weak as of late, this is one of those games that both teams really want and when you’ve got two of the all-time winningest programs on the same court, you watch, period.
  • Alabama plays Purdue on Saturday.  If the Tide want to salvage their preseason, this is the game to do it.  Beat Purdue, and there’s still an outside chance at an NCAA berth, lose and they may have to get 12 wins in conference play.
  • Like Georgia against Colorado, Arkansas vs. Oklahoma Wednesday night is a game that has less value today than it did when it was announced, with Oklahoma going through a nightmare in Maui. Creampuffs dilute the rest of the action this week, but next week will see some fantastic SEC basketball.
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Sweet Sixteen Game Analysis: Friday Night

Posted by rtmsf on March 26th, 2010

Over the next two days, RTC will break down the regional semifinal games using our best analytical efforts to understand these teams, the matchups and their individual strengths and weaknesses.  Our hope is that you’ll let us know in the comments where you agree, disagree or otherwise think we’ve lost our collective minds.  Here are Thursday night’s games from the East and West Regionals.

7:07 pm – #2 Ohio State vs. #6 Tennessee  (Midwest Region)

We know the Buckeyes have had three full days of rest since their second round game against Georgia Tech.  But Thad Matta has shortened (and by “shortened,” we mean “set on fire and forgotten about”) his bench so much late in the season and in this tournament that you have to even wonder if that’s enough time for the Buckeyes to recover.  Jon Diebler has played every minute of the Buckeyes’ first two tournament games.  William Buford has missed two minutes of action TOTAL out of the possible 210 minutes of game time in the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments.  David Lighty and Evan Turner have only sat for five minutes in that same time span.  The only starter who sits for any amount of time is big man Dallas Lauderdale, and he still plays at least 30 minutes a game.  Yet, the Buckeyes keep rolling.  The only thing Jon Diebler seems tired of is finding himself open behind the three point line.  He’s 11-22 in OSU’s two tournament games, and a lot of these things aren’t monitor-checkers.  They were deep.  And of course Turner has shown us his usual excellence.  There aren’t any surprises with the Buckeyes.  Tennessee, though, is a different story.  You never know whose night it’s going to be.  Scotty Hopson, Wayne Chism, J.P. Prince…any one or two of these guys can get hot, but then you have to worry about players like Brian Williams or Melvin Goins or Bobby Maze stepping up with a 15 point or 12 rebound night.  OSU’s four-forwards-and-Turner (who’s officially listed as a forward!) will be able to keep the Volunteer guards from getting too out of hand, but can they guard and rebound against the slightly taller Tennessee bigs?  As a team, rebounding is one of the few Buckeye weaknesses, and Tennessee has shown the capability to dominate the glass this year when they put their minds to it.  Both teams are among the nation’s best when it comes to guarding the three, but it’s OSU that gets a little more of their offense from the long ball.  On paper, the matchups are not favorable for OSU.  And the Tennessee kids are the kind who will relish the fact that they’re “supposed” to lose this game.  We doubt it’ll be a blowout, and remarkably both of these teams are fantastic in games decided by ten points or less.  In those games, OSU is 10-5 this season, and Tennessee is 13-2.  It’s gonna be a fun one.

The Skinny:  If both teams guard the three well, it will hurt OSU more than Tennessee.  Factor in the possibility that all those minutes could be catching up to the Buckeyes, and you have the makings of an upset.  It’s not easy taking the Volunteers in this game, because of how they can sometimes take nights off between the ears.  But Tennessee has had two chances to underestimate their opponent in this tournament, and didn’t either time.  They won’t here; they know what OSU can do.  Wouldn’t be surprised to see the Volunteers emerge.

