Big Ten Weekend Look Ahead: 12.19.15 Edition

Posted by Alex Moscoso on December 19th, 2015

After a quiet week for the league, this weekend storms in with some great games. The centerpiece of the next two days will be the Crossroads Classic, an event that takes the four most prestigious programs from the country’s most basketball-rich state and pairs them together in Indianapolis. It’s turned into one of the premier events before conference plays begins. Here is your weekend preview:

The Crossroads Classic

The Crossroads Classic in Indianapolis is upon us once again this Saturday.

  • Northwestern at Depaul (Saturday, 2:00 PM ET, FS1). People may not have noticed, but Northwestern is 9-1 with its sole loss against North Carolina–a game which was at least competitive in the first half. Not many have jumped on the Wildcats’ bandwagon because their schedule as of today has been laughable. Only two of their wins have come from teams ranked higher than #175 on KenPom and both those wins came in overtime. A win at DePaul (5-5) wouldn’t convert many to be believers, but it would represent Northwestern’s best win of the season (given their light schedule thus far).
  • Notre Dame vs Indiana (Saturday, 2:00 PM ET, ESPN2). This is the opener to the Crossroads Classic and Mike Brey decided to turn up the heat to it when he said yesterday that Notre Dame was the most consistent program in the state, “and it isn’t close”. It’s not certain whether his statement was a direct shot at their upcoming opponents, the only blueblood program in the state, or it was just innocuous praise for himself and assistant coaches. Either way, it should be a highly entertaining and frenetic game as both these teams have Top 5 offenses paired with pedestrian defenses. The game might come down to whoever makes the most threes or who has the most transition points. Grab the popcorn before you watch this one.

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Big Ten Weekend Look Ahead: 12.11.15 Edition

Posted by Alex Moscoso on December 11th, 2015

The college football championships are now in the books, which means basketball has center stage for a while. There are just under three weeks left in the non-conference portion of the schedule, so teams are still looking to notch a few resume-enhancing wins before conference play begins at the end of the month. Luckily for Ohio State, Wisconsin, Michigan State and Nebraska this weekend, they will have those opportunities against top 100 teams this weekend. Here is your weekend preview of those four games.

Mark Loving (left) leads a very mediocre Buckeyes unit into Stoors on Saturday.

Mark Loving (left) leads a mediocre Buckeyes unit into Storrs on Saturday.

  • Ohio State at Connecticut (Saturday, 12:00 PM ET, CBS). The Huskies are coming off a tough loss at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday, possibly because their coach, Kevin Ollie, received an ill-timed technical in the latter stages of the game. They’ll get another shot against a Big Ten team when the Buckeyes visit Gampel Pavilion on Saturday afternoon. Thad Matta’s young squad has looked its age as the Buckeyes commit a turnover in one out of every five possessions so far this season. If Ohio State can’t protect the ball against a very good Connecticut defense, they’ll slip below .500 with a record of 4-5, something that hasn’t happened this late in the season during the Matta era.
  • Marquette at Wisconsin (Saturday, 1:30 PM ET, ESPN2). If you haven’t yet heard, this version of Wisconsin isn’t your typical Bo Ryan team. Rather, this team, to the consternation of its head coach, shies away from three-pointers in favor of mid-range jumpers. Therefore, this rivalry game may rely on which player wins the battle in the paint between the Badgers’ Nigel Hayes and the Golden Eagles’ Henry Ellenson. While the freshman is bigger and more naturally gifted, the upperclassman knows how to take over a game — Hayes scored 32 points and grabbed eight rebounds in a recent loss to Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Look for whoever wins this individual battle to set the tone for the rest of his team.

