RTC Region by Region Tidbits: 03.16.10

Posted by rtmsf on March 17th, 2010

Each day this week during the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament we’re asking some of our top correspondents to put together a collection of notes and interesting tidbits about each region.  If you know of something that we should include in tomorrow’s submission, hit us up at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

South Region Notes (Patrick Sellars)

  • The first “upset” of the tournament occurred in the South Region when SWAC champion Arkansas Pine-Bluff took down the Big South tournament champion Winthrop, 61-44. The Golden Lions earned the right to play top seeded Duke on Friday night.
  • When #9 Louisville takes on #8 California on Friday night, Louisville head coach Rick Pitino says he’ll be ready for the Bears’ “organized chaos.”  There is also an interesting quote in the article from Cardinals’ guard Edgar Sosa that says he has heard Cal referred to as “poor man’s Marquette”.
  • Utah State’s leading scorer, junior guard Tai Wesley, broke his nose in the WAC tournament final on Saturday when the Aggies got pounded by New Mexico State.  He will play in the Aggies’ upcoming game versus Texas A&M, but you have to wonder what kind of effect it will have on USU’s star. On TAMU’s side, they will have Dash Harris back in the lineup after he missed the Big 12 Tournament with a bone bruise in his right wrist. Head coach Mark Turgeon said that if his team wants any chance to win this weekend, they will need Harris healthy.
  • Fran McCaffery is not letting his Siena team think they can beat Purdue by just showing up in Spokane on Friday. He says Purdue is by far the best team Siena will face all season even without Robbie Hummel. You’d have to think a Butler Bulldogs fan would think otherwise.
  • Here is an interesting article from The Times-Picayune which highlights the #3 Baylor vs. #14 Sam Houston State game. Not only are the two teams from Texas, but they have two New Orleans natives returning to their home town for the first round. Star senior guards Tweety Carter (Baylor) and Ashton Mitchell (Sam Houston State) both played their high school ball in The Big Easy.
  • Villanova head coach Jay Wright told the Philadelphia Inquirer about his team’s lackluster play in first round games the past two seasons. Wright said “we’ve survived first-round games, but we really haven’t played well in first-round games.”

East Region Notes (Ryan Restivo of SienaSaintsBlog)

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NCAA Region by Region Tidbits: 03.15.10

Posted by rtmsf on March 16th, 2010

Each day this week during the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament we’re asking some of our top correspondents to put together a collection of notes and interesting tidbits about each region.  If you know of something that we should include in tomorrow’s submission, hit us up at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

East Region Notes (Ryan Restivo of SienaSaintsBlog)

  • #8 Texas was once the top team in the nation, but now they are reeling. However, a team trending even worse might be their opponent: #9 Wake Forest. Demon Deacon Head Coach Dino Gaudio said Al-Farouq Aminu had an x-ray done on his hand and appears to be ready to play on Thursday. Meanwhile, Texas, who comes in having lost seven of their last nine games to teams in the NCAA Tournament, said he is trying to deflect questions that the Longhorns are done this year. “There are people saying Texas is done,” Texas coach Rick Barnes told the Dallas Morning News. “I don’t think our guys have felt like that at any point.” Meanwhile Wake Forest’s last road win against an NCAA Tournament team was their December 5 win over Gonzaga, 77-75.
  • #5 Temple against #12 Cornell will be the game to watch on Friday to start. The subplot of course is that Cornell head coach Steve Donahue spent ten years as an assistant under Temple head coach Fran Dunphy, who crossed town from Penn to Temple in 2006.  Donahue said he purposely does not schedule Dunphy’s Owls for a reason.  “See, we would never play each other in a regular season game because it would be torture. In this profession, you want your friends to advance,” Donahue told the Ithaca Journal. “The NCAA tournament is the pinnacle of what you do, so both of us will have to get over that.”  Dunphy reflected similar sentiments to the Philadelphia Daily News.  “If you had said to me who do you not want to play? Cornell,” Dunphy said about the matchup. “We’re good friends and there is a no-win situation in that.”
  • #11 Washington, the Pac-10 Tournament champion, had to play to get into the field of 65. Their opponent, #6 Marquette, is not happy about traveling to San Jose to play the Seattle school.  “They going to fly, or drive?” Marquette coach Buzz Williams asked the AP of the Huskies’ trip to the neutral site. “I think anytime you play on the West Coast against a team from the Pac-10, you are the underdog.”
  • #3 New Mexico, the regular season champion of the Mountain West Conference, will have their hands full with #14 Montana’s Anthony Johnson who scored 34 of his 42 points in the second half to clinch their Big Sky championship and NCAA Tournament bid. When asked about his ability, Lobos head coach Steve Alford told the AP, “We know he’s extremely talented … a potent scorer.” The Lobos will be playing to try to reach their first Sweet 16 in school history.
  • #7 Clemson taking on #10 Missouri will be an interesting matchup, guaranteeing an up-tempo pressuring style that Clemson coach Oliver Purnell favors. Missouri coach Mike Anderson told The St. Louis Globe-Democrat, “It won’t be one of those, walk it up and pass it about 20 times or five times. It’s going to be end-to-end. (It’s going to be) some athletic kids hopefully making some athletic plays.”
  • #2 West Virginia will tip off the NCAA Tournament against #15 Morgan State on Thursday. Coach Bob Huggins did not mince words when asked on whether or not West Virginia should be a top seed.  “I thought statistically we were a 1,” Huggins said Sunday to the AP. “The disappointing thing is that when they stand up there and say, ‘Let’s look at the full body of work,’ and if you look at the full body of work, we were probably a 1.”  The Mountaineers probably have a case for a #1 seed and will look to come out and show it to start the Tournament.

West Region Notes (Andrew Murawa)

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Even More Notes From the Mountain West, Atlantic 10 and WAC Tourneys

Posted by rtmsf on March 14th, 2010

In our attempt to bring you the most comprehensive Championship Week coverage anywhere, RTC is covering several of the conference tournaments from the sites. We have RTC correspondents Andrew Murawa at the Mountain West Tournament, Joe Dzuback at the Atlantic 10 Tournament and Kraig Williams at the WAC Tournament this weekend.  In addition to live-blogging select games throughout the tournaments, they will each post a nightly diary with thoughts on each day’s action. Here are the submissions for tonight’s pair of championship games and the A10 semis.

