Projected Starting Five: Michael O’Connell, Michael Jones, Spencer Jones, Harrison Ingram, James Keefe
This could be a sneaky-good team in what figures to be a top-heavy Pac-12. Former 5-star prospect Harrison Ingram returns for a sophomore year in what was a major coup for Stanford. Michael O’Connell is your classic ‘Steady Eddie’ point guard, and legacy big man James Keefe brings the muscle, grit, and workmanlike approach.
However, it’s the duo of Michael Jones and Spencer Jones that we’re most excited about. Michael is the first grad transfer in the history of the program. He averaged nearly 12 PPG last year at Davidson, and should provide Stanford with some much-needed spacing (he’s reportedly playing very well in the preseason). Spencer could be the team’s best player. He’s a 6-foot-7 matchup nightmare with skills both on the perimeter and in the paint. When throwing in a very good bench player (Brandon Angel) along with two 4-star prospects waiting in the wings (Isa Silva, Jaylen Thompson) and a 7-footer with high upside (Maxime Raynaud), this team could surprise some people.
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Projected Starting Five: Kihei Clark, Reece Beekman, Armaan Franklin, Jayden Gardner, Kadin Shedrick
A lot of questions must be answered by Tony Bennett’s group entering the 2022-23 season. Virginia is coming off its worst season in years, finishing 6th in the ACC with a 12-8 record — the most conference losses for Virginia since 2011. Perhaps most concerning was the defensive drop-off as the Cavaliers finished 167th in defensive rating — the lowest mark during Bennett’s tenure.
The defense will likely stabilize as it always has under Bennett’s reign. The question for the Cavaliers which has persisted since the DeAndre Hunter, Ty Jerome, and Kyle Guy trio left for the NBA: Will they have enough scoring to keep up with the other top teams? One thing working in Virginia’s favor this year is roster continuity as its top-6 scorers from last year return. Look for Jayden Gardner to set the tone on the offensive end. The East Carolina transfer averaged nearly 20 PPG with the Pirates two seasons ago.
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Projected Starting Five: Mark Sears, Nimari Burnett, Brandon Miller, Noah Gurley, Charles Bediako
Nate Oats once again has a talented roster that hopes to contend for an SEC title. Last year’s team looked the part of a contender for stretches with wins over Gonzaga, Houston, Baylor and Tennessee. However, inconsistencies were ultimately the downfall for Oats’ club. Oats hopes one of the top recruiting classes in the country can help iron out those issues.
Brandon Miller and Jaden Bradley are top-20 recruits who could potentially crack the starting lineup as freshman. One locked-in starter is former Ohio guard Mark Sears who averaged just under 20 PPG for the Bobcats last year. It remains to be seen when the Crimson Tide expect senior Jahvon Quinerly to return. One of Alabama’s most important players, Quinerly tore his ACL in the NCAA tournament last year and his timetable is uncertain.
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22. Texas Tech
Projected Starting Five: De’Vion Harmon, Elijah Fisher, Jaylon Tyson, Kevin Obanor, Fardaws Aimaq
Following another strong year in Lubbock, the Red Raiders were tasked with replacing a majority of their Elite Eight roster. Kevin Obanor is back for Year 2. The former Oral Roberts big man saw his numbers dip in his first year with a new club, though he remains a steady force in the paint. The other two returning players are Daniel Batcho (2.2 PPG) and KJ Allen (1.9).
With so much production needing to be replaced, Tech looked at the transfer portal to round out its roster. Making up the backcourt is Oregon transfer De’Vion Harmon and Texas transfer (and native) Jaylon Tyson. Five-star recruit Elijah Fisher could be the key to Tech having another strong season. The Canadian wing is a big-time scorer who chose Texas Tech over Kansas, Kentucky and Baylor.
