Team USA Challengers in 2016

 

0,,17921462_303,00Team USA’s men’s basketball team just captured their second straight world championship in dominating fashion in winning the Gold Medal at the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup.

Team USA never had a game that was closer than 21 points as the final margin. Their athleticism, quickness and overall talent overwhelmed their competition. The one team who could have beaten them was the host Spain, who melted down in a quarterfinal matchup against France.

Spain had the size, defense and skill to cause problems for Team USA, but Spain played like a team with pressure. Missing wide open threes, blowing layups, rushing shots, getting completely out of their offense. They had more talent than France but couldn’t get out of their own way.

Ricky Rubio had an awful game against France. France had no respect for his ability to shoot and he couldn’t make them pay. Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka were equally awful, missing chippies at the rim with regularity. The Spain coaching staff showed an inability to make a single adjustment. Calderon was their best shooter and was criminally underutilized. Rubio wasn’t making plays whatsoever. He should have been riding the pine and Spain should have gone with Calderon and Rudy Fernandez in the backcourt for nearly the whole 4th. Both are excellent passers and can knock down the three ball. Spain’s big man also far too often would not slip the pick when setting the screen. This allowed France to trap the ball handler and push Spain’s offense out well behind the three point line. All of Spain’s big men can knock down the elbow jumper, they should have slipped the pick each time until France adjusted and played high-low with their two big guys in the game. It would present major matchup issues for France. The man guarding the other big man would have to come up to contest either Gasol brother or Ibaka at the elbow which would result in an easy lob or sit back and let the screener kill them with the elbow jumper at will.

France would then have to change up their pick and roll defense drastically. If they go under the pick with Calderon or Fernandez handling the ball they probably get burned from the outside. If the man goes over the screen but the defender guarding the screener sits back then Calderon and Fernandez can attack the paint and cause havoc.

Instead, Spain ran a stagnant offense and ran it with guards who couldn’t make France pay and Spain fell victim to a serious upset.

Most people thought it was Spain’s time to knock off the US with no Durant, LeBron, Love, Paul or Griffin. It just wasn’t meant to for the Spaniards. This was likely their last chance to make a run. Pau Gasol will be 36 for the 2016 Olympics. No telling how much he really has left in the tank. Juan Carlos Navarro will be 36 as well and Spain is lacking in true young talent.

The contenders for Team USA in 2016 are likely to be France and Australia.

France should put together a really strong roster in 2016 that can give team USA fits. Beyond 2016 France as a contender is a little questionable but they’ll be very strong in Rio. Joakim Noah is expected to represent France in the 2015 Eurobasket and should help them qualify for Rio in 2016. Tony Parker likely will join him. Having those two along with Nicolas Batum, Boris Diaw and emerging young PG Thomas Heurtel and young players in Rudy Gobert and Evan Fournier, France will pose a real threat to team USA. Noah is an elite defender and a solid offensive player in the NBA. He should feast playing along with Parker who can get into the lane at will and knock down the jumper. It will opens things up for Batum, who often had to create his own shot in the World Cup, which is far from a strength of his. Parker will make things so much easier for France and make their offense far more explosive.

Another team who should pose a significant threat is Australia. They’re a virtual lock to make the Olympics in Rio. They’ll face New Zealand in the Oceania Championship and should win that fairly handily. Them challenging the US in 2016 will depend a lot on health and progression of young talent. Patty Mills and Andrew Bogut have recently had some injuries, if they can be healthy and ready to go in 2016, it changes a lot for the Aussies. It gives them a legit driver and creator at the PG position who can also bomb away from three. He led the 2012 Olympics in scoring but he’s a much better player now on both ends. Bogut is the big key to their squad. If he’s healthy and willing to play, he gives Australia a true defender in the paint. He can protect the rim and take on the best offensive bigs and frustrate them.