Mountain West Finals: San Diego State 55, UNLV 45

  • The only logical place to begin here is with Kawhi Leonard, who was dominant tonight. The line speaks for itself: 21 rebounds (a career high), including seven on the offensive end. 16 points. Holding Tre’Von Willis to 4/12 shooting from the floor (and at least two of those field goals came when SDSU inexplicably switched to zone at the start of the 2nd half). And throw in a couple assists and a couple steals for good measure. He definitely presents matchup problems for every team in the MWC, and he will present problems for teams across the country. Throw a smaller, quicker guy on him and Leonard will dominate in the paint; put a big man on him and he can step outside and use his face-up game. In the postgame press conference, UNLV head coach Lon Kruger was asked about the possibility of having to deal with Leonard for three more years, and the look that crossed his face (a combination of a knowing smile and a grimace) was priceless before he went on to spend a couple minutes singing Leonard’s praises. While New Mexico’s Darington Hobson and BYU’s Jimmer Fredette rightly are regarded as the best players in the conference, it is Leonard who is the most talented player in the conference.
  • Willis tweaked his ankle late in the game on Friday night, and while he played without incident tonight, he was likely not as explosive as he was earlier in the tournament. How much of that had to do with the ankle and how much was the Leonard factor is up for debate, but Coach Kruger of course brushed off any notion that Willis was hampered by the ankle.
  • The vaunted UNLV homecourt advantage turned out to be much less of an issue tonight than it was either last night or even on Thursday night in the quarterfinal. Maybe it was the earlier start, or maybe it was the Aztec fans’ inability to provoke the UNLV fans into a cheering confrontation as Utah and BYU fans did, but while the Rebel fans sure got loud when Larry Johnson and Jerry Tarkanian were shown on the scoreboard, they were never really a huge factor in the game.
  • Last night in this space I talked up UNLV junior center Brice Massamba quite a bit. Tonight? Um, who? Massamba’s totals: 18 minutes, five fouls, two rebounds, two turnovers.
  • Now, time for me to admit a couple areas where I was dead wrong. This doesn’t happen often (not me being wrong, I’m wrong a lot, I just rarely admit it – ask my wife), so soak it up.
  • First, sometime in the middle of the MWC season I wrote that San Diego State junior point guard D.J. Gay was holding his team back and that head coach Steve Fisher should make the move to freshman Chase Tapley at the point. Well, Gay proved me wrong and Fisher right more or less from that point on. While Gay still doesn’t shoot a great percentage from the floor, he has really cut down on the turnovers over the back half of the schedule, and more important than anything the numbers show, he is the leader on this team. Guys like Leonard and Billy White and Malcolm Thomas and even senior Kelvin Davis are all major cogs for this Aztec team, but it is Gay who makes this team go. Look at his numbers over the tournament, and they’re nothing special (in fact, they’re downright awful): less than 8ppg, six of 26 from the field, 10 assists, five turnovers. And yet, they probably don’t get out of the quarterfinals without him (when he hit two clutch free throws at the end to provide the final margin), they certainly don’t get through New Mexico without him and his seven assists and zero turnovers, and tonight it was Gay’s big three in the face of Oscar Bellfield under six minutes that extended the Aztec lead above one possession for the first time since very early in the second half. Throw in the fact that the guy played 119 of a possible 120 minutes in this tournament (and the minute that he was out the Aztecs looked lost) and its clear Gay brings more to this team than his numbers would indicate. And, just to extend my praise of the guy, he is also a well-spoken, funny kid.
  • The other place I was wrong is about Fisher. For several years now, I have been critical of some of Fisher’s in-game coaching and even his ability to bring along talent. While I thought his decision to open the second half in a zone for a couple of possessions was a similarly goofy decision, there’s really no questioning what he has done with this team. The vast improvement this team has made since opening night when they were absolutely drilled by St. Mary’s is clear and he has really gotten a talented team to buy into team over individual fully. Now, I’ll admit some of this may be because Fisher was just so charming and effusive in his press conferences that he won me over (tonight’s great Fisher quote, on winning the recruiting battle of Leonard over some Pac-10 schools: “we don’t need to get down on kneepads to recruit against the Pac-10.”), but the fact that he has taken a SDSU program with little history and put them in the postseason in seven of his 11 seasons, including now three NCAA visits, says all that needs to be said about Fisher’s ability to coach. The fact that he is just so likable is only a bonus.
  • I chose Fredette, Hobson, Willis, Leonard and Gay as my five for the all-tourney team, with Leonard as my MVP, although I felt awfully bad about not writing down White, Chase Stanback or Dairese Gary. The official tournament team was Fredette, Hobson, Willis, Stanback, White and Leonard (no fair they got to pick an extra one – I wanted my all-tourney team to have eight guys), with Leonard the MVP.

Atlantic 10 Semifinals

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RTC Live: WAC Championship – Utah State vs. New Mexico State

Posted by rtmsf on March 13th, 2010

It comes down to this in the WAC tournament, a battle of Aggies to see who represents the conference in the NCAA Tournament. The Utah State Aggies have done their best impression of a steamroller, winning their two games in Reno by a combined 54 points, and have been able to empty the bench late in games to give the starters plenty of rest. The New Mexico State Aggies haven’t had things so easy. They rolled through San Jose State in the opening round, but just squeaked by the home  Wolfpack last night 80-79 on a Jahmar Young runner in the lane with three ticks left on the clock. These two teams split the regular season matchups, NMSU won 55-52 in Las Cruces to start conference play and Utah State won their game 81-63 just last week to end regular season conference play. Utah State is probably in the NCAA tournament win or lose tonight, but would sure feel better on Sunday with the auto-bid in hand. New Mexico State could burst someone’s bubble by stealing the bid. Which Aggies will rush the court here in Reno for the WAC title? Come check in with us at RTC Live to see who walks away with the hardware.

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More Notes From the Mountain West and WAC Tourneys

Posted by rtmsf on March 13th, 2010

In our attempt to bring you the most comprehensive Championship Week coverage anywhere, RTC is covering several of the conference tournaments from the sites. We have RTC correspondents Andrew Murawa at the Mountain West Tournament and Kraig Williams at the WAC Tournament this weekend.  In addition to live-blogging select games throughout the tournament, they will both post a nightly diary with thoughts on each day’s action. Here are the submissions for last night’s semifinals.

