The Other 26: You Will Be Entertained

Posted by IRenko on January 19th, 2013

I. Renko is an RTC columnist. He will kick off each weekend during the season with his analysis of the 26 other non-power conferences. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.

After a one-week hiatus, we are back and just in time for a veritable orgy of great college hoops matchups today.  Yes, there is Louisville v. Syracuse, Florida v. Missouri, Oregon v. UCLA, and Ohio State v. Michigan State.  But things get no less interesting as you move down to the mid-major level, where several compelling matchups featuring conference contenders will unfold.  Before we get to the Top 10, let’s take a look at what’s on tap today:

  • Gonzaga at Butler — The nation’s two Cinderella darlings will square off at the storied Hinkle Fieldhouse in a made-for-TV (yes, ESPN College Gameday will be in the house) contest.  It will be the final game of Gonzaga’s non-conference schedule and, arguably, its toughest.  The loss of Rotnei Clarke to a frightening neck injury will take some of the luster off of this matchup, as Butler will be playing without their leading scorer.  The task will be no easier on the other end of the Court, as the Bulldogs will have to contend with a potent Gonzaga frontcourt, led by 7-footer Kelly Olynyk, who has emerged into a bona fide All-American candidate.  But as we all know, being the underdog suits Brad Stevens just fine.
  • Creighton at Wichita StateDoug McDermott has wowed the nation over the past week with a pair of 30-point games, and between his dominance and Creighton’s three-point shooting, the Bluejays’ offense has become quite difficult to stop.  But if there’s a team in the MVC who can do it, it’s Wichita State.  The Shockers have the best defense in the league, which will have the added boost of a raucous home crowd for this premier matchup.  The Shockers’ strong, quick guards will challenge Creighton at the other end, and Cleanthony Early might prove a tough matchup for McDermott.  Carl Hall is also back in the lineup for the Shockers, so both teams will be at full strength.
Siyani Chambers Is Having An Outstanding Freshman Year (Anthony Nesmith/CSM/Cal Sport Media/AP Images)

Siyani Chambers Is Having An Outstanding Freshman Year (Anthony Nesmith/CSM/Cal Sport Media/AP Images)

  • Harvard at Memphis — With Conference USA muddling through a down year, this could be be Memphis’ toughest opponent of the 2013 calendar year.  The Crimson have turned in a quality season despite the unexpected one-year withdrawals of senior leaders Brandyn Curry and Kyle Casey due to an academic cheating scandal.  Much of the credit for that goes to freshman point guard Siyani Chambers, who is fifth in the country in minutes per game.  Tommy Amaker has put a great deal of faith in the young man, but he has rewarded him with a 31% assist rate, 50% three-point shooting average, and 88% FT shooting average.  Chambers will lock horns with Joe Jackson, who has steadied himself this season to become a reliable scorer and team leader.  The senior point guard has hit double-digits in points in 12 straight games, the longest mark of his college career.
  • Western Illinois at North Dakota State — North Dakota State has been one of the great underreported stories of the season, rolling up a 16-3 record and supplanting South Dakota State as the Summit League’s favorite.  But Western Illinois has also creeped to the top of the league standings, just a game behind NDSU at 6-1.  The Leathernecks are led by an inside-out combo of big man Terrell Parks (13.9 ppg, 9.4 rbg) and do-everything senior guard Ceola Clark.  Clark is an excellent defender, and he’ll need to be at his best to help stop a North Dakota State that is a well-oiled, methodical, efficient machine.  Marshall Bjorkland, the Bison’s 6-8 junior, is arguably the most efficient scorer in the country.  He leads the nation in effective FG percentage (72.4%) and is fourth in true shooting percentage (71.2%).
  • Utah State at Denver — Louisiana Tech remains at the top of the WAC standings after holding off Idaho on Thursday night, but these two squads are just one loss behind them.  So tonight’s game has a lot riding on it.  Expect a low-scoring contest between two of the lowest tempo teams in the country.  Royce O’Neale and Chris Udofia lead Denver’s Princeton offense, which wears down opponents with movement and relies heavily on the three-point shot.  Utah State will look to Preston Medlin, who leads the team with 16.3 points per game, and center Jarred Shaw who gets lots of touches in Stew Morrill’s offense. 
  • College of Charleston at Davidson — Charleston will have a chance to move into a tie atop the Southern Conference South standings with a win at Davidson.  They’ll be led by their backcourt combo of Andrew Lawrence and Anthony Stitt, while their hosts will rely more heavily on their frontcourt tandem of De’Mon Brooks and Jake Cohen.  Davidson can fall in love with the three-point shot to their detriment.  They’re better when they get the ball to the versatile Brooks and Cohen.  Getting the ball in the basket won’t be easy against Charleston, which has a pretty good defense anchored in the middle by Adjehi Baru.
  • Belmont v. Tennessee State – You would think that this game between the OVC’s two undefeated teams would lose its luster with the absence of Tennessee State’s star big man, Robert Covington, except for one thing — they’ve won every one of their six OVC games without him.  Covington went down with a torn meniscus in a December 18 trip to Middle Tennessee State that the Tigers went on to lose by 38 points.  At that point, they were 5-7 on the season but they’ve reeled off seven straight since and now sit atop the OVC East standings.   But they may need more than the Ewing Effect when they travel across town to face off with Belmont.  The switch from the A-Sun to the OVC hasn’t dimmed the Bruins’ ability to dominate their conference competition.