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The Big Ten Third and Fourth Place Race Cheat Sheet

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on March 6th, 2015

Last week, I broke down the race for the top four seeds in the Big Ten because finishing in that group guarantees those teams a double-bye in the upcoming Big Ten Tournament. Heading into the final weekend of the regular season, we have a much clearer picture of this race. Wisconsin and Maryland have already locked up the #1 and #2 seeds, but the #3 and #4 seeds are still very much up in the air. Currently, there is a four-way tie for third place between Iowa, Michigan State, Ohio State, and Purdue. All teams have a record of 11-6 with one game remaining — none of which are against each other. This means that there are 16 possible (and very confusing) combinations of outcomes from this weekend’s games. To help clear things up, I created a cheat sheet showing where each team will be seeded given each scenario. The table below displays the 16 possibilities: Michigan State gets a double-by in 12 of the 16 options; Purdue in nine; Iowa in six; and, Ohio State in five.

cheat sheet b1g

Below is a synopsis for each team:

  • Michigan State. Thanks to a 3-0 record against the other three teams, the Spartans would win all of the tiebreakers and end up with a top four seed in 12 of the sixteen scenarios and with the #3 seed in nine of the 16 scenarios. It breaks down like this: If the Spartans beat Indiana on the road, they’ll lock up the #3 seed; if they lose, they’ll need at least two other teams to also fall to get the double-bye. In this four-team race, Michigan State clearly has the upper hand.
  • Iowa. The Hawkeyes finish with a top four seed in six of the 16 possible scenarios. In head-to-head tiebreakers, they will have the advantage over Ohio State (2-0) but not against the other two teams (0-1). In situations where multiple teams are tied, Iowa is hurt by its two losses to Wisconsin because the others only have one loss from the Badgers.

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Big Ten M5: 12.29.14 Edition

Posted by Alex Moscoso on December 29th, 2014


  1. On Saturday, Indiana lost its final non-conference match-up to Georgetown in Madison Square Garden. In the second half, the game became a duel between two former teammates and Indianapolis natives, the Hoosiers’ Yogi Ferrell and the Hoyas’ D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera. Ferrell scored a team-high 27 points, including two three-pointers that helped the Hoosiers tie the game and send it to overtime. As Zach Osterman explains, there is no shame in losing to Georgetown on a neutral site — the disappointment stems from what would have been gained with a win. A win over a good Big East team would not only have given Indiana a big boost going into its conference schedule, but also earned them their first resume win and mitigated some of the stain from their bad loss to Eastern Washington. Now, the Hoosiers will have to overperform in Big Ten play in order to earn an NCAA bid.
  2. This weekend we also saw the return of Dez Wells when Maryland defeated Oakland. After missing five games with a wrist injury, Wells did not get the start but played 22 minutes, chipping in 10 points and four assists. The senior’s return adds to the momentum the Terrapins have built after going 12-1 in non-conference play. In Wells’ absence, Jake Layman has stepped up his production, emerging as a legitimate scoring option for Maryland; combine that with the standout play of freshman stud Melo Trimble and a healthy Wells and Evan Smotrycz, and Mark Turgeon now has a wealth of talent with which to develop his new rotation, shaping up Maryland to be a force in its first season in the Big Ten.
  3. The slate of Saturday games also included Minnesota’s convincing win against UNC-Wilmington. This was the Golden Gophers’ eighth victory in a row, and it caps off a nice finish to their non-conference schedule after starting 3-2 — they’re now 11-2 with losses only to Louisville and St. John’s (both in KenPom’s top 20). Richard Pitino’s pressure defense has once again been a big part of their success (defensive turnover rate of 28.0 percent, third in the country), but it’s their ability to share the ball that has really boosted the offense and overall play, as evidenced by the 66.2 percent of field goals made that come off of assists (fifth nationally). Minnesota will see if its collegial philosophy on offense will translate to a step up in competition when it starts Big Ten play Wednesday at Purdue.
  4. Now that the non-conference schedule season has wrapped up, it’s worth reviewing what has happened in the season thus far. We will have some look-back posts coming up here on the microsite, but the MaizeNBrew blog from SB Nation has compiled a pretty comprehensive version of its non-conference awards. Wisconsin was honored as the Best Team, while Northwestern shamefully beat out Rutgers to be named the Worst Team. Additionally, the Badgers’ Frank Kaminsky was awarded midseason MVP, Ohio State’s D’Angelo Russell was Best Freshman, Maryland’s Jake Layman was Most Improved, Wisconsin/Duke was the best game of the non-conference season, Iowa over North Carolina was deemed the Best Win, and Michigan’s infamous defeat to NJIT was identified as the Worst Loss. There are many, many more awards in the article, and it serves as a good recap of the early part of the season for the Big Ten.
  5. Finally, fans have been grasping at straws to make sense of the “mushy middle”of this year’s Big Ten. It seems as if there is not much daylight between teams unless your name is Wisconsin (for good reason) or Northwestern and Rutgers (for not-so-good reasons). If you’re looking for some clarity, Jeff from the BasketballPredictions blog has updated his bracketology predictions to include Saturday’s results. His predictions and seedings reflect what he expects to occur by the end of the season. In it, he has eight Big Ten teams making the Dance: Wisconsin (#1 seed), Ohio State (#4), Maryland (#7), Illinois (#7), Iowa (#8), Michigan State (#9), Michigan (#11), and Minnesota (#12). This leaves out bubble-hopefuls Penn State (and their 12-1 record), Indiana, Nebraska and Purdue. These predictions seem to highlight how much uncertainty there is with any team’s record and/or performance in the non-conference, and that we’ll likely have a slugfest in the conference all season long for those precious NCAA Tournament bids. There are two exciting months of Big Ten play coming our way that will sort all of this out. Get excited!
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D’Angelo Russell: RTC Big Ten’s Preseason Freshman of the Year