Mountain West Semis

  • The difference between these four teams when they are playing at their peak is not a whole lot. New Mexico and BYU have been more consistent over the course of the season, but all four of these teams are highly talented and very evenly matched.
  • Even before tonight I felt pretty fortunate to have picked the MWC out of the hat to cover this year. After tonight, the MWC could start a new religion and I would be the first convert.
  • I overheard Danny Ainge talking with Steve Lappas during the break between games say that this iteration of this tournament was as good as any in the country over the last few years. At this point, I’m not inclined to disagree.

San Diego State 72, New Mexico 69.

  • Darington Hobson was the MWC Player of the Year, but San Diego State took some advantage of him defensively, especially in the first half when he was unable to control either Kawhi Leonard or Billy White. Further, in the postgame press conference, Aztec point guard D.J. Gay seemed to imply that they were more concerned about Dairese Gary than they were about Hobson, saying that they in the last sequence they were trying to force Gary to give the ball up to Hobson.
  • Speaking of Gary, when the Lobos found themselves down 11 early, it was he who sparked the team’s run back to eventually take the lead in the first half. But as important as Gary is to the Lobos hopes, it is the combination of Gary and Hobson, each of whom have point skills, that make the Lobos so tough.
  • Kawhi Leonard was the MWC Freshman of the Year, a first-team All-MWC selection and my choice as the MWC Defensive Player of the Year, and yet he is only beginning to scratch the surface of his talent. Tonight he added three threes (after shooting just 19% from three on the season), took on Hobson one-on-one defensively, and yanked down 12 rebounds, including a serious man’s rebound in the final seconds, just before knocking down two free throws to extend the final margin.
  • It was apparent in the postgame press conference just how much coach Steve Fisher loves his squad. At times it seemed like he almost had to control himself from gushing over his squad. Check this: “I told our team at halftime, this is big-time, high-level major college basketball. We played about as well as we can play and we’re one point behind. That’s what they’re telling their team, that San Diego State can’t play better. But we can. We have to. And we did.” And, on D.J. Gay: “I said to our team and the media that I thought D.J. Gay was our most important player. He had seven assists, no turnovers. Guards like crazy. Helps everybody else out and wins.” On Billy White: “He’s a really talented player and a terrific young guy. So I’m proud. I’m so happy for Billy today to have him come home and play as well as he did. He was sensational. When we went out before the game, I grabbed him and told him ‘Make your mom proud.’ Afterward I said, ‘You made everyone proud.’”
  • San Diego State’s freshman guard Chase Tapley and New Mexico’s sophomore post A.J. Hardeman may not get all the press that some of their teammates get, but both had key contributions. Hardeman wound up with 12 points, nine rebounds and three blocks, while Tapley, playing with a broken left hand which has cost him his starting position, knocked down three of his four attempts from three-point range.

UNLV 70, BYU 66.

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RTC Live: WAC Semis – Utah St vs. La Tech & Nevada vs. NMSU

Posted by rtmsf on March 12th, 2010

Day 1 of the WAC tournament eliminated all the pretenders and now we are left with just the top four teams in the league battling it out.  The first matchup will feature the number one seed Utah State Aggies taking on the number four seed Louisiana Tech Bulldogs.  The Aggies have played the part of the steamroller lately, and after dispatching Boise State yesterday 84-60 have now run their winning streak up to 16 straight games.  Despite the blowout score, Boise State tested the Aggies, forcing an uncharacteristically high 15 turnovers with a full court pressure defense.  Louisiana Tech will likely try to exploit this by pressuring the Aggies as well, probably using the same 1-3-1 zone we saw in a previous RTC Live that features 6’11 Magnum Rolle at the top of the key trapping Utah State’s much smaller guard line.  The key for the Bulldogs will be generating offense.  Kyle Gibson still does not look like his old self, scoring just seven points yesterday, but backcourt mate Jamel Guyton scored 31 to lead the Bulldogs over Fresno State 74-66.  If the Bulldogs can get that kind of offensive explosion again it should be a great game to decide who moves onto the championship game tomorrow.

In the night cap in the WAC tournament the homestanding Nevada Wolfpack will take on the New Mexico State Aggies.  Neither team had any trouble in the opening round here in Reno as Nevada blasted Idaho 87-71 and New Mexico State had no problems with San Jose State winning 90-69.  These two teams met just a week ago here in Reno and the Wolfpack won in a shootout 100-92, led by Brandon Fields ‘career high 32 points.  If Nevada is getting scoring in bunches from players besides Luke Babbitt and Armon Johnson then it’s going to be a long night for New Mexico State.  The Aggies need to get some big numbers out of guards Jahmar Young and Jonathan Gibson, and find someone to slow down Luke Babbitt.  Expect another high scoring, and fast-paced matchup between these two, with the winner moving on to face Louisiana Tech/Utah State for the championship tomorrow night. The game is on ESPN2 so tune and follow along with us on RTC Live.

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Some Notes from the Mountain West & WAC Tourneys

Posted by rtmsf on March 12th, 2010

In our attempt to bring you the most comprehensive Championship Week coverage anywhere, RTC is covering several of the conference tournaments from the sites. We have RTC correspondents Andrew Murawa at the Mountain West Tournament and Kraig Williams at the WAC Tournament this weekend.  In addition to live-blogging select games throughout the tournament, they will both post a nightly diary with thoughts on each day’s action. Here are the submissions for last night’s games.