7:27 pm – #3 Baylor vs. #10 St. Mary’s  (South Region)

The Gaels come into this game as one of the tournament’s Cinderellas, but this time Cinderella is actually the Tournament’s giant with Omar Samhan who has been the most dominant big man in the field so far after dominating Richmond and Villanova to the point where analysts were ripping Jay Wright for not doubling down on Samhan fo abusing Villanova’s interior players. In Wright’s defense, doubling down on Samhan would leave the St Mary’s guards open on the perimeter where they rank fourth in the country from beyond the arc. Scott Drew probably won’t be saddled with that dilemma since he has a center in 6’10 Ekpe Udoh who is every bit as good as Samhan. Even if Samhan does get the edge on Udoh here he will have to deal with 6’10 Anthony Jones, 7′ Josh Lomers and 6’7 Quincy Acy. With such a strong interior defense, the Bears block more shots than any other team in the NCAA Tournament at more than seven blocks per game so don’t expect Samhan to dominate the Bears like he did the Spiders and Wildcats. In addition to the challenge for Samhan on the offensive end, he will also be under pressure on defense going against a likely first rounder in Udoh. After hearing that you might be forgiven for thinking that this game will be decided solely on what happens on the inside, but you would be wrong. The matchup of guards featuring LaceDarius Dunn and Tweety Carter against Mickey McConnell and Matthew Dellavedova could be the key to the game with the Bears having the edge in athleticism and the Gaels having the edge in shooting. Saint Mary’s will need their perimeter players (especially McConnell who is a ridiculous 75-145, or 51.7% from 3 this season) to hit treys against Baylor’s zone to open up space for Samhan to operate. If McConnell and Delledova can keep Dunn and Carter in front of them most of the time, the WCC might get its first team in the Elite Eight since 1999 when Gonzaga made it their before losing to eventual champion UConn (yes, that is the last time the Bulldogs made it that far).

The Skinny: Everyone will be talking about Baylor coming into this game with the homecourt advantage since the game is being played in Houston (a little over 180 miles away from Baylor’s campus in Waco), but Baylor doesn’t have a strong following like other schools in the state do. In fact, we might get a “Duke at Greensboro” situation where UNC fans (or in this case Texas and Texas A&M) root against the local team. Still the combination of Udoh, Dunn, and Carter should be enough to get it done as Samhan’s beastly NCAA Tournament run comes to an end.
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Checking in on… the SEC

Posted by jstevrtc on January 19th, 2010

 
Paul Jordan of Wildcat Blue Blog is the RTC correspondent for the Southeastern Conference.

EAST
  1. Kentucky                  18-0         (3-0)
  2. Vanderbilt                 14-3         (3-0)
  3. Tennessee                14-2        (2-0)
  4. South Carolina           11-6        (2-1)
  5. Florida                      12-5         (1-2)
  6. Georgia                      8-8         (0-3)
WEST
  1. Mississippi State     15-3          (3-0)
  2. Arkansas                  8-9          (1-1)
  3. Mississippi              13-4          (1-2)
  4. Alabama                 11-6          (1-2)
  5. LSU                        9-8           (0-3)
  6. Auburn                    9-9           (0-3)

The talk of the SEC being a vastly improved conference may have been a bit premature once we got into conference play.  I still think the SEC will have five sure-fire seeds in the NCAA Tournament (Kentucky, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Mississippi State, and Mississippi) with Florida, South Carolina, and Alabama being bubble teams at this time.  Mississippi had two losses to ranked teams, but I still think they are tournament-worthy.

The Tennessee situation got a little more resolved this week as it was announced that Melvin Goins and Cameron Tatum will be rejoining the Vols but Brian Williams still remains on suspension indefinitely.  The trio were suspended because of a January 1st arrest on guns and drug charges.  Tyler Smith was dismissed from the team.

Speaking of the Vols, they have now solidified themselves inside top 10 as they find themselves as the #8 team in both the AP Top 25 and the ESPN/USA Today polls.  Kentucky still holds onto the #2 spot in each of the polls this week — for now.  Mississippi is still hanging around in the polls at #22 in the AP Top 25 and #24 in the ESPN/USA Today and Mississippi State re-enters the AP at #23.  Vanderbilt is on the verge of entering both polls also.

Kentucky’s Eric Bledsoe was named SEC Freshman of the Week after he averaged 19 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists in wins at Florida and at Auburn.  Mississippi State’s Jarvis Varnado named SEC Player of the Week after he averaged 15.5 points, 13.0 rebounds and 8.0 blocks in wins over Arkansas and Georgia.