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on November 11th, 2014

Thad Matta has been the most successful coach at Ohio State since the Fred Taylor era in the sixties. As he enters his eleventh season in Columbus, his Big Ten resume reads as follows: Five regular-season conference championships, four tournament championships, and two Final Four appearances including a trip to the National Championship game. One of the pillars to his success has been his ability to lure superbly talented recruits who are able to have an immediate impact in their freshman season. Players like Greg Oden, Mike Conley, Jared Sullinger, and Aaron Craft have fit this bill and are a big part of why the Buckeyes have had sustained success for almost a decade. D’Angelo Russell is the next player to follow in these footsteps. He’s a prolific scorer who joins an Ohio State squad in need of someone to take the reins of their offense. For these reasons, he’s our Big Ten Preseason Freshman of the Year.

d'angelo russell

D’Angelo Russell is set up to lead his team in scoring in his first year at Ohio State (Danny Wild).

Although Russell is originally from Louisville, he finished his high school career in Montverde Academy in Florida where played point guard and led his prep team to win the Dick’s Sporting Goods High School National Tournament. He was also selected to the McDonald’s All American team where he scored 11 points (5-10 FG) in 15 minutes. The 6’5”, 180 lbs. combo guard has a remarkable ability to put the ball in the basket due to his effective shooting, ball handling ability, and natural feel for the game. But what impressed Matta most about the young guard is “… his demeanor on the court at this point just in terms of, he can take a court over”.

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Key Questions For Michigan State at Ohio State Today

Posted by Alex Moscoso & Brendan Brody on March 9th, 2014

It’s the final weekend of the regular season and teams are either jockeying for seeding or trying to get on the right side of the bubble. Later this afternoon, Michigan State will travel to Ohio State and, with both teams clearly in the NCAA Tournament field already, this game will be about building momentum for the Big Ten Tournament and beyond. Once again, RTC Big Ten writers Alex Moscoso and Brendan Brody preview the game as they each ask one another a question about the today’s match-up.

Keith Appling and the Spartans' offense try to keep the momentum going against Ohio State on Sunday. (Leon Halip/Getty Images North America)

Keith Appling and the Spartans’ offense try to keep the momentum going against Ohio State on Sunday. (Leon Halip/Getty Images North America)

AM: In its last two games, Ohio State’s defense (#2 in KenPom) has underperformed against two inferior teams (Indiana and Penn State). Meanwhile, Michigan State’s offense (#18 in KenPom) has been inconsistent since the beginning of February. In the match-up between the Buckeyes’ defense vs the Spartans’ offense today, which comes out on top, and why?