Mountain West Tournament Quarters

  • After a long day and a drive from Los Angeles, I got into the Thomas & Mack Center to see TCU down only four to BYU just about halfway through the second half. Just a couple of minutes later, the Cougars had extended the lead to double figures and the only intrigue left was how much Jimmer Fredette would score. TCU threw everything they had at him, including sophomore point guard Ronnie Moss just wrapping his arms around Fredette’s waist at times, but it was no use. Fredette did it every way: deep threes, pull-up jumpers, taking it to the hole and, of course, hitting 23 of his whopping 24 free throw attempts on his way to 45 points (a MWC Tournament record), including 30 in the second half. And, if that weren’t enough, he added six assists as well.
  • Inside of a minute into the UNLV/Utah game, it was obvious it was going to be a physical game. Both teams tried to exploit the other teams inside, and Utah did so to the tune of 36 free throw attempts (of which they made 31). But if the Utes weren’t getting to the line, they were building a chimney; they made just 13 of their 40 field goal attempts, mostly because UNLV defenders were in their faces constantly.
  • It’s been said before I’m sure, so you won’t mind if I say it again: UNLV getting to play this tournament on their home court every year is a huge advantage. While there were pockets of Utah fans, this was little different than a UNLV home game.
  • After the Utes got three unanswered threes (by Marshall Henderson, Luka Drca and Chris Hines) wrapped around a David Foster rejection to cut what was a 13-point Rebel lead to just four at the half, the start of the second half was electric in the arena. But an early 12-3 run by the Rebels broke things back open and the rest of the half was the Runnin’ Rebels living up to their nickname.

WAC Tournament Quarters

(1) Utah State 84, (8) Boise State 60

  • If Utah State has a weakness it’s against pressure defenses. Boise State was able to hang in the game at halftime trailing by just five by turning the Aggies over and getting easy baskets in transition.
  • If you’ve followed WAC basketball at all this season you may wonder why Utah State’s Brian Green hits his elbow and points to the sky after every game. The answer? “These are my guns, I just reload them.” Green unloaded for 18 against Boise State, which was tied for the game high with both Tai Wesley and Pooh Williams.
  • Boise State fans don’t really like Greg Graham. Will he be joining Hawaii’s Bobby Nash in the WAC coaches unemployment line?

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RTC Live: WAC Qtrs – San Jose State vs. New Mexico State

Posted by rtmsf on March 11th, 2010

The night cap from the first day of play in the WAC tournament features the #3 seed New Mexico State Aggies versus the #6 seed San Jose State Spartans. New Mexico State comes into the tourney on a two game slide after losing at Nevada and Utah State when two wins would have meant a WAC championship. The Aggies have been a much better team since Troy Gillenwater and Wendell McKines became available during the spring semester, and combined with first team All-WAC player Jahmar Young, they make for a dynamic team capable of scoring in bunches. San Jose State counters with the best pure scorer in the WAC in Adrian Oliver (also a first team All-WAC player) and an odd lineup in which they will play up to four guards at once and try to push the pace of the game. New Mexico State also loves to play the uptempo game so expect each team to finish in the 80s or 90s. The winner of this game gets a semifinal matchup with the winner of the Nevada/Idaho on Friday night, while the loser packs up and hopes for a better season next year. Stay up late and see who can survive and advance to Friday night in Reno.

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WAC Tournament Preview

Posted by rtmsf on March 11th, 2010

Sam Wasson of bleedCRIMSON.net and Travis Mason-Bushman of Vandal Nation are the RTC correspondents for the Western Athletic Conference.

It’s finally here, do or die time. The WAC tournament will begin on Thursday, March 11, for the eight teams who earned their way in. All eight teams feel like they have a shot to win the whole enchilada but in reality there are probably only five teams that have a chance. History is also not on four teams’ side as only once has a team seeded lower than #4 won the conference tournament as #5-seed Hawai’i pulled off the feat in the 2001 WAC Tournament. Utah State is the favorite as they ran roughshod over the WAC for a second straight season. Nevada is also a favorite but their lack of depth and need to win three games in four days will be something to keep an eye on. New Mexico State is the league’s second highest scoring team and perhaps most physically talented team, however, they are also the league’s worst scoring defense having given up at least 80 points in seven of their 16 conference games. Louisiana Tech was strong in the first half of the season but faltered down the stretch. They could get hot and run the table as well as they have wins over every WAC team except New Mexico State (whom they would not potentially face until the championship game). San Jose State is the darkhorse in the equation. They boast the league’s leading scorer in Adrian Oliver and they have the pieces in place to make a run. However, they too have fallen on tough times losing three of the final four conference games. Unfortunately for them their path to the title game goes through New Mexico State and potentially top seeded Utah State and that’s even before playing in the title game.

There is one team missing from the conference tournament and that is the University of Hawai’i. Not only did Hawai’i not play its way into the WAC tournament last week losing twice on the road, they played their coach out of a job. The University of Hawai’i announced on Monday that head coach Bob Nash would not be returning next season. The Warriors have fallen on tough times since winning the conference tournament in back-to-back seasons to start the new century. The Warriors won in 2001 and again in 2002 earning the automatic bid and then were NIT bound in 2003 and 2004 but have gone 85-93 in their past five seasons combined after amassing an 85-45 record from the 2000-01 season through the 2003-04 season.

Final Standings (conference tournament seeding order)

  1. Utah State, 25-6 (14-2)
  2. Nevada 19-11 (11-5)
  3. New Mexico State, 19-11 (11-5)
  4. Louisiana Tech, 22-9 (9-7)
  5. Fresno State, 15-17 (6-10)
  6. San Jose State 14-16 (6-10)
  7. Idaho, 15-15 (6-10)
  8. Boise State, 15-16 (5-11)

OUT) Hawai’i, 10-18 (3-13)

All-WAC Honors

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Checking in on… the WAC

Posted by rtmsf on March 3rd, 2010

Sam Wasson of bleedCRIMSON.net and Travis Mason-Bushman of Vandal Nation are the RTC correspondents for the Western Athletic Conference.

As the WAC enters its final week of regular season play, Utah State has clinched at least a share of the WAC regular season title for the third consecutive season. The navy-clad Aggies earned the share with a 76-39 pasting of Fresno State. New Mexico State takes to the road with a chance to tie for the regular season title as the crimson-clad Aggies will face Nevada and Utah State. At the bottom of the standings it’s three teams — Idaho, Hawai’i and Boise State — fighting for the final two spots in the conference tournament which begins next week.