MUST-SEE GAMES OF THE WEEK

  • 1/19 – Tennessee (14-2) @ Alabama (11-6) – 7 PM – ESPN
  • 1/20 – South Carolina (11-6) @ Mississippi (13-4) – 9PM – ESPN 360
  • 1/21 – Florida (12-5) @ Arkansas (8-9) – 9 PM – ESPN
  • 1/23 – Mississippi State (15-3) @ Alabama (11-6) – 12PM – CBS; Mississippi (13-4) @ LSU (9-8) – 1:30 PM – ESPN 360
  • 1/23 – Arkansas (8-9) @ Kentucky (18-0) – 4 PM – ESPN 360
  • 1/23 – South Carolina (11-6) @ Florida (12-5) – 6 PM – ESPN
TEAM UPDATES (Rankings are AP Top 25, ESPN/USA Today)

EAST:
  • Kentucky (#2, #2) -  On Tuesday, Kentucky used a 17-4 run over the last 5:00 to put away the Florida Gators in Gainesville, 89-77.  This was the first win for Kentucky at Gainesville since 2004.  UK was led by Eric Bledsoe’s 25 points.  John Wall added 17 points and Patrick Patterson 15.  Three days later, Kentucky built an early 19 point lead on Auburn but the Tigers gave UK their best shot and chipped away to eventually tie the game at 60.  Kentucky pulled away over the last 6:00 or so to win their second straight road game, 72-67, and remain perfect on the season.  Kentucky was led by 16 points and 11 rebounds from DeMarcus Cousins and 13 points each from Wall and Bledsoe.
  • VanderbiltJeffery Taylor broke open a tie game with :06 left by hitting one of two free throws and Vanderbilt held off Alabama to win 65-64 at Tuscaloosa on Wednesday.  A.J. Ogilvy and Taylor scored 13 points to lead Vandy and freshman John Jenkins hit three of four 3-pointers to finish with 11 off the bench.  It was a battle of 2-0 SEC teams on Saturday as Vanderbilt traveled to South Carolina.  Ogilvy scored 18 of 22 points in the second half as Vanderbilt won their eighth straight game with an 89-79 victory over South Carolina.  Taylor led with 16 for the Commodores.
  • Tennessee – Starting center Wayne Chism scored 12 points, not to mention 12 rebounds and six steals as Tennessee (No. 10 ESPN/USA Today, No. 9 AP) shook off a slow start to beat Auburn on Thursday, 81-55.  Bobby Maze and J.P. Prince both had 14 points for the Volunteers, while Scotty Hopson chipped in 11 and Kenny Hall added ten.  Chism played 41 minutes and scored 26 points, including six consecutive free throws in overtime, to bail Tennessee out as the Volunteers beat Mississippi 71-69 just two days later.  Prince added 13 points as the Vols won their sixth straight game.
  • South CarolinaDevan Downey scored 29 points and had seven rebounds to lead South Carolina to a 67-58 win over LSU on Wednesday.  The Gamecocks trailed 49-47 with about 9:00 remaining when they went on a 17-1 streak that sealed the game.  Downey was 6-12 on 3-pointers and Brandis Raley-Ross also put in 12 for the Gamecocks.  On Saturday, Downey had 35 points and 6 steals but that was not enough to prevent a home court 89-79 loss to Vanderbilt.  Raley-Ross and Lakeem Jackson also put in 11 points apiece.
  • Florida -  The Gators dropped to 0-2 conference play for the first time in the Billy Donovan era on Tuesday with their 89-77 loss to Kentucky.  Erving Walker nailed four 3-pointers and had 20 points, and Alex Tyus added 17.  The last time UF was 0-2 in conference play was 1996 — the year before Donovan arrived.  On Saturday, Kenny Boynton had 18 points as the Gators won a battle of winless SEC teams over LSU, 72-58.  Chandler Parsons had 11 points as he moved into the starting lineup and all five Gator starters scored in double figures.  On the downside, the Gator bench only managed four points in the win.
  • Georgia -  The Bulldogs gave the 23rd-ranked Ole Miss Rebels all they wanted on Wednesday night, but fell short in a 80-76 loss.  The Bulldogs, who were coming off an eight point loss at #2 Kentucky last Saturday, were in this game until the final seconds.  Trey Thompkins led the Bulldogs scoring with 21 points and Travis Leslie added 17 for Georgia.  Georgia then took another tough loss on Saturday as they fell 72-69 to Mississippi State.  The Bulldogs had leads of 41-30 and 64-51 but could not maintain.  Thompkins and Leslie led the way with 18 and 14 points, respectively.