So there it is, a day-long feast for the glutton who craves mid-major hoops.  We move on, now, to the updated Top 10 rankings, our weekly (starting this week) Honor Roll, and a few more games to keep an eye on as the week unfolds.

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2012-13 RTC Conference Primers: Ohio Valley Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 23rd, 2012

David Changas is the RTC correspondent for the OVC.  You can follow him on Twitter @dchangas.

Top Storylines

  • Can Murray State Repeat Its Success?  Last year, the Racers took the college basketball world by storm by being the nation’s last remaining undefeated team after starting 23-0. They lose several key contributors, but another run to a second-round NCAA Tournament win is realistic, and coach Steve Prohm proved he can coach in his first season at the helm. Should Murray State win the league’s automatic bid, it likely will not come with a lofty five-seed as it did last year, but any team with potential All-American Isaiah Canaan leading it in March will be dangerous.

Isaiah Canaan Is The Early Favorite For OVC Player Of The Year And Has A Shot At Even Higher Accolades. (Getty Images)

  • Belmont Arrives:  In an effort to raise its overall profile, Belmont left the Atlantic Sun and certainly will add cachet to a league coming off its best year in recent memory. The Bruins have been a dominant force in the A-Sun for the past dozen years, earning the conference’s automatic bid in five of the last seven. Their addition to an already formidable league raises its profile that much more, and though Murray State is the league favorite, Belmont will draw attention to the OVC in this and years to come.
  • Who is Robert Covington? With all of the hoopla surrounding Canaan and Murray State, plus the arrival of Belmont, the player who isn’t the subject of enough discussion is Tennessee State big man Robert Covington. The 6’9″ senior finished third in the league in scoring and second in rebounding last year, and is projected by some to be a second-round pick in the 2013 NBA Draft.  He scores, rebounds, and shoots the three proficiently, and has an NBA physique.  A player of the year caliber season should be expected from Covington, and the presence of NBA scouts will be commonplace at Tiger games.

Reader’s Take

 

Predicted Order of Finish

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Night Line: Murray State Has Rebounded, Playing Better Since Losing

Posted by EJacoby on February 24th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. Night Line will run on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s games.

While the nation is no longer captured by the potential of an undefeated team, Murray State looks like it prefers it that way. No longer in the first block of SportsCenter highlights or constantly having a spotlight on their Ohio Valley conference games, the Racers have been playing their best ball of the season. Losing at home to Tennessee State two weeks ago was not a fun occasion at the time, but Isaiah Canaan, Donte Poole, and company look like they have turned the experience into an opportunity to play looser and more aggressive, the staple of Murray basketball this season. The Racers got revenge against Tennessee State with an 80-62 win on Thursday night, giving the team another convincing victory since that lone loss. At 27-1, 14-1 in the OVC, and playing better than ever, the Racers couldn’t be happier with how things are playing out and they hope to continue this run into the postseason.