BB: It’s hard to say whether Michigan State’s performance Thursday night against Iowa was simply the result of Iowa’s porous defense or a sign that the Spartans are once again fully healthy and clicking on all cylinders. Numbers like 1.26 points per possession, 58.3 percent shooting from the field, and 20 assists on 28 made fields goals, aren’t anything to take lightly, whether they were accomplished against the league’s third-worst defense in conference play or otherwise. Part of the problem for Ohio State in its two losses is that the Buckeyes let their opponents shoot 38.7 percent from three even though they forced an average of 17 turnovers. The Spartans hit 11 threes the first time these two teams played, and after witnessing Thursday’s offensive clinic, I think they’re going to get the best of the Ohio State defense. Thad Matta’s team wins on defense by eliminating the three, but Michigan State is a bad match-up because of the way they share the ball (11th in the country in assist rate), and how they can spread things out in transition with multiple shooters that can burn you. Kenny Kaminski, Travis Trice, Adreian Payne and Appling all shoot over 40 percent from distance for the season, and Gary Harris is 16-of-33 in his last four games from that distance. I think the Iowa game showed what everyone thought at the beginning of the season. Michigan State is about to go on a run, and Ohio State won’t stop them this afternoon.

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Can Ohio State Find Enough Offense to Stay Off the Bubble?

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on February 1st, 2014

Dear Ohio State fans, it is finally time to have this conversation. I didn’t want to have this talk because, well, with a decade of Big Ten dominance on his side, it seemed silly to doubt head coach Thad Matta. I just assumed he’d turn it around sooner than later because things tend to work out for him more often than not. But after the Buckeyes’ one-point overtime loss to Penn State in Columbus and losses in five of their last six games, it’s apparent that this Ohio State team is not very good right now, and they are a likely bubble team as of today. I know that statement stings; heck, a few weeks ago I even wrote this article on how the Buckeyes may have the best road to the Big Ten championship. And to be honest, I’m not sure that Matta doesn’t find a way to salvage this season. In his 10 seasons in Columbus, he has two Final Four appearances, five regular season championships, and four Big Ten Tournament championships. But at the moment, this offense, and therefore this team, seems incapable of competing with the Big Ten elites.

After their home loss to Penn State, Thad Matta and his Buckeyes may be sweating it out selection Sunday.

After their home loss to Penn State, Thad Matta and his Buckeyes may be sweating it out on Selection Sunday.

To say Ohio State’s resume is weak may be a bit too kind; the Buckeyes’ best win is against a Marquette team which is 12-9 and at .500 in the Big East. On the other side of the ledger, the Buckeyes now have bad losses against Nebraska and Penn State. Last week I pointed out that the team’s recent struggles can be traced back to its anemic offense. Before the Penn State game, their last five offensive performances were logged at 0.88, 0.96, 0.82, 0.90, and 1.02 points per possession. But lately, their defense — which has a current adjusted defensive efficiency of 0.89 points per possession and was #1 in the nation for most of the first half of the season — has not been nearly as dominant. In the same five games, Ohio State has allowed their opponents to score 1.01, 1.18, 0.99, 0.95, and 0.86 points per possession. The Buckeyes’ defense disappointed again on Wednesday night as they allowed 1.06 points per possession from Penn State — a team ranked eighth in the conference by offensive efficiency.

Buckeye fans, if you’re looking for hope, you may find it in the computer models that still think this team is among the top 25 in the country. Both KenPom and Sagarin have Ohio State ranked 21st and 17th in their national rankings, respectively. So if you’re of the belief that some of these latest losses are just the case of a slump combined with some bad luck, you aren’t completely without merit. But even if Matta’s defense rounds back into form, they’re going to need to upset a few of the better Big Ten teams to pad that resume and offset the bad losses. That’s a tall task to request from this offense.