Current Standings

  • 1) Utah State, 24-6 (13-2)
  • 2) New Mexico State, 19-9 (11-3)
  • T3) Louisiana Tech, 22-7 (9-5)
  • T3) Nevada 17-11 (9-5)
  • 5) San Jose State 14-14 (6-8)
  • 6) Fresno State, 14-17 (6-9)
  • 7) Idaho, 13-15 (4-10)
  • 8) Hawai’i, 10-18 (3-11)
  • 9) Boise State, 13-16 (3-11)

Team Breakdowns

Boise State, 13-16 (3-11)

The week’s results:  02/25 W @ Louisiana Tech, 72-59, 02/27 L @ New Mexico State, 95-92

Upcoming games:  03/04 vs. Hawai’i, 03/06 vs. San Jose State

After looking like they were going to be the odd man out of the conference tournament just a week ago, the Broncos have been re-energized by a road split at Louisiana Tech and New Mexico State. BSU pulled off the stunning upset over La. Tech, winning by 13 points, and then nearly pulled off another shocker mounting a huge second half comeback before falling just short by three at New Mexico State. The Broncos can play their way into the tournament as they host Hawai’i and San Jose State to end the regular season. A split by the Broncos could still end their season as Hawai’i would then own the tiebreaker over Boise State and a pair of losses would guarantee their missing the conference tournament.

Fresno State, 14-17 (6-9)

The week’s results:  02/23 W vs. Cal State-Bakersfield, 79-68, 02/27 L @ San Jose State, 72-45, 03/01 L @ Utah State, 76-39

Upcoming games:  03/04 vs. Louisiana Tech

The Bulldogs had a disastrous week of conference play, losing on the road at San Jose State and at Utah State by 27 and 37, respectively. In both games Fresno State was down big at halftime. FSU hosts Louisiana Tech on Senior Night in Fresno but a loss could drop them all the way to the seventh seed in the conference tournament.

Hawai’i, 10-18 (3-11)

The week’s results:  02/26 L vs. Utah State, 61-50, 02/28 W vs. Nevada, 74-63

Upcoming games:  03/04 @ Boise State, 03/06 @ Idaho

The Warriors finally broke through by snapping a nine-game losing streak, eight of those in conference. It couldn’t have come at a better time for Hawaii as their win over Nevada on Saturday came on a tumultuous day that saw the islands threatened by a tsunami. It was coupled with a loss by Boise State at New Mexico State and enabled the Warriors to have a chance to play their way into the WAC tournament in the final week of the regular season. Hawai’i will travel to the mainland to face Boise State and Idaho. UH lost to Idaho and defeated Boise State on the islands in the first meeting but all that matters to the Warriors is winning two games this week and they’re in the conference tournament.

Idaho, 13-15 (4-10)

The week’s results:  02/24 L @ New Mexico State, 74-57, 02/27 L @ Louisiana Tech, 60-49

Upcoming games:  03/04 vs. San Jose State, 03/06 vs. Hawai’i

After looking like they had earned themselves a spot in the conference tournament, the Vandals are in danger of missing it after getting swept on the road at New Mexico State and Louisiana Tech. Combined with stunning victories by Hawai’i vs. Nevada and Boise State at Louisiana Tech, the Vandals have just a one-game lead over the two schools with two games left to play. Idaho will host San Jose State and Hawai’i. The Vandals just need one victory to earn their spot in the conference tournament, however, they would certainly want to win both to ensure they don’t drop to the eighth seed and have to face Utah State or New Mexico State in the first round.

Louisiana Tech, 22-7 (9-5)

The week’s results:  02/25 L vs. Boise State, 72-59, 02/27 W vs. Idaho, 60-49

Upcoming games:  03/04 @ Fresno State, 03/06 @ Nevada

The Bulldogs finish the week on the road visiting Fresno State and Nevada with a chance to lock up the third seed in the conference tournament. Louisiana Tech was stunned by Boise State and dropped into fourth place but they were aided when Hawai’i returned the favor against Nevada to tie things up between the Wolf Pack and Bulldogs.

Nevada 17-11 (9-5)

The week’s results:  02/25 W @ San Jose State, 83-79, 02/28 L @ Hawai’i, 74-63

Upcoming games:  03/04 vs. New Mexico State, 03/06 vs. Louisiana Tech

The Wolf Pack split a pair of road games last week but are assured a top four finish in the conference. Nevada can lock up second place in the league behind Utah State if they can take care of business at home against New Mexico State and Louisiana Tech.

New Mexico State (19-9, 11-3)

The week’s results:  02/24 W vs. Idaho, 74-57, 02/27 W vs. Boise State, 95-92

Upcoming games:  03/04 @ Nevada, 03/06 @ Utah State

New Mexico State took care of business at home last week to set themselves up for one of the biggest road trips they’ve had in a long time. A pair of wins would give the Aggies a share of the regular season title with Utah State and the number one overall seed in the WAC tournament. A split would give them second place in the league but a pair of losses could potentially drop them to the three seed.

San Jose State 14-14 (6-8)

The week’s results:  02/25 L vs. Nevada, 83-79, 02/27 W vs. Fresno State, 72-45

Upcoming games:  03/04 @ Idaho, 03/06 @ Boise State

The Spartans split a pair last week but moved up to fifth place in the league where they’ll look to stay with a pair of games at Idaho and at Boise State. SJSU is looking for their best conference record and finish in over ten seasons. Should the Spartans lose both games they could potentially drop to the seven seed.

Utah State, 24-6 (13-2)

The week’s results:  02/25 W @ Hawai’i, 61-50, 03/01 W vs. Fresno State, 76-39

Upcoming games: 03/06 vs. New Mexico State

The UtAgs clinched at least a share of the WAC’s regular season title for the third consecutive season with a pair of victories over Hawai’i and Fresno State. Utah State will look to win the title outright as they host New Mexico State on Saturday. The crimson Aggies are one of only two losses suffered by Utah State in conference play this season. The UtAgs have already avenged their only other loss when they defeated Louisiana Tech.

UPCOMING GAMES

  • 03/04 – Nevada vs. New Mexico State – 7:00 p.m. PT
  • 03/04 – Idaho vs. San Jose State – 7:00 p.m. PT
  • 03/04 – Boise State vs. Hawai’i – 7:00 p.m. MT
  • 03/04 – Fresno State vs. Louisiana Tech – 7:00 p.m. PT
  • 03/06 – Boise State vs. San Jose State – 3:15 p.m. MT
  • 03/06 – Idaho vs. Hawai’i – 5:00 p.m. PT
  • 03/06 – Utah State vs. New Mexico State – 7:00 p.m.
  • 03/06 – Nevada vs. Louisiana Tech – 8:00 p.m. PT
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Checking in on… the WAC

Posted by rtmsf on February 24th, 2010

Sam Wasson of bleedCRIMSON.net and Travis Mason-Bushman of Vandal Nation are the RTC correspondents for the Western Athletic Conference.