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Projected Starting Five: Race Thompson, Miller Kopp, Xavier Johnson, Trayce Jackson-Davis, Malik Reneau
The Hoosiers made their triumphant return to the NCAA tournament for the first time in six years last season. Can Mike Woodson do it again in Year 2 with Indiana? It makes the job easier to have a preseason All-American on the roster in Trayce Jackson-Davis. The senior forward averaged 18.3 PPG and 8.1 RPG while setting career-highs in blocks (2.3) and field-goal percentage (.589).
Jackson-Davis will be joined by three other starters from last season, giving Indiana one of the more experienced rosters in the Big Ten. For a jolt of youth, Woodson brought in two touted recruits in Malik Reneau and Jalen Hood-Schifino. Both freshman were ranked in the top-10 in their home state of Florida.
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Projected Starting Five: Wendell Green Jr., KD Johnson, Zep Jasper, Yohan Traore, Johni Broome
We’re going to see a completely different Auburn squad in 2022-23. Gone are the two big men that led this team to a No. 1 ranking for a stretch last season. Both Jabari Smith Jr. and Walker Kessler left for the NBA. Now, it’s the guard’s turn as Wendell Green Jr. and KD Johnson will be called upon to create offensively for the Tigers. They’ll both need to be more efficient as Green (.365 FG%, .317 3PT%) and Johnson (.386 FG%, .290 3PT%) struggled mightily from all levels last year.
Needing to remake the front court, Bruce Pearl snagged the No. 1 player from the state of Arizona Yohan Traore — a 6-foot-9 big who chose Auburn over SEC rival LSU. Joining Traore will be Morehead State transfer Johni Broome, a premier shot block (3.9 BPG) who was a consistent double-double threat in the Ohio Valley Conference.
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Projected Starting Five: Boogie Ellis, Kobe Johnson, Reese Dixon-Waters, Drew Peterson, Josh Morgan
SC is once again going to be a threat in the Pac-12. While this year’s group might not possess an elite big man (as has been the case recently), there’s more than enough talent. The duo of Boogie Ellis and Drew Peterson are good enough to combine for 35-40 on any given night. Reese Dixon-Waters very well could develop into the team’s best player (and top NBA prospect). He’s a multi-level scorer with a great feel for the game.
Josh Morgan is filling some big shoes. The 7-foot transfer from Long Beach State hasn’t proven all that much since coming to LA (though he was a shot blocking dynamo in the Big West). Unfortunately for the Trojans, much-ballyhooed 5-star recruit Vince Iwuchukwu is out indefinitely after suffering from cardiac arrest in the offseason. He was likely projected to be the starter at center. Still, SC has a plethora of talented guys off the bench — led by incoming freshmen Tre White (a freak athlete), sharpshooter Oziyah Sellers, and McDonald’s All-American Kijani Wright.
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Projected Starting Five: Marcus Carr, Tyrese Hunter, Dillon Mitchell, Timothy Allen, Christian Bishop
Chris Beard chose continuity over the transfer portal in Year 2 with the Longhorns. Following a disappointing run which ended in the Round of 32, Beard kept most of last season’s roster in tact while adding just a few new faces. Among the additions is Tyrese Hunter who was an exceptional playmaking guard for the Iowa State Cyclones last season. We’ll also be seeing two five-star recruits play for the Longhorns this year in Florida’s Dillon Mitchell and Texas’ Arterio Morris.
It remains to be seen how much playing time Mitchell and Morris will be afforded with this group. Marcus Carr, Timothy Allen, and Christian Bishop all return as starters while key reserves Dylan Disu and Brock Cunningham both figure to have a role. Beard-led teams will always defend at a high level, but can this Longhorn group make enough outside shots to contend for a Big 12 title?
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Projected Starting Five: Caleb Daniels, Mark Armstrong, Jordan Longino, Brandon Slater, Eric Dixon
In one of the more shocking developments of the offseason, longtime Villanova coach and two-time NCAA champion Jay Wright decided to retire following 21 seasons with the Wildcats. Wright was widely considered one of the top coaches in college basketball, and his absence will surely be felt by the program for years to come. In his place, the school named assistant Kyle Neptune as Wright’s successor.