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Want to Win in the Big Ten? You’d Better Get Your Offense Right

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on January 23rd, 2014

This isn’t your father’s offensively challenged but physical Big Ten. This year the league houses three of the top five efficient offenses in the nation (Iowa, Michigan, and Wisconsin). In fact, certain teams’ offenses, or obvious lack of offense, have challenged our preconceived notions of how the league might shake out over the next two months. Two weeks ago, I wrote that Ohio State, after its overtime to loss to Michigan State, still had a great shot to win the Big Ten title because of its soft conference schedule. On Monday night, the Buckeyes lost to perpetual bottom-dweller Nebraska, extending their losing streak to four games. Four weeks ago, Michigan looked dead in the water when news broke that center Mitch McGary would have season-ending back surgery. Last night, the Wolverines put on an offensive show in their defeat of Iowa by eight points in Ann Arbor. They now find themselves tied for first place with a 6-0 record in league play. Each team’s change of fortune can be explained through the evolution (or devolution) of their offense.

Shannon Scott hasn't been the offensive weapon the Buckeyes have hoped. And it may be costing them losses in the conference. (Sandra Dukes-USA TODAY Sports).

Shannon Scott hasn’t been an offensive option off the bench. And it may be costing them losses in the conference. (Sandra Dukes-USA TODAY Sports).

While physical play and strong defenses are still league constants, some teams are now surging due to their offensive prowess while others are sinking because of their offensive fecklessness. Take the case of Michigan, a team that has surprised the Big Ten with its undefeated record through the first third of conference play. The Wolverines racked up four losses in non-conference play, but their offense has hit another gear since. In the last five games, Michigan has not had an eFG rate below 58 percent and has averaged approximately 1.2 points per possession. Sophomores Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III have led the way by averaging 34.8 PPG combined in those five games. Robinson has been especially surprising after his mediocre start to the season. On the flip side is the case of Ohio State. The Buckeyes have the best defense in the league by a significant margin, but at best a middle-of-the-road offense. The Buckeyes were hoping Shannon Scott would contribute in the scoring department off the bench, but that has not come to fruition. In their four consecutive losses, Scott is averaging a measly 4.0 PPG and Ohio State as a team has shot below 45 percent from the field in each of those games.

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Big Ten M5: 01.14.14 Edition

Posted by Alex Moscoso on January 14th, 2014


  1. Injuries have plagued Michigan State throughout the season and have affected some of their most important players, including Gary Harris, Branden Dawson, and Adreian Payne. Payne did not play in Saturday’s win against Minnesota because of a nagging ankle injury. Now, Tom Izzo says he will keep his star big man on the bench until he’s 100 percent healthy. Michigan State has managed to keep winning despite its health misfortunes, but if this keeps being an issue, it could affect their chances of a Big Ten title and a protected seed in the NCAA Tournament. Sadly, this would deprive us of seeing the full potential of one of the better teams Izzo has put together during his tenure, a loss for fans of Big Ten basketball.
  2. It has not been the best of weeks for Ohio State. The Buckeyes are on a two-game losing skid after dropping games at Michigan State (in overtime) and at home versus Iowa. If the Buckeyes are to end this streak and insert themselves back into the Big Ten championship conversation, they’ll need to do it with their elite defense. LaQuinton Ross has been unable to replace last season’s Big Ten scoring leader, Deshaun Thomas (19.8 PPG), as many had projected. So the Buckeyes are left with focusing on their top-ranked defense (0.87 points per possession) to shore up their offensive inefficiencies. They failed to do this in the last two games when they gave up 0.96 and 1.14 points per possession, respectively, against the Spartans and Hawkeyes.
  3. Tom Crean‘s team isn’t where he hoped it would be at this point in the season. Indiana is 1-2 in conference play and 11-5 overall with no signature wins on its midseason resume. Things aren’t about to get any easier as an undefeated Wisconsin visits Assembly Hall tonight. Crean had high praise for Bo Ryan‘s squad on Monday: “I have tremendous respect for that program. That’s what a great team looks like. I think you can start with Bo, and that’s what a great coach looks like.” The Indiana head man has been at the receiving end of Ryan’s ‘greatness’ over the years, as he is 3-14 all-time in games against Ryan (0-10 while at Indiana). Given how the Badgers have been blowing out their lesser opponents, Crean will have to do one heck of a coaching job for his Hoosiers to earn his first Big Ten win over Ryan.
  4. Once the announcement came that Mitch McGary would opt to undergo back surgery and effectively end his season, most thought Michigan would struggle and might even fall apart. At least so far, the Wolverines have been able to tread water competently and are currently sit at 3-0 in the Big Ten. A big reason has been the aggressive play of freshman Derrick Walton, Jr., who had the tough duty of replacing last year’s National Player of Year, Trey Burke. Burke was a facilitator who made everyone on the team better, while Walton has focused more on getting his own shot because that is what his team needs right now. On the last possession of last Thursday’s game against Nebraska, Walton drove the ball for an and-one that secured the win. No one is expecting Michigan to compete for a Big Ten title this season, but Walton’s newfound confidence will keep the Wolverines competitive and set them up for high expectations next season.
  5. If you happened to catch Sunday night’s game of Illinois at Northwestern, you probably wished you had watched the Golden Globes instead, or even the Yule-Log channel. The Wildcats won an awkward, hard-to-watch, 49-43 affair where both teams shot below 40 percent from the field. While the game certainly didn’t help the overall brand of college basketball, it did get Northwestern’s first-year head coach, Chris Collins, his first Big Ten win. His father, former NBA head coach Doug Collins, was in Welsh-Ryan arena and was able to share the nice moment with him. It was a big moment in his early coaching career and is another step in the right direction for the rebuilding process in Evanston.
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Big Ten M5: 03.13.12 Edition