The top four teams in the league put on an strong showing in the ESPNU BracketBusters on Saturday with Utah State, New Mexico State and Louisiana Tech all picking up victories in their nationally televised games. Nevada came up just short against Missouri State leaving the league with a 3-1 record. The rest of the league did not fare as well as the remaining five teams went 1-4 in their BracketBusters games with San Jose State being the only team to win their non-conference matchup.

With BracketBusters out of the way, fans now turn their attention back to the league race. It’s down to the final two weeks of play and the top four teams still all have a chance to win the league. Utah State leads the race to the finish line at 11-2. Just behind the Aggies are the league’s other Aggies, New Mexico State at 9-3. Louisiana Tech and Nevada are tied at 8-4 in third place. The path to the regular season title appears to heads through Logan, UT, as the UtAgs finish with two of three at home including a showdown with second place New Mexico State. NM State hosts the Idaho schools before closing out the season on the road at Nevada and Utah State. Nevada likewise finishes with two on the road and two at home as they’ll head to San Jose and Honolulu this week before returning home to face New Mexico State and La. Tech. La. Tech also hosts the Idaho schools before finishing the season at Fresno State and at Nevada. With quality competition among the top four it’s anyone’s guess how the top four seedings will shake out but it’s guaranteed to be an exciting finish.

Current Standings

  1. Utah State, 22-6 (11-2)
  2. New Mexico State, 17-9 (9-3)
  3. Louisiana Tech, 21-6 (8-4)
  4. Nevada 16-10 (8-4)
  5. Fresno State, 13-15 (6-7)
  6. San Jose State 13-12 (5-7)
  7. Idaho, 13-13 (4-8)
  8. Hawai’i, 9-17 (2-10)
  9. Boise State, 12-15 (2-10)

Team Rundowns

Boise State, 12-15 (2-10).  The Broncos split a pair of games against Big West foes as they defeated Cal State-Bakersfield 81-62 but fell 82-74 to UC Davis in an ESPNU BracketBusters game. The Broncos are fighting not only for their postseason lives but potentially their coach’s job as well. The Broncos head out on the road to face top half foes La. Tech and NM State this week. The Broncos lost by 15 to the Bulldogs in Boise while they were more competitive against the Aggies falling by just three.

The week’s results:  02/17 W vs. Cal State-Bakersfield, 81-62, 02/20 L vs. UC-Davis, 82-74

Upcoming games:  02/25 @ Louisiana Tech, 02/27 @ New Mexico State

Fresno State, 13-15 (6-7).  The Bulldogs lost a close contest to Big West leading UC Santa Barbara on Saturday in an ESPNU BracketBusters game. Fresno State had a chance to take the lead late in the game but a three pointer from Paul George clanked off the back of the rim and UCSB held on for the win. Up next for Fresno is a pair of in-state games against CS-Bakersfield and then a showdown at San Jose State, a battle for fifth place in the league and a chance to showcase two of the league’s most dynamic players in Paul George and Adrian Oliver.

The week’s results:  02/20 L vs. UC-Santa Barbara, 64-60

Upcoming games:  02/23 vs. Cal State-Bakersfield, 02/27 @ San Jose State, 03/01 @ Utah state

Hawai’i, 9-17 (2-10).  The slide continues for the Warriors as they’ve dropped eight in a row. Hawai’i fell on the road by 24 at New Mexico State in a game that wasn’t even that close. Then in an ESPNU BracketBusters game that the injury-riddled team would rather have not been playing, the Warriors lost to Cal Poly 102-89, again a game not nearly as close as the final margin indicated. UH fell behind by 21 points at halftime but to their credit they scored 59 points in the second half. Unfortunately for Warrior fans, the Mustangs scored 51 points in a half where defense was clearly optional. Hawai’i hosts Utah State and Nevada this week and perhaps the 59 point outburst is a sign that the Warriors are ready to emerge from the dark tunnel of losing.

The week’s results:  02/15 L @ New Mexico State, 88-64, 02/20 L vs. Cal Poly, 102-89

Upcoming games:  02/26 vs. Utah State, 02/28 vs. Nevada

Idaho, 13-13 (4-8).  The up and down season for the Vandals continues as they dispatched Seattle 82-72 only to fall to Long Beach State two nights later in the BracketBusters. Idaho appears to have clinched their spot in the WAC Tournament but need to win at least one more game to mathematically clinch a spot. UI travels to second place New Mexico State for a nationally televised game on ESPN2 followed by a trip to third place Ruston to take on La. Tech.

The week’s results:  02/18 W vs. Seattle, 82-72, 02/20 L vs. Long Beach State, 77-66

Upcoming games:  02/24 @ New Mexico State, 02/27 @ Louisiana Tech

Louisiana Tech, 21-6 (8-4).  The Bulldogs were two plays away from finishing the week 2-0 and two plays away from finishing the week 0-2. Instead they came away with a 1-1 record. A bad pass late in the game cost the Bulldogs a potential rare victory in Logan against Utah State but in their ESPNU BracketBusters game it was a banked three pointer by DeAndre Brown that gave the Bulldogs a 70-67 win over Northeastern. LTU hosts the Idaho squads this week before closing out the regular season on the road. The question for the Bulldogs is was the Northeastern victory enough to put them on the bubble? Aside from a loss at San Jose State, La. Tech doesn’t really have a bad loss. Their two non-conference losses were at New Mexico, a Top 15 team, and at Arizona. Conference losses to New Mexico State and Utah State are certainly nothing to be ashamed of.

The week’s results:  02/17 L @ Utah State, 67-61, 02/20 W @ Northeastern, 70-67

Upcoming games:  02/25 vs. Boise State, 02/27 vs. Idaho

Nevada 16-10 (8-4).  The Wolf Pack snuck out a victory over Fresno State 74-70 and lost a close game against Missouri State in the ESPNU BracketBusters. UNR head on the road to San Jose and Hawai’i this week. The game against the Spartans won’t be easy as SJSU has beaten both New Mexico State and Louisiana Tech earlier this season in San Jose and the trip to Hawai’i is never easy due in large part to the travel requirements. A road sweep this week will set up a demanding final week in which the Wolf Pack can potentially earn a regular season title with some help from Utah State’s opponents.