Murray State Has Gotten Stronger Since Losing its Only Game (AP Photo/J. Roberson)

While Murray State’s bid for perfection was giving the program some great time in the spotlight, the added pressure was evident in the team’s lackluster play. In the eight games before the team suffered its first loss, Murray was keeping the undefeated streak alive but also showing signs that it was slipping. The Racers barely hung on to beat Tennessee Tech at home, needed a late run in the final minutes to win at Morehead State, trailed by double digits in the second half versus Southeast Missouri State before storming back for a victory, and defeated 4-26 Tennessee-Martin by just seven points. On February 9, Murray State finally couldn’t make up for its poor play for much of the game and took the home ‘L’ against Tennessee State.

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Set Your TiVo: 02.23.12

Posted by bmulvihill on February 23rd, 2012

Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @themulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

#8 Duke at #17 Florida State – 7:00PM EST on ESPN (****)

  • Duke lost to FSU on their home court at the buzzer the last time these two played. Going on the road to exact revenge and keep pace with North Carolina for the ACC lead looms large for the Blue Devils. There are two key areas that Duke needs to focus on in order to beat the Seminoles – three-point defense and getting to the free throw line. While the Blue Devils have the top three-point defense in the ACC, they let the Seminoles hit 50% from downtown in the first game. It’s a key area of focus because in 3 of the 4 Duke losses, they have allowed an eFG of over 60%. Additionally, keep a close eye on their ability to get to the line. When Duke does not get to the line frequently they are vulnerable. Their three worst free throw rate performances of the season are all losses.

    Can FSU Knock Duke Off Again?

  • Florida State was able to beat Duke in their previous match-up with its strongest shooting effort of the season. For a team that is known for its defense, FSU is the best shooting team in the ACC. Their three-point shooting has gotten much better in conference play to give their eFG a big boost. Only Virginia Tech, Boston College, and Clemson have been able to hold the Seminoles under 50% eFG in a single game. They must watch the turnovers though as they are turning the ball over at a rate of 22.3% in ACC play.
  • This game will come down to free throws and three-point defense. Both teams rely on free throws to win ball games. When taken away with good defense and no fouls, they lose. With so many of Dukes shots coming from beyond the three-point line (40%) and FSU’s recent success from downtown, the team who defends the three better should win.
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ACC Game On: 11.22.11 Edition

Posted by KCarpenter on November 22nd, 2011

ACC Game On will periodically review recent games involving ACC teams and take a look forward to key upcoming matchups.

It’s going to be a long season for Boston College. I thought that maybe the dismal performance against Holy Cross could be explained away by the absence of Patrick Heckmann, but I was wrong. Massachusetts has the makings of a very talented team, but make no mistake: Boston College is bad. There is no reason to be surprised, but there is also no reason to expect Boston College will not improve. The Eagles with a few exceptions are a team of freshmen. The difference between a freshman in November and a freshman in March can be huge, especially in terms of shooting. Just ask Harrison Barnes. This team shouldn’t go winless this year even though it might feel like it today.

North Carolina State, on the other hand looked excellent in a spectacular comeback against Texas. Richard Howell was neutralized by foul trouble but C.J. Leslie and a healthy Scott Wood came off the bench to deliver a much-needed scoring punch from the Wolfpack. Being able to win on a neutral court with your best big sitting on the bench seems like a pretty good omen  for a team with a challenging schedule over the next month.

Even Without Ryan Harrow, C.J. Leslie And Lorenzo Brown Have Started To Deliver On The Promise They Showed As Freshmen

Duke coasted to the finish after being challenged early on by a persistent Tennessee team that was ultimately simply over-matched. One thing to note early this season is the tight Blue Devils rotation. While Miles Plumlee came off the bench for some effective minutes and Tyler Thornton has been offering his customary amount of foul-happy pressure defense, the starters are seeing the bulk of the minutes so far. This line-up is far from solidified, but the reliance on the starters is something to keep an eye on.