Unfortunately for Neptune, he will be without several veteran players — including Collin Gillespie — who finally ran out of eligibility following Wright’s final season. Though, this year’s group may boast the most pure talent since the 2018 title-winning squad. Forward Cameron Whitmore was Maryland’s top high school player, and is viewed as a lottery pick by several NBA scouts. If Justin Moore can return following a torn Achilles, the Wildcats should be just fine.
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Projected Starting Five: Tyreke Key, Santiago Vescovi, Josiah-Jordan James, Julian Phillips, Uros Plavsic
Tennessee hopes to parlay a strong second-half of the ’22 season into another big year. The Volunteers looked the part of a title contending team before being upset by the 11-seed Michigan Wolverines. Now, Rick Barnes returns a majority of the same group that won 15 of its final 17 games to end the year. Santiago Vescovi and Josiah-Jordan James will be joined in the backcourt by Indiana State transfer Tyreke Key who averaged 17 PPG for the Sycamore last season.
The frontcourt is where the Vols could be especially dangerous. Julian Phillips is a touted recruit from South Carolina who is tremendously skilled at 6-foot-7. Uros Plavsic is one of the biggest players in college basketball (7-foot-2, 265-pounds) and will serve as a screener and space-eater for Barnes’ group. The third big is Finland native Olivier Nkamhoua who missed the end of last season with an ankle injury. The springy forward is relentless on the glass and was sorely missed during Tennessee’s eventual tournament loss.
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Projected Starting Five: Kerr Kriisa, Courtney Ramey, Pelle Larsson, Azuolas Tubelis, Oumar Ballo
While this team might not have the star power it did last year, it’s still a very deep, talented, well-coached team. It’s never easy to lose three NBA players in one cycle (Dalen Terry, Bennedict Mathurin, Christian Koloko) — yet Tommy Lloyd is thrilled over the prospect of guys like Tubelis returning to school. The offense will likely run through the talented lefty big man. Next to him is Ballo — the Gonzaga transfer ready to make his mark as a starter.
Ramey transferred in from Texas to give the team some stability in the backcourt. Larsson is as savvy as they come — and is undoubtedly the best glue guy in the country. 5-star PG Kylan Boswell reclassified to play this year, and Parisian wing Adama Bal is someone the program is extremely high on (along with a couple of other European imports in Henri Veesar and Filip Borovicanin). Cedric Henderson transferred in from Campbell to bolster Zona’s perimeter shooting. However, as it was last year, this team’s fortunes could come down to the enigmatic Kerr Kriisa — a player fans equally love as much as they detest (depending on which side of the court you’re sitting on).
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Projected Starting Five: Skyy Clark, R.J. Melendez, Terrence Shannon, Matthew Mayer, Coleman Hawkins
Brad Underwood has shuffled the deck yet again and ready to compete for a Big Ten title. The Fighting Illini made some of the biggest splashes in the transfer portal, adding former top recruit Terrence Shannon from Texas Tech and 2021 NCAA champion Matthew Mayer. The latter was the big get after rumblings that the former Baylor sharpshooter would leave for the NBA. Adding two touted players with offensive skill to a frontcourt which includes Coleman Hawkins (who began shooting threes last season) gives Underwood plenty of size and shooting across the lineup.
At the guards, Skyy Clark and R.J. Melendez have a chance to take this team over the top. Clark played at Montverde Academy in Florida last year and is an explosive guard who should take over the reins at point for the departing Andre Curbelo. Melendez is set to receive a bigger role now that Alfonso Plummer and Trent Frazier are gone. The sophomore was impressive in Illinois’ final game versus Houston and is set for a potential breakout campaign.