The week’s results:  02/17 vs. Fresno State, 02/20 @ Missouri State

Upcoming games:  02/25 @ San Jose State, 02/28 @ Hawai’i

New Mexico State (17-9, 9-3).  The crimson-clad Aggies earned a pair of victories last week with a 24-point win over depleted Hawai’i and then an 84-78 BracketBusters win over Pacific. NM State is now 5-0 in the BracketBusters event and they continued their domination of Pacific having won 30 of 38 meetings between the two schools. The Aggies host the Idaho schools this week. A home sweep will give the Aggies a chance to win at least a share of the regular season title with the northern navy-clad Aggies.

The week’s results:  02/15 W 88-64 vs. Hawai’i, 02/20 W @ Pacific, 84-78

Upcoming games:  02/24 vs. Idaho, 02/27 vs. Boise State

San Jose State 13-12 (5-7).  The Spartans earned the WAC’s only non-televised BracketBusters victory with their 77-66 win over Montana State. Up next for SJSU is Nevada and Fresno State at home. A home sweep can move Spartans up in the league standings and potentially set themselves up for a shot at a finish as high as fourth. The game at home against Fresno State gives the Spartans a chance to shine on national television on ESPNU.

The week’s results:  02/20 @ Montana State

Upcoming games:  02/25 vs. Nevada, 02/27 vs. Fresno State

Utah State, 22-6 (11-2).  The Aggies had the best week in the league defeating a pair of 20-win teams at home. Utah State escaped with a win over Louisiana Tech, 67-61, and dispatched of one of the Missouri Valley’s best in Wichita State, 68-58. USU has won 12 in a row and with an RPI of 33 has to be considered a strong bubble team. However, losses to Long Beach State (13-14) and Utah (12-14) don’t look good on the resume. The UtAgs can close out a regular season title if they’re able to take care of Hawai’i and Fresno State which could set up a one-game playoff for the regular season title and the top seed in the WAC tournament if the crimson-clad Aggies take care of their end of things.

The week’s results:  02/17 vs. Louisiana Tech, 02/21 vs. Wichita State

Upcoming games:   02/25 @ Hawai’i, 03/01 vs. Fresno State

UPCOMING GAMES

  • 02/23 – Fresno State vs. Cal State-Bakersfield – 7:00 p.m. PT
  • 02/24 – New Mexico State vs. Idaho – 9:00 p.m. MT (ESPN2)
  • 02/25 – San Jose State vs. Nevada – 7:00 p.m. PT (Comcast SportsNet California)
  • 02/25 – Louisiana Tech vs. Boise State – 7:00 p.m. CT
  • 02/25 – Hawai’i vs. Utah State – 7:00 p.m. HT
  • 02/27 – Louisiana Tech vs. Idaho – 7:00 p.m. CT
  • 02/27 – San Jose State vs. Fresno State – 7:00 p.m. PT (ESPNU)
  • 02/27 – Hawai’i vs. Nevada – 7:00 p.m. HT (Comcast SportsNet California)
  • 02/27 – New Mexico State vs. Boise State – 7:00 p.m. MT (KTVB-Boise, AggieVision-New Mexico)
  • 03/01 – Utah State vs. Fresno State – 7:00 p.m. MT (Bulldog Sports Network)
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Checking in on… the WAC

Posted by rtmsf on February 16th, 2010

Sam Wasson of bleedCRIMSON.net and Travis Mason-Bushman of Vandal Nation are the RTC correspondents for the Western Athletic Conference.

After starting out conference play 0-2 the Utah State Aggies have stormed their way to the top of the conference. The Aggies are winners of ten straight and at 10-2, have a game and a half lead over second place New Mexico State and Louisiana Tech. The bottom of the league is starting to clear itself up as well as Idaho has gotten warm at the right time to move into seventh place. Boise State and Hawai’i are battling for the final conference tournament spot.

This weekend the WAC steps out of conference as they take on their BracketBusters foes highlighted by 20-6 Utah State hosting 20-6 Wichita State, 15-9 New Mexico State traveling to 16-8 Pacific, 20-5 Louisiana Tech traveling to 17-9 Northeastern and 15-9 Nevada traveling to 17-8 Missouri State. Additionally, Fresno State will face Big West leading UC-Santa Barbara. The rest of the WAC will face members from the middle of the standings in the Big West.

Current Standings

  1. Utah State, 20-6 (10-2)
  2. New Mexico State, 15-9 (8-3)
  3. Louisiana Tech, 20-5 (8-3)
  4. Nevada 15-9 (7-4)
  5. Fresno State, 13-13 (6-6)
  6. San Jose State 12-10 (5-7)
  7. Idaho, 12-12 (4-8)
  8. Hawai’i, 9-15 (2-9)
  9. Boise State, 11-14 (2-10)

Team Breakdowns

Boise State

The week’s results: 02/07 L vs. Idaho, 79-55, 02/11 L vs. Utah State, 72-67, 02/13 L vs. Nevada, 88-80 (OT)

Upcoming games: 02/17 vs. Cal State-Bakersfield, 02/20 vs. UC-Davis

The Broncos have dropped three in a row and sit in last place in the WAC and with a loss at eighth place Hawai’i earlier in the conference season, the Broncos appear to be the team on the outside looking in at the postseason. They’ll need to start winning some games and hope for some help from the Hawai’i opponents as the conference schedule winds down if they hope to make the eight-team conference tournament. The Broncos step out of conference this week to face a pair of Big West foes in Cal State-Bakersfield and UC-Davis as part of the ESPN BracketBusters event.