Young talent will be another big factor for the Aussies. Dante Exum was just drafted 5th overall in this year’s draft. If he can develop quite a bit in his first two seasons, he’ll give Australia another creator and penetrator, which will be crucial. Ben Simmons is another young player from Australia. He’s regarded as the #1 high school recruit right now. By 2016 he’ll be most likely a newly drafted lottery pick and he’ll make this team. Only question will be how much can he realistically contribute. The likelihood is he’ll come off the bench for a few minutes but won’t be a big time contributor at age 20. Much like Exum at 19 in this year FIBA Basketball World Cup. Australia hopes he can become a key player in the future with their new wave of young talent down under.

As for the rest of the world……good luck. The gap between the Americans and the other teams is getting bigger each year. The only hope of someone knocking off team USA in 2016 is France and Australia. Nobody else has anywhere near the talent and especially young talent. Regardless though, the task is tall for anyone to beat team USA. They haven’t lost a game whether it is exhibition or FIBA/Olympic play in 8 years. A remarkable accomplishment. It will take a lot to upset them in Rio, but if anyone can do it, France and Australia are the ones who could.

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World Cup of Hockey Format Ideas

470974835_10-693X520 The World Cup of Hockey is all but a lock to return in 2016 after a 12 year absence per Chris Johnston of Sportsnet http://www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/nhl/toronto-to-host-2016-world-cup-of-hockey/

In the last World Cup of Hockey in 2004, the tournament featured just 8 teams and that made sense, but with the continued growth of hockey internationally, the tournament should go to a 12 team format and it will still feature some great hockey.

Unlike in the Olympics, the World Cup of Hockey should feature two 6 team round robin pools instead of 3 pools. Each pool should have teams by order of their IIHF ranking. This would allow for more big time matchups in pool play and help generate and build excitement. Sweden vs Canada and Russia taking on Finland and the US? I’ll take that any time.

Once pool play is completed, the top 2 teams in each pool should be rewarded with byes into the quarterfinals. However, no team should be eliminated after pool play, the teams who did not get byes should still advance to the qualification playoff round and play each other to determine who advances to the quarterfinals. It truly gives every team a chance to compete in the tournament. If the tournament occurred in 2014, it would something like this:

Pool A:                                                             Pool B:

Sweden                                                            Finland

Canada                                                            Russia

Czech Republic                                              USA

Slovakia                                                         Switzerland

Latvia                                                            Norway

France                                                          Belarus

 

Some other changes id like to see is overtime format changes. Unlike the Olympics and the world championship, no playoff round games should have shootouts a part of the game. In pool play there can be shootouts but overtimes should be extended to 10 minutes to give a much better chance of finding a winner in OT. No team should ever be eliminated out of contention by a shootout. Shootouts should be in pool play only.

The gold medal game should be a best of 3 just like the 1996 version. Build the excitement and intensity. USA-Canada would be must see tv in a best of 3. Would have a real chance of being a huge success in America.

If the NHL can make sure that the players continue going to the Olympics and then the World Cup takes place every 4 years, there will be a major international hockey tournament every 2 years. That would be awesome for hockey and would really help the game grow and build a bigger fan base internationally but especially in America. There would be some awesome hockey between the best players in the world. This is a tournament I can’t wait for. The World Cup of Hockey coming back is great news for all hockey fans. Sochi Olympics Ice Hockey Men   Olympics: Ice Hockey-Men's Semifinals-USA vs Canada

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Breaking down Team USA’s Potential FIBA World Cup Roster

The two time defending Olympic gold medal winning Team USA basketball team will be looking to win a third straight FIBA World Championship, which is now called the FIBA Basketball World Cup, they will be again fielding a great team. They have not announced their final roster just yet, but two big pieces that were a part of their 2012 Olympic gold team are all but guaranteed to sit out. Chris Paul and LeBron James will sit out to rest after another long NBA season. Russell Westbrook will likely sit out as well to rest a knee that has bothered him since late last season.

Despite missing star players like those, Team USA will still possess many top NBA players. Kevin Love, Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin have all said they will play, so this team will not be short on star power. Players such as James Harden, Anthony Davis, Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard, LaMarcus Aldridge are also likely to be on this team as well. This would leave 4 open spots to fill

In the past Team USA has carried 4 point guards because of the versatility they can bring at both guard spots and I expect this to happen again. Rose is working out and is said to about 100%. If this is true, no way he isn’t on the team. He is likely gonna want to prove to himself, the Bulls organization and people around the league that he’s still a top notch performer. Having a big tournament would go a long way for him.