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13. San Diego State
Projected Starting Five: Keshad Johnson, Lamont Butler, Matt Bradley, Jaedon LeDee, Nathan Mensah
Experience is abundant on this San Diego State roster which harbors four fifth-year players entering 2022-23. Among that group is Matt Bradley — a Cal transfer who is among the best shooters in the nation. Up front is reigning Mountain West Player of the Year Nathan Mensah who anchors a defense which finished first in defensive rating and second in points allowed last year.
The Aztecs are defined by their defense, though they could be a bit more explosive on the other end this year with the addition of Seattle transfer Darrion Trammell. The undersized guard averaged 18.7 PPG over two years with Seattle, and will be a big part in drawing defenders away from Bradley.
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Projected Starting Five: Will Richardson, Jermaine Couisnard, Quincy Guerrier, Kel’el Ware, N’Faly Dante
Oregon is built like an NBA team. Richardson returns as one of college basketball’s most prolific combo guards. He’ll be joined in the backcourt by South Carolina transfer Jermaine Couisnard (an experienced, defensive-minded guy rooted in physicality). Guerrier looks like a pro — with terrific size (6-foot-8) for the three spot. Up front, two former 5-star prospects are slated to play the four and five spots.
Kel’el Ware comes to Eugene via Arkansas (of all places) — where he was one of the best prep players in the entire nation. He’s long, springy, and athletic enough to play the four spot despite hovering around 7-feet tall. Dante had some injury issues, though should be fully healthy. He also looks like an NBA center via his gigantic frame. Assuming Dana Altman can get some contributions from his bench, this is not a team you’ll want to see come March. The Ducks could become a monster unit defensively.
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Projected Starting Five: Jeremy Roach, Tyrese Proctor, Jacob Grandison, Kyle Filipowski, Dereck Lively
The Final Four team from last year will look completely different this upcoming season. The most stark change, of course, will be the absence of legendary coach Mike Krzyzewski on the sideline. With the announced retirement of the five-time NCAA Champion, Duke will be entering a new era under assistant and former Blue Devil standout Jon Scheyer.
Scheyer lost several big names to the NBA, including No. 1 pick Paolo Banchero, Trevor Keels, and Mark Williams. Among the projected starters, only Jeremy Roach was around for the Final Four run last season. He’ll be joined by Illinois transfer Jacob Grandison and three top recruits. Tyrese Proctor will likely hold down a starting guard spot until potential lottery pick Dariq Whitehead is ready to return from injury.
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Projected Starting Five: DaJuan Harris, Gradey Dick, Kevin McCullar, Jalen Wilson, Ernest Udeh
Last year’s champion finds itself ranked at No. 10, but we wouldn’t be too quick to count out Kansas. Bill Self lost two first-round picks to the NBA in Ochai Agbaji and Christian Braum. Seniors David McCormack and Remy Martin are also gone after running out of eligibility. Dajuan Harris and Jalen Wilson will provide stability and familiarity for Self as they are both expected to take on more responsibility.
After winning with veterans last year, Self will be relying on a handful of freshman in 2022-23 if he wants to repeat. Gradey Dick is perhaps the most intriguing of the group. The No. 1 recruit out of Kansas is a 6-foot-7 wing who can shoot the lights out. Five-star center Ernest Udoh could also be a potential game-changer as the team’s designated rim protector.
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Projected Starting Five: Nick Smith, Anthony Black, Jordan Walsh, Trevon Brazile, Makhel Mitchell
Eric Musselman essentially has a brand-new roster for this upcoming season. 11 of the 13 roster members are first-year players within the program. The six incoming freshmen are led by the three in the image above. Nick Smith (L), Jordan Walsh (C), and Anthony Black (R) are all 5-star prospects ranked nationally within the top 20. Smith is a lightning-quick guard with NBA All-Star potential. Walsh is a big-time wing athlete with impressive physicality. Black is a 6-foot-7 facilitator not too dissimilar stylistically from Cade Cunningham.