Fresno State (13-13, 6-6)

The week’s results:  02/06 W @ Hawai’i, 61-51, 02/11 W vs. New Mexico State, 83-64, 02/13 L vs. Idaho, 68-59

Upcoming games:  02/20 vs. UC-Santa Barbara

The Bulldogs continue their up and down season. Following wins over Hawai’i in Honolulu and a beating of then-first place New Mexico State, the Bulldogs followed up with a loss at home to seventh place Idaho, 68-59. The Bulldogs were swept by the Vandals this season and sit two games ahead of the Vandals with four tough conference games remaining as they will play three of their final four conference games on the road at Nevada, at San Jose State and at Utah State before closing out the season with Louisiana Tech. Their sweep at the hands of Idaho could play a big factor in the seedings in the conference tournament.

Hawaii (9-15, 2-9)

The week’s results:  02/06 L vs. Fresno State, 61-51, 02/13 L @ Louisiana Tech, 66-60

Upcoming games:  02/15 @ New Mexico State, 02/20 vs. Cal Poly

It continues to be close but no cigar for the extremely shorthanded Warriors. Hawai’i has now lost six games in a row and outside of a 23-point loss to San Jose State in SJ, the Warriors have lost five of those six games by 10 points or less and four of those by six or less. Head coach Bob Nash received more bad news as guard Jeremy Lay will miss the remainder of the season due to injury. The Warriors take on second place New Mexico State before hosting Cal Poly for their ESPN BracketBuster game.

Idaho (12-12, 4-8)

The week’s results: 02/07 L @ Boise State, 79-55, 02/10 L vs. Nevada, 67-66, 02/13 L @ Fresno State, 68-59

Upcoming games:  02/18 vs. Seattle, 02/20 vs. Long Beach State

The Vandals avenged their stunning home loss to in-state rival Boise State by taking them to the woodshed in the return game. The Vandals handed BSU their worst loss in the rivalry series. Idaho followed that win up with an oh-so-close loss to Nevada in which they led by two points with six seconds left before losing on a three point play by Nevada’s Armon Johnson. The Vandals regrouped to knock off Fresno State who was coming off a big victory over New Mexico State. Idaho hosts a pair of non-conference games when Seattle and Long Beach State come to Moscow.

Louisiana Tech (20-5, 8-3)

The week’s results:  02/08 L @ New Mexico State, 70-68, 02/13 W vs. Hawai’i, 66-60

Upcoming games:  02/17 @ Utah State, 02/20 @ Northeastern

After leading the WAC through the first half of the conference schedule, the Bulldogs have gone 3-3 in their past six games and have a very long road trip for a pair of tough upcoming games, at Utah State and then all the way back across the country to face Northeastern in a televised ESPN BracketBusters game. The Bulldogs were the last team to beat Utah State when they trounced the Aggies 82-60 in Ruston.

Nevada (15-8, 7-4)

The week’s results:  02/06 L @ Utah State, 76-65, 02/10 W vs. Idaho, 67-66, 02/13 W vs. Boise State, 88-80

Upcoming games: 02/17 vs. Fresno State, 02/20 @ Missouri State

The Wolf Pack lost on the road at Utah State, 76-65, and stole a victory in Moscow 67-66 on a three-point play with under six seconds left to stun Idaho. Nevada then outlasted Boise State 88-80 in overtime. The Wolf Pack sit just one game behind both Louisiana Tech and New Mexico State with both teams still facing road trips to Reno. They’ll host Fresno State before heading on the road to face Missouri State in their ESPN Bracketbusters game.

New Mexico State (15-9, 8-3)

The week’s results:  02/06 W vs. San Jose State, 94-82, 02/08 W vs. Louisiana Tech, 70-68, 02/11 L @ Fresno State, 83-64

Upcoming games: 02/15 vs. Hawai’i, 02/20 @ Pacific

The Aggies briefly moved into first place with a pair of victories over visiting San Jose State and Louisiana Tech but fell back into a tie for second place after a loss to Fresno State in their building.  Against Louisiana Tech, the Aggies saw a 32-point swing as they were down by 15 points in the first half and up by 17 points in the second before holding on for a two-point win. In the loss against Fresno State the Aggies had one of their worst free throw shooting performances as they finished the game 9-of-26 from the free throw stripe. They had a higher shooting percentage from the three point line, 9-of-22, than they did from the charity stripe. The Aggies will look to bounce back against a depleted Hawai’i squad before heading west to face Pacific in their ESPN BracketBusters game.

San Jose State (12-12, 5-7)

The week’s results:  02/06 L @ New Mexico State, 94-82, 02/13 L vs. Utah State, 81-65

Upcoming games:  02/20 @ Montana State

The Spartans have now lost four in a row and dropped to 5-7 in the league after suffering Ls at New Mexico State and at Utah State. The Spartans play just one game, their ESPN BracketBusters game on the road against Montana State this weekend, one of two consecutive games outside the conference as they’ll face Seattle before heading down the home stretch in conference.

Utah State (20-6, 10-2)

The week’s results:  02/05 W vs. Nevada, 76-65, 02/11 W @ Boise State, 72-67, 02/13 W@ San Jose State, 81-65

Upcoming games: 02/17 vs. Louisiana Tech, 02/21 vs. Wichita State

The Aggies find themselves atop the conference with just four conference games left and with only one of the three games on the road they have the inside track to the regular season title. If they can win out and reach the title game of the WAC tournament, they could have a strong case for an at-large bid with wins over BYU and a would-be win over Wichita State. The Aggies can build that case for an at-large if they can defeat Wichita State this Saturday, however, losses to Long Beach State and Utah in the non-conference don’t help their cause.

UPCOMING GAMES

02/17

  • Nevada vs. Fresno State – 7:00 p.m. PT (Comcast SportsNet)
  • Boise State vs. Cal State-Bakersfield – 8:15 p.m. MT
  • Utah State vs. Louisiana Tech – 9:00 p.m. MT (ESPN2)

02/18

  • Idaho vs. Seattle – 7:00 p.m. PT

02/20

  • Northeastern vs. Louisiana Tech – 1:00 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
  • Missouri State vs. Nevada – 2:00 p.m. CT (ESPN2)
  • Idaho vs. Long Beach State – 5:30 p.m. PT
  • Montana State vs. San Jose State – 7:00 p.m. MT
  • Pacific vs. New Mexico State – 7:00 p.m .PT (ESPNU)
  • Hawai’i vs. Cal Poly – 8:00 p.m. HT
  • Utah State vs. Wichita State – 10:00 p.m. MT (ESPN2)
  • Boise State vs. UC-Davis – TBA
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