Virginia beat Drake rather unimpressively and Jontel Evans was the least impressive of them all. He played 33 minutes and managed to log a stat line of one point, one assist, one steal, three turnovers, and three fouls. If he doesn’t improve, Virginia might need to shake up its starting line up.

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Checking In On… the Ohio Valley Conference

Posted by cbogard on November 18th, 2011

Catlin Bogard is the RTC correspondent for the Ohio Valley Conference. You can also find his musings online at OVC Ball or on Twitter @OVCBall.

The Week That Was

  • Rough Week For Big Men: Two of the top big men in the conference have already missed games this year due to injury. SEMO’s Leon Powell injured the same knee that caused him to miss an entire season two years ago in the Redhawks’ final exhibition game. Powell did not play in their opener against Missouri, but did return against Harris Stowe, shooting a perfect 8-8 from the field. Austin Peay’s John Fraley is out of the hospital after suffering a concussion in the Governors opening game against Middle Tennessee. Fraley was sorely missed on the Governors’ trip to California, and could miss a couple of weeks according to the Leaf-Chronicle.
  • It Hasn’t Even Been Close: The Ohio Valley Conference isn’t off to the best of starts, with only ten wins in its first 29 outings. But what’s surprising is how many haven’t even been close. Of the conference’s 19 losses, 14 have been by double digits. The exceptions? Tennessee Martin’s nine-point loss to Ohio, Austin Peay’s nine-point loss to Middle Tennessee, Eastern Illinois’ seven-point loss to Indiana State, Tennessee State‘s three-point loss to Western Kentucky, and Southeast Missouri State‘s one-point loss to Bradley.
  • The Flip Side: Not everything is bleak in the OVC. The Racers are off to a 3-0 start, after a big win on the road against the favorites to win the MEAC, Morgan State. Tennessee Tech held a late second half lead against Miami before things fell apart in the closing minutes. And while there haven’t been a lot of wins, there haven’t been any embarrassing upsets for the conference either.

Just A Week Into The Season, Steve Prohm's Racers Are The Only Remaining Undefeated Team In The OVC. (Ricky Martin/Ledger & Times)

Power Rankings

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Schools Honoring Military Personnel on Veterans Day

Posted by nvr1983 on November 10th, 2011

While most of the college basketball world will be focused on the game between North Carolina and Michigan State on the USS Carl Vinson on Veterans Day there are plenty of other schools that are doing their part to honor military personnel. The UNC-Michigan State game will be attended almost entirely by military personnel, who have already been pre-selected, but if you are a veteran and were not selected to be on the ship to watch the game there are other opportunities.

Veterans Can Attend A Handful Of Games For Free On Veterans Day (Credit: AP Photo/U.S. Navy - Seaman Amanda Huntoon)

We have compiled a list of those opportunities based on what the host schools for Fridays games had on their websites as of late on Wednesday night (yes, we sifted through about 120 school web sites with some easier to navigate than others). If you know of any others, let us know so we can add them to the list. Our current list (all start times are local):

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SEC Make or Break: South Carolina Gamecocks

Posted by Gerald Smith on October 26th, 2011

The Make or Break series will tell us what we need to know about each SEC team by looking at the three most important non-conference games on each team’s schedule. Depending on the outcome, these three games could make OR break that team’s season because of the strengths it shows or weaknesses it could expose. This post features the South Carolina Gamecocks.

One must wonder if South Carolina coach Darrin Horn just swung by Gigi’s to fill out his non-conference schedule. Most of the mid-majors scheduled — including Southeastern Louisiana, Wofford, Presbyterian and South Carolina State — are predicted to struggle in their own conferences. (If you’re a smart RTC reader, you’d already know this thanks to our awesome Conference Primer series.) In games with preseason #1 North Carolina and preseason #3 Ohio State, USC will get a strength-of-schedule boost but will be heavy underdogs. With a slew of transfers and guard Bruce Ellington‘s availability for the team in question, don’t blame the Gamecocks for wanting to schedule lightly while they piece together a team that can compete in a much-stronger Southeastern Conference. Coach Horn’s team might need to rely on a hard-working defense during November and December while they learn who can score on a consistent basis. Then the team must hope Ellington can play major minutes when the SEC schedule starts up.