WEST:
  • Mississippi State -  Jarvis Varnado  had 17 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 blocks for his second triple-double, and Mississippi State just held on to beat Arkansas 82-80 on Thursday night.  The Bulldogs opened an early 19-point lead, but had to repel a late rally by the Razorbacks who cut it to three with 32 seconds left.  Dee Bost had 20 to lead the Bulldogs, and Ravern Johnson and Barry Stewart also scored in double digits.  Bost and Phil Turner each scored 15 points to lead Mississippi State to a 72-69 victory over Georgia on Saturday.  The Bulldogs had to overcome a pair of 10-point deficits in beating the Bulldogs.
  • Arkansas – On Thursday night the Razorbacks mounted a furious second half rally but fell just short at Starkville, losing 82-80 to Mississippi State.  The Hogs fought back from 19 down but could not complete the comeback.  Marshawn Powell and Courtney Fortson had 25 and 20 points, respectively, to help the Razorbacks fight back.  On Saturday the Razorbacks were feeling it, as three players posted double-doubles in a 71-59 win over Alabama. Powell had 18 points and 10 rebounds, and Mike Washington scored 17 points and grabbed 13 rebounds for the Razorbacks. Fortson  had 12 points and 10 assists, and Rotnei Clarke also scored 17.
  • MississippiEniel Polynice scored off an inbounds pass to himself with 11.3 seconds remaining on Wednesday night, and Mississippi (No. 23 ESPN/USA Today, No. 21 AP) handed Georgia another tough loss, 80-76.  Polynice finished with 10 and Chris Warren added 12 to lead the Rebels.  Trevor Gaskins and Zach Graham each scored 11 off the bench to aid the Rebel cause.  Then on Saturday Ole Miss led most of the second half but could not hold off the Volunteers in Knoxville losing in OT, 71-69.  Warren and Terrico White led the Rebels with 19 and 17 points, respectively, and Graham scored 16 off the bench.
  • Alabama – The Crimson Tide jumped out to an early 10 point lead and led most of the game on Wednesday evening, but could not hold on in a heartbreaking 65-64 loss to Vanderbilt.  Mikhail Torrance had 23 points on 9-13 shooting and Tony Mitchell added ten points off the bench for Alabama.  ‘Bama’s tough start in the SEC continued on Saturday with a loss to Arkansas, 71-59.  Torrance led the way with 15 points and JaMychal Green added 13 as the Tide lost their second straight.
  • LSU – The Tigers led most of the game against South Carolina but fell apart the last 9:00 as the Gamecocks stormed back for a 67-58 win.  LSU is not getting much production from any players not named Storm Warren (19 points), Bo Spencer (14) or Tasmin Mitchell (13).  Those three scored 47 of the Tiger’s 58 points.  The Tigers’ rough season got rougher as they were dumped by the Gators at Gainesville by a score of 72-58.  Mitchell was the only Tiger with more than 8 points as LSU’s season seems to be in freefall.
  • Auburn – Traveling to Knoxville on Thursday, the Tigers battled with the Tennessee Vols in the first half and trailed just 38-37 at the break, but Auburn could not keep up with the Vols in the second half and suffered a 81-55 loss.  DeWayne Reed had 19 points and Frankie Sullivan contributed 14 to lead the Tigers.  At home against Kentucky on Saturday afternoon, Auburn came back from a 19-point deficit and eventually tied UK at 60 late in the second half, but went cold from the field over the last few minutes as the Wildcats pulled away for a 72-67 win.  Auburn was led by Reed with 19 points and Frankie Sullivan’s 15.
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