Next I suspect Kyrie Irving will be selected. He’s a guy that can light it up and get to the rim. He has performed well at Team USA’s Vegas camp and he’ll definitely be a big time contributor on this team.

That leaves two spots and only one of them will be a perimeter player. Guys like Kyle Korver, Klay Thompson and Chandler Parsons would all be great selections here, but this spot will go a player who can bring more versatility on both ends of the floor. The selection will be Paul George. He’s a rising star in the league and he can get it done on both ends. He can handle the rock, get to the rim, knock down the three ball and defend a team’s best perimeter scorer. That’s what separates him from the other guys and why Team USA elects to go with him here.

The last spot will go to a big guy and they like to go with a young guy here to fill out the roster who they don’t necessarily figure to be a key piece. Andre Drummond is who I expect them to select. He probably won’t play a whole lot in the tournament, he will get some experience and practice against some of the best players in the world. It can only help him.

Projected Team USA Starting Lineup:
PG: Derrick Rose
SG: James Harden
SF: Kevin Durant
PF: Kevin Love
C: LaMarcus Aldridge

In pool play Team USA is not likely to face much of a challenge, but once they get to the round of 16 and further, they’ll face some challengers. Spain is clearly the 2nd best team in the field and are the two teams likely to meet for the Gold Medal, but some other teams will not make it easy on the US.

A team like Australia could pose a threat. Patty Mills led the Olympics in scoring and is really coming into his own as an NBA player. He should have no problem scoring in this tournament. They also have a guy in Dante Exum in the backcourt who will be a top 5 pick next week and will look to impress. Aron Baynes will be their best big man. Not having Bogut hurts The Aussies, but Baynes will be a pretty solid big guy and has some good chemistry with Mills. They probably won’t beat Team USA, but with their explosiveness in the backcourt and a decent front court, they will hang tough with the US.

Brazil is another team who will play Team USA tough. A front court of Nene and Splitter will be really good defensively in the paint and will be pretty offensively. Varejao will be able to come in and give them some energy, rebounding and a little scoring. Leandro Barbosa will be give them some offense from the backcourt and push the pace, but they lack overall shooting. They’ll win a lot of games cause of how good they’ll be defensively, but don’t possess enough scoring from the backcourt or enough floor spacing. They’ll play the US tight but Team USA is too explosive offensively for them.

Spain, however, is Team USA’s biggest challenger. They possess all the things that will make a game against Team USA a true classic. They have scoring in the interior with the Gasol brothers, perimeter shooting with Rudy Fernandez and Jose Calderon, big men who can knock down the mid range J with the Gasol brothers and Serge Ibaka. A true setup man in Ricky Rubio, who can be a true magician with the basketball who can make things happen in transition. They also have a few big guys who know how to protect the rim. They’ll present the biggest challenge to Team USA and if they play it will be some intense, high quality international basketball.

Medal predictions:
Gold: USA
Silver: Spain
Bronze: Brazil

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College Baseball Tournament Predictions

 

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Corvallis Regional Prediction:

Oregon State: 3-0, advance to super regionals

UNLV: 2-2

UC Irvine: 1-2

North Dakota State: 0-2

Stillwater Regional Prediction:

Oklahoma State:  3-1, advance to super regionals

Nebraska: 3-2

Cal-State Fullerton: 1-2

Binghamton: 0-2

Gainesville Regional Prediction:

Florida: 3-0, advance to super regionals

North Carolina: 2-2

College of Charleston: 1-2

Long Beach State: 0-2

Coral Gables Regional Prediction:

Miami: 3-1, advance to super regionals

Texas Tech: 3-2

Columbia: 1-2

Bethune-Cookman

Charlottesville Regional Prediction:

Virginia: 3-0, advance to super regionals

Liberty: 2-2

Arkansas: 1-2

Bucknell: 0-2

Columbia Regional Prediction: 