From there, five transfers enter the program from various places around the country. Among them are the Mitchell twins from Rhode Island, Jalen Graham from Arizona State, and forward Trevon Brazile from Mizzou. Two questions revolve around this team’s fortunes in 2022-23: Can they shoot with consistency? And, can Musselman build enough chemistry in a short amount of time to compete for a title?
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Projected Starting Five: Ryan Nembhard, Trey Alexander, Baylor Scheierman, Arthur Kaluma, Ryan Kalkbrenner
The hype is sky-high for the Blue Jays who boast one of the more impressive starting fives in all of college basketball. At point guard is Ryan Nembhard — the brother of former Gonzaga standout and NBA guard Andrew Nembhard — who took over the reins as a freshman last season and was one of the top guards in the Big East. Down low is the 7-foot-1 Ryan Kalkbrenner, an efficient low-post scorer who blocked over two shots per game last year.
On the wings are two returning players in Trey Alexander and Arthur Kaluma, but the star of the show is South Dakota State transfer Baylor Scheierman. Scheierman is arguably the best shooter in college basketball after nailing 47-percent of his three-point attempts for the Jackrabbits last year. Greg McDermott has coached some great offenses in the past, but this group has the potential to be the most potent of his tenure.
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Projected Starting Five: Sahvir Wheeler, Cason Wallace, Jacob Toppin, Chris Livingston, Oscar Tshiebwe
Kentucky got the fortune of helping to facilitate the return of Oscar Tshiebwe for yet another year. The reigning CBB Player of the Year, he should be even more of a factor once returning from a slight knee procedure he just had in the second week of October. Sahvir Wheeler is back to distribute, Jacob Toppin is back to run the floor and be an athlete, and the team welcomes two top-10 prospects in guard Cason Wallace and wing Chris Livingston.
Wallce has been compared by many to Jrue Holiday. He’s skilled, competitive, and very good defensively. Livingston has a bit of Tyreke Evans in him — and figures to be an impact scorer. Coming off the bench is Iowa transfer C.J. Fredrick. He’s easily the team’s biggest threat from beyond the three-point line. Other expected impact guys include transfer Antonio Reeves, sophomore big man Daimion Collins, frosh Adou Thiero, and forward Lance Ware.
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Projected Starting Five: Mike Miles Jr., Damion Baugh, Chuck O’Bannon, Emmanuel Miller, Eddie Lampkin
This TCU team proved that it was for real after taking the No. 1 seed Arizona to the brink in the Round of 32. The Horned Frogs return all five starters from that group and are looking to make an even bigger impact. Mike Miles Jr. is the straw that stirs the drink — a powerful guard who provides constant pressure at the rim. Damion Baugh and Emmanuel Miller were double-digit scorers last season, and Chuck O’Bannon is a sixth-year player who nailed five threes against the Wildcats in the tournament.
And, then there’s Eddie Lampkin. The star of the short-lived tournament run, Lampkin was a dominant force in the interior that Arizona had no answer for. If he can put it together for a full season, Lampkin will be an major difference-maker for the Horned Frogs in Big 12 play.
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Projected Starting Five: Adam Flagler, L.J. Cryer, Keyonte George, Jalen Bridges, Flo Thamba
Scott Drew is on a shortlist of the best coaches in college basketball — and, for good reason. Baylor’s head coach led the Bears to a NCAA championship in ’21, and made the tournament as a No. 1 seed last year. Sporting an 81-13 record over the last three seasons, the Bears have been a powerhouse over the last few years.
This starting group is exactly what Drew needs to contend. Adam Flagler is the table-setter and ready to make a huge jump after averaging 13.8 PPG last season. L.J. Cryer returns after missing the second-half of last year, and he’ll be joined on the wing by IMG Academy’s Keyonte George. The frontcourt rotation will consist of Flo Thamba and newcomer Jalen Bridges who transferred from West Virginia. This team will defend like crazy and and pour it on from beyond the arc.