This is what Bruce Ellington looked like in a basketball jersey during last year's SEC Tournament. We won't see him looking like this again until probably the end of the Gamecocks' football season.

Three Four key non-conference games that will make or break the Gamecocks’ season:

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RTC Conference Primers: #23 – Ohio Valley Conference

Posted by cbogard on October 12th, 2011

Catlin Bogard of OVC Ball is the RTC correspondent for the Ohio Valley Conference. You can find him on Twitter @OVCBall.

Readers Take I

 

Top Storylines

  • Here Come the Cougars:  Although SIU Edwardsville is in its final year of transition to Division I, the Cougars will play a full Ohio Valley Conference slate. SIUE will be eligible to win the OVC regular season title, but cannot enter the conference tournament until they have completed their transition in 2012-13. The Cougars are unlikely, however, to make a major impact this season after going 0-9 against OVC teams a year ago.
  • Out of Balance: As a result of the Cougars entrance to the conference, the now 11-team league will play an uneven schedule of 16 games, much shorter than the 20 and 22-game schedules seen since the last OVC expansion. But the current structure won’t stay in place for long. After it was announced that Belmont will join the conference next season, OVC commissioner Beth DeBauche told the voice of the Racers, Neal Bradley, that “it appears that it would make sense to have divisions, most notably for our men’s and women’s basketball teams.” But the OVC might not remain a 12-team league long enough to matter. Jacksonville State is exploring a move to a FBS conference according to a release from the school, and the Huntsville Times reports that Tennessee State has been invited to join the SWAC.
  • What Was Old is New Again: Two teams on opposite ends of last year’s final standings have one thing in common: inexperience. Both Morehead State and Jacksonville State will feature teams with more new faces than old this year. Last season’s last place Gamecocks have seven transfers and four new players, with Stephen Hall being the only Gamecock with more than one year of experience. Meanwhile, MSU has eight new faces, including six freshmen joining the defending OVC Tournament champions.
  • New Sideline Patrolmen: Two of the top teams last year, Murray State and Tennessee Tech, will feature new coaches this season. Steve Payne replaces Mike Sutton, who retired after eight seasons with the Golden Eagles. Steve Prohm will take over the Racers after Billy Kennedy left to take the head coaching job at Texas A&M.

Predicted Order of Finish

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RTC Summer Updates: Ohio Valley Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 9th, 2011

With the completion of the NBA Draft and the annual coaching and transfer carousels nearing their ends, RTC is rolling out a new series, RTC Summer Updates, to give you a crash course on each Division I conference during the summer months. Our latest update comes courtesy of our Ohio Valley Conference correspondent, Catlin Bogard. You can read more of Bogard’s work at OVC Ball.

Reader’s Take

Summer Storylines

  • Movin’ On Up: Two teams will feature former assistant coaches in new roles in 2011-12, although each school took a much different path to the same decision. In March, Steve Payne was named the new head coach at Tennessee Tech for the retiring Mike Sutton. The longtime Golden Eagles assistant had coached the team previously, as Sutton was sidelined with a horrible health condition that threatened his immune system. Over at Murray State, Steve Prohm will head the Racers after an offseason that saw former head coach Billy Kennedy’s name come up in at least three job searches before he eventually accepted the head coaching job at Texas A&M. The late-season coaching change didn’t leave Murray without options, as former Racer and current NBA assistant Popeye Jones’ name was one of many mentioned for the opening before the Racers eventually named Prohm as Kennedy’s successor.
  • Ten-Man Class: Morehead State lost its biggest player when Kenneth Faried graduated and was drafted by the Denver Nuggets, but coach Donnie Tyndall is cashing in on the Eagles’ success last season by signing ten players for the 2011-12 season, including three juco transfers. The cupboard wasn’t exactly bare for the Eagles either, with ten players scheduled to return for Tyndall, so how he slices his rotation is something well worth monitoring for any Eagles fan.
  • Transition Period: Quite possibly the biggest news of the offseason will not even affect the OVC until next season. Belmont will join the conference in the 2012-13 season, leaving the Atlantic Sun after ten years of dominance. Also in 2012-13, SIU Edwardsville will become a full member of the conference, making the OVC a 12-team league. This year, the Cougars will play a full OVC regular season, but will be ineligible for postseason play as they continue their transition into Division I. How long it will stay a 12-team conference is up in the air, though. Jacksonville State is openly searching for a FCS football conference to move to, and Tennessee State was recently offered a chance to rejoin the SWAC.