South Carolina: 3-0, advance to super regionals

Maryland: 2-2

Campbell: 1-2

Old Dominion: 0-2

Bloomington Regional Prediction:

Indiana: 3-0, advance to super regionals

Stanford: 2-2

Indiana State: 1-2

Youngstown State: 0-2

Nashville Regional Prediction:

Vanderbilt: 3-0, advance to super regionals

Clemson: 2-2

Oregon: 1-2

Xavier: 0-2

Tallahassee Regional Prediction: 

Florida State: 3-0, advance to super regionals

Alabama: 2-2

Kennesaw State: 1-2

Georgia Southern: 0-2

Louisville Regional Prediction: 

Louisville: 4-1, advance to super regionals

Kentucky: 2-2

Kansas: 1-2

Kent State: 0-2

Lafayette Regional Prediction:

Louisiana-Lafayette: 3-1, advance to super regionals

Mississippi State: 3-2

San Diego State: 1-2

Jackson State: 0-2

Oxford Regional Prediction:

Georgia Tech: 3-1, advance to super regionals

Ole Miss: 3-2

Washington: 1-2

Jacksonville State: 0-2

Fort Worth Regional Prediction:

TCU: 3-0, advance to super regionals

Sam Houston State: 2-2

Dallas Baptist: 1-2

Siena: 0-2

San Luis Obispo Regional:

Arizona State: 4-1, advance to super regionals

Cal Poly: 2-2

Pepperdine: 1-2

Sacramento State: 0-2

Houston Regional Prediction:

Rice: 3-0, advance to super regionals

Texas: 2-2

Texas A&M: 1-2

George Mason: 0-2

Baton Rouge Regional Prediction: 

LSU: 3-0, advance to super regionals

Houston: 2-2

Bryant: 1-2

SE Louisiana: 0-2

 

Super Regional Predictions:

Corvallis Super Regional:

Oregon State 2-0 over Oklahoma State

Gainesville Super Regional:

Florida 2-1 over Miami

Charlottesville Super Regional:

Virginia 2-1 over South Carolina

Bloomington Super Regional:

Indiana 2-1 over Vanderbilt

Tallahassee Super Regional:

Florida State 2-0 over Louisville

Lafayette Super Regional:

Georgia Tech 2-1 over Louisiana-Lafayette 

Fort Worth Super Regional:

TCU 2-0 over Arizona State

Baton Rouge Super Regional: 

LSU 2-0 over Rice 

College World Series Championship Series:

Oregon State vs Florida

CWS Champion

Oregon State

 

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College Baseball Tournament Projections

National Seeds:

#1 Florida

#2 Florida State

#3 Virginia

#4 Oregon State

#5 Louisiana-Lafayette

#6 Indiana

#7 LSU

#8 TCU

8 Regional Hosts:

Miami

Rice

South Carolina

Cal Poly

Louisville

Oklahoma State

Vanderbilt

Ole Miss

Gainesville Regional:                                                    Louisville Regional:

1) Florida(1)                                                                           1) Louisville

4) Bethune-Cookman                                                           4) Xavier

2) Georgia Tech                                                                    2) Arkansas

3) Bryant                                                                              3) Stanford

 

Tallahassee Regional:                                                           Oxford Regional:

1) Florida State(2)                                                                    1) Ole Miss

4) Jacksonville State                                                                4) Jackson State

2) Alabama                                                                                 2) UNLV

3) Kennesaw State                                                                     3) North Carolina

 

Charlottesville Regional:                                              Nashville Regional:

1) Virginia (3)                                                                      1) Vanderbilt

4) Bucknell                                                                          4)   Kent State

2) Liberty                                                                            2) Oregon

3)  Old Dominion                                                                3) Kansas

Corvallis Regional:                                                     San Luis Obispo Regional:

1) Oregon State (4)                                                         1) Cal Poly

4) North Dakota State                                                    4) Sacramento State

2) Kentucky                                                                     2) Pepperdine

3) Cal State Fullerton                                                     3) San Diego State

 