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Projected Starting Five: Rasir Bolton, Malachi Smith, Drew Timme, Julian Strawther, Efton Reid
Until Gonzaga actually gets over the hump and wins something of consequence, we’re going to be a bit skeptical of this program. Knowing that his NBA future is a question mark, Timme returned to school for what seems like his 10th season. There’s no better big man in college basketball when it comes to footwork and skill around the rim. Rasir Bolton is an excellent shooter — as is transfer Malachi Smith, Strawther is a very explosive ring with a pro future, and Efton Reid — an addition from LSU — was once considered a blue chip prospect.
On the bench, Gonzaga has two 5-star guards waiting in the wings in Nolan Hickman and Hunter Sallis. Both should see steady time on the floor. Ben Gregg has been a nice surprise during the offseason as a burly four-man, and Anton Watson resumes his role as the top big off the bench. On paper, this is a very talented team. Let’s see how they gel versus higher-level opponents.
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Projected Starting Five: Marcus Sasser, Jamal Shead, Tramon Mark, Jarace Walker, J’Wan Roberts
This team is very reminiscent of the teams John Calipari had at Memphis — only without the egos and fan fare. You’ve got a group of gritty, experienced, interchangeable dogs with high-level athleticism and a quiet confidence. Texas Tech transfer Mylik Wilson adds some pop off the bench, and 5-star incoming freshman Jarace Walker is a ridiculously impressive physical specimen. Frosh wing Terrence Arceneaux also gives the Cougars yet another weapon to use.
When you think about all of the boxes this team ‘checks’ (guard play, veteran coach, defensive-minded, athletic), Houston is easily a title contender this year. The only potential issue is a lack of height up front (as this Villanova-esque team doesn’t play a guy taller than 6-foot-9).
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Projected Starting Five: Tyger Campbell, Amari Bailey, Jaylen Clark, Jaime Jaquez, Adem Bona
This is by far the deepest, most athletic, and most talented team Mick Cronin has had in Westwood. Tyger Campbell is the epitome of a rock-solid veteran college PG. Potential All-American Jaime Jaquez had surgery to clean up his ankles, and is now back to the guy who can attack the rim with venom off the dribble — yet also shoot close to 40-percent from three. Jaylen Clark is probably the best defender you’ve never heard of, and could be primed for a massive breakout year. He’s got a terrific nose for the basketball, is uber-athletic, and fits the culture Cronin wants perfectly.
Then, you add two 5-star freshmen to the starting lineup. Starting with Amari Bailey, the lefty out of LA (by way of Chicago) is special with the ball in his hands. He’ll help to take pressure off Campbell when it comes to ball-handling responsibilities. Bona is a freak of an athlete — running the floor akin to a 6-foot-10 deer. UCLA hasn’t had this type of a rim-protecting/lob-converting threat since perhaps Ryan Hollins. Like Bailey, Bona is a sure-fire first-round pick. When you then throw in speedy frosh PG Dylan Andrews, lanky Italian wing Abramo Canka, veteran sharpshooter David Singleton, a slimmed-down Kenny Nwuba, former 4-star big man Mac Etienne, physical Vegas guard Will McClendon, and perhaps Nigerian big man Ege Demir, this team is as deep as anyone in the country.
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1. North Carolina
Projected Starting Five: Caleb Love, R.J. Davis, Leaky Black, Pete Nance, Armando Bacot
Carolina returns the bulk of its Final Four team — including elite big man Armando Bacot, the two-headed guard juggernaut of Caleb Love and R.J. Davis, and wing defender Leaky Black. Needing to replace Brady Manek, the Tar Heels nabbed essentially a like-for-like stretch four in the way of Northwestern transfer Pete Nance. Nance may end up being an even better fit, as he’s a better rebounder/defender than the aforementioned Manek.
The Road to the Final Four — as well as the road to the ACC Title — will go through Chapel Hill. This is a very complete team with a strong starting five.
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