Posted by KTrahan on March 13th, 2013


  1. Ohio State has had its struggles this season, particularly in finding a consistent offensive threat outside of Deshaun Thomas. However, the Buckeyes have gone on a hot streak as of late — ironically, they’ve done it in a stretch when Thomas has struggled — and surged to grab the No. 2 seed in the upcoming Big Ten Tournament. Late-season surges such as this are nothing new under coach Thad Matta. As the Columbus Dispatch points out, Matta’s teams have won 15 consecutive games in the final week of the regular season, a streak that dates back to 2005. This year — as we’ve seen before — OSU is peaking at the right time, right before the “win and advance” portion of the season.
  2. Finishing No. 8 in the country and getting a No. 3 seed in the Big Ten Tournament is quite the accomplishment, especially for a team that lost its leader and best player from last season. However, it’s not enough for Michigan State coach Tom Izzo. MSU was on top of the conference a few weeks ago, but it lost two close games to Michigan and Indiana down the stretch, which ultimately kept the Spartans from winning the Big Ten regular season title. Not getting that championship is an extra incentive for Izzo and his team this weekend, as they try to claim a Big Ten Tournament championship. Not only that, but a run in Chicago would necessarily include some pretty impressive wins, which would give MSU great confidence heading into the NCAA Tournament.
  3. One of the reasons John Groce got the job at Illinois this season is because of the success he enjoyed at Ohio, particularly in the postseason. His Bobcats won the MAC last season and upset Michigan in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. Now, he’s heading into his first postseason as a Big Ten coach, but the competition is much tougher here than it was in the MAC Tournament. Still, Groce is excited for his first opportunity to coach in the Big Ten Tournament, and he’s equally excited for his team, which will get the chance to regain some momentum after a bit of a slide to end the regular season.
  4. Sunday’s Michigan-Indiana game was one for the ages, coming down to the final seconds with a tough roll ending up as the difference between a win and a loss for the Wolverines. However, that game just about defined the season for John Beilein’s team, which has shown its incredible potential at times but has also struggled with consistency. The Wolverines have the talent to be the best team in the country, but Bill Simonson of MLive questions whether they have the toughness to make a serious run in the NCAA Tournament. Can UM shake its most recent loss to IU? The talent is there, but it might be tough to get over it.
  5. Iowa has played its last four games without freshman point guard Mike Gesell, but with do-or-die time looming in the Big Ten Tournament, Gesell expects to play on Thursday when the Hawkeyes suit up against Northwestern. Gesell has a stress reaction in his foot, but since it isn’t fractured, he’s been cleared to play despite the pain that limits his abilities. He said he should be able to go. Head coach Fran McCaffery said he will support whatever decision Gesell comes to, noting that the Hawkeyes could certainly use him this week if he’s able to play.
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