Lafayette Regional:                                                 Columbia Regional:

1) Louisiana-Lafayette (5)                                           1) South Carolina

4) Campbell                                                                    4) Binghamton

2) Maryland                                                                   2) Washington

3) Long Beach State                                                      3) UC Irvine

Bloomington Regional:                                        Coral Gables Regional:

1) Indiana (6)                                                                1) Miami

4) Youngstown State                                                   4) Columbia

2) Indiana State                                                           2) Mississippi State

3)  Arizona State                                                          3) UCF

 

Baton Rouge Regional:                                            Houston Regional: 

1) LSU (7)                                                                        1) Rice

4) SE Louisiana                                                              4) Georgia Southern

2) Texas Tech                                                                2) Houston

3) Sam Houston State                                                   3) Dallas Baptist

Fort Worth Regional:                                           Stillwater Regional: 

1) TCU (8)                                                                     1) Oklahoma State

4) George Mason                                                         4) Siena

2) Texas                                                                      2) Nebraska

3)  Texas A&M                                                            3) College of Charleston

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Week 9 College Football Projections

Alabama v Kentucky

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Gildan New Mexico Bowl: San Diego State vs Utah

Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl: Boise State vs USC

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Wyoming vs Bowling Green

R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl: Louisiana-Lafayette vs Ohio

Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl: Toledo vs Tulane

Sheraton Hawaii Bowl: Utah State vs East Carolina

Little Caesars Pizza Bowl: Ball State vs Indiana

San Diego County Credit Union Pointsettia Bowl: San Jose State vs Western Kentucky

Military Bowl: Duke vs Buffalo

Texas Bowl: Minnesota vs Kansas State

Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl: Washington vs BYU

New Era Pinstripe Bowl: Cincinnati vs West Virginia

Belk Bowl: Georgia Tech vs Rutgers

Russell Athletic Bowl: Louisville vs Miami

Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl: Texas vs Michigan

Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl: Navy vs Arizona

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Wake Forest vs Georgia

Valero Alamo Bowl: UCLA vs Oklahoma State

National University Holiday Bowl: Oregon State vs Oklahoma

AdvoCare V100 Bowl: Maryland vs Vanderbilt

Hyundai Sun Bowl: Syracuse vs Arizona State

AutoZone Liberty Bowl: Tennessee vs Marshall

Chick-Fil-A Bowl: Virginia Tech vs Texas A&M

TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl: Nebraska vs Ole Miss

Heart of Dallas Bowl: Iowa vs Rice

Capital One Bowl: Wisconsin vs Auburn

Outback Bowl: LSU vs Michigan State

BBVA Compass Bowl: Florida vs Houston

AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic: South Carolina vs Texas Tech

GoDaddy.com Bowl: Arkansas State vs Northern Illinois

Rose Bowl: Oregon vs Ohio State

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl: Fresno State vs Baylor

Allstate Sugar Bowl: Missouri vs Clemson

Discover Orange Bowl: Stanford vs UCF

BCS National Championship Game: Alabama vs Florida State

 

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The Chiefs are an elite team

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Coming into the season most thought the Chiefs would be okay and maybe contend for a wild card berth, I predicted on this site they would be 13-3 and have the best record in the AFC. 7 weeks into the season that prediction is looking as the Chiefs are 7-0 and have the best record in the NFL. KC follows a simple formula. Take care of the ball offensively, move the ball methodically, force teams into third and long, then rush the QB with a ferocious pass rush and force quarterbacks into making mistakes or holding onto the ball for sacks. Many like to call them overrated and that they’ll be exposed in the playoffs but people are in for a surprise. This Kansas City team is for real in a big way. If you have a great turnover margin, run the ball effectively and limit opposing running backs well, you’re gonna be competing to hoist the Lombardi Trophy come February.