Faried Will Be Missed in the OVC (But Not By His Opponents)

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Circle of March III

Posted by rtmsf on March 3rd, 2011

Three more conference tourneys kicked off last night, and that meant more eliminations from the national title race.  From the Atlantic Sun, OVC and Patriot League, let’s bid good tidings to Kennesaw State, Campbell, Tennessee State, Eastern Kentucky, Colgate, Holy Cross, Army and Navy — there are now 302 schools still alive.

Coming next: a big night, as thirteen more teams will be eliminated from the national picture this evening.

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O26 Primers: Atlantic Sun, Ohio Valley & Patriot League Tourneys

Posted by KDoyle on March 2nd, 2011

RTC’s Kevin Doyle, author of the weekly column, The Other 26, and the Patriot League Correspondent, will be providing conference tournament previews for all non-BCS conferences.

Three more conferences get their tournaments underway tonight which means that several more teams will have their dreams of advancing to the greatest Dance in the world dashed, while others will inch one step closer to winning their conference championship. Tonight the Atlantic Sun, Ohio Valley and Patriot League tournaments all get underway. Belmont and Bucknell are the obvious favorites to win their respective conferences, but the Ohio Valley is a little unclear with Morehead State and Murray State butting heads at the top, and Austin Peay not too far behind.

Atlantic Sun

The Favorite: Belmont is the clear-cut favorite to win the league this year and advance to the Tournament for the first time since 2008 when they nearly upset Duke. A surprising setback at Lipscomb is the only loss that prevented the Bruins from going a perfect 20-0 in league play.

Dark Horse: Not surprisingly, Lipscomb is the dark horse to win the A-Sun. Although they have a rather pedestrian 12-8 record within the league, they were the only team to knock off Belmont. Plus, they boast one of the best players in the league with Adnan Hodzic as the senior forward from Bosnia is averaging 18 points and 7.5 rebounds a night. In their victory over Belmont, Hodzic tore up the Bruins going off for 26 points.

Who’s Hot: Winning 19 games in conference and not losing to a team located outside the state of Tennessee makes Belmont the hottest team in the Atlantic Sun. To be honest, it would be a real shock if the Bruins were not the last team standing come March 5.

Player to Watch: With Mike Smith—the Atlantic Sun Player of the Year from ETSU—sidelined with an injury, there is no clear player to keep an eye on during the tournament. Lipscomb’s Josh Slater, however, is someone to definitely keep tabs on. Most of the attention is focused on Adnan Hodzic, but no one in the A-Sun can fill up the stat sheet quite like Slater who averages 16.3 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 4.7 assists.

First-Round Upset: Campbell over East Tennessee State. ETSU looked to be one of Belmont’s biggest threats in the conference tournament, but the Buccaneers have been decimated by injuries to two of their top players: Mike Smith (ankle) and Micah Williams (shoulder); their status for ETSU’s first game is uncertain. Campbell is one of the coldest teams around having lost eight of their last nine games, but lost by just seven points to ETSU in their last meeting.

How’d They Fare? ETSU was a 16 seed and was ripped apart by Kentucky 100-71 in last year’s Tournament.

Interesting Fact: Dating back to the 2005 Tournament, the highest seed the Atlantic Sun team has received in the NCAA Tournament has been a 15. Assuming Belmont wins the league this year, that will all change.

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