The narrative is that it is a passing league and you need a great good passing attack and great QB to win the Super Bowl. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Last season the top 3 passing teams by yardage all missed the playoffs, in fact none of the top 3 even had a winning record. The teams in the Super Bowl were 15th and 23rd in passing in the league. The 15 to 31 spots in the league in passing yards featured 6 playoff teams, the same amount as the top 14 passing offenses in the league. The teams who averaged the top 3 passing yards in the playoffs combined to win 3 playoff games. The 6 best passing offenses to make the playoffs combined to win 4 playoff games with the Colts and Broncos winning zero combined despite being 7th and 5th in the league in passing yardage respectively. The Ravens won 4 and the Super Bowl despite a pretty average passing attack.

NFL writers and broadcasters have been giving the hard sell on the fact that you need a “franchise quarterback” to make/win a Super Bowl. This is another NFL myth that has been passed around. NFL quarterbacks to make a Super Bowl: Matt Hasselbeck, Jake Delhomme, Rex Grossman, Kerry Collins, Trent Dilfer, Brad Johnson, all in last 11 years with Dilfer and Johnson winning it. None of them listed were ever at any point close to an elite quarterback. Tom Brady has been outplayed by Joe Flacco in the AFC Championship Game twice, and by Mark Sanchez in the Divisional Playoffs. Often quarterbacks described as “game managers” or “mediocre” find themselves playing for a Super Bowl. The NFL has made it easier to throw in the league to help improve offensive numbers, but most times it all comes down to winning the turnover battle and running the football.

Last season 7 of the top 11 rushing teams made the playoffs, 5 of the 7 won at least 1 playoff game and 2 of them made the Super Bowl. The Ravens and 49ers were tied for 8th in turnover margin. 8 of 10 teams in the top 10 in turnover margin made the playoffs. Rush defense is the third key but turnover margin and rush offense are the two keys to winning a title.

This season passing offenses ranked 32nd, 27th, 25th, 24th, 20th are a combined 28-7, passing offenses ranked in top 7 are a combined 27-18.

Rushing offenses ranked 2nd, 3rd, 6th, 8th, 12th are a combined 27-7.

The Chiefs in the 3 keys are excellent. They lead the NFL in turnover margin at +11. They’re 12th in rushing offense and it is improving. Their 19th ranking in rushing defense is deceiving. They’re giving up 3.9 yards per carry against starting running backs this season and if you take out LeSean McCoy’s numbers out with KC playing a road game on a short week against an offense not many had gotten a good look at yet, that number would be 3 yards per carry. The only reason they rank so low in rushing yards is because of some dynamic mobile quarterbacks they faced in Terrelle Pryor and Michael Vick. They’re excellent against the run, the big runs from quarterbacks came almost exclusively on designed throws.

The passing game will be criticized with it being ranked just 27th but that hardly tells the story. Andy Reid has been conservative on offense this year with a great defense and the wide receivers are hardly crisp route runners on downfield routes. The wideouts are at their best catching screens/crossing routes and turning them into big gains rather than beating man-to-man coverage deep down the field. Today showed this. McCluster quit on a route causing Alex Smith to throw a 4th quarter interception and Bowe didn’t fight through on a slant route almost leading to another interception. Alex Smith does a great job spreading the ball around and complements the receivers well as he’s a great short to medium route thrower. Not a great deep ball thrower, though he’s hit a couple big deep passes this season. More consistent hitting underneath receivers and balls down the middle of the field and making plays with his legs as he’s shown this season. The offensive line has had their struggles this season, that is also part of why the passing game hasn’t been as good as they can be. When a QB has to throw the ball away 4-5 times a game, you miss on some plays and it stalls some drives. As the offensive line progresses, the passing game should progress as well. Once that happens, the Chiefs will look flat out scary.

The Chiefs have the ability to greatly improve offensively and I’d expect them to do so. They have a slowly but surely improving offense and a scary pass rush to go with their playmaking secondary. This team should be looked at as not only the favorite in the AFC, but the favorite in the NFL. By the end of the regular season this team will be the most complete team in the NFL. They have the team that can give other top teams problems and make their quarterbacks highly uncomfortably. AFC teams can only hope Denver or New England grabs the 1 seed, cause going to KC and beating the Chiefs in January is an extremely tall task with a crowd as intimidating as Arrowhead Stadium.

 

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