Archive | October, 2015

Impact Transfers Leading Prominent Programs

26 Oct

The number of transfers seems to grow every season, which has been a growing (and growing) trend over the last few years.  What else has become a growing trend is major national programs using transfers as a way to supplement their teams.  This season is no different with the likes of Duke, Michigan State, Wichita State and Connecticut all hoping their new players become a foundation for their success this season.

The Blue Devils won the National Championship but did lose a ton of talent.  Coach K brought in a solid recruiting class of freshmen but also brought in Sean Obi a transfer from Rice.  Gone are Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow, Tyus Jones and Quinn Cook.  That is a lot of production to replace, even for the National Champs.  The Blue Devils have brought in nine freshmen to go along with sophomore standout Grayson Allen.  Obi joins the squad after a solid freshman campaign at Rice that saw him net 11points and nine rebounds a game.  He won’t be able to make up for all the lost production but he will be relied upon to help lead such a young Blue Devil squad.

Unlike the team they lost to in the Final Four Michigan State returns nearly all of the that roster except for two integral pieces, guard Travis Trice and forward Branden Dawson.  Tom Izzo welcomes big-time guard Eron Harris from West Virginia to supplement his pre-season top 15 team.  Harris averaged over 17 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 2013-14.  For Izzo this is the definition of reloading for another deep March run.

It is safe to say that Wichita State has shaken the mid-major moniker.  Over the last three seasons they have 95 wins, a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and a trip to the Final Four.  Coach Gregg Marshall now has another top 10 team and perhaps the best backcourt in the country in Ron Baker and Fred Vanvleet.  The Shockers must replace the 21.2 points, 9.3 rebounds and 3.4 assists left behind by Darius Carter and Tekele Cotton.  Marshall and company welcome a graduate transfer from Cleveland State in forward Anton Grady who averaged 14 points, 7.9 rebounds and 1.3 assists last season.  He also averaged 23.5 points and 12.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists in Cleveland State’s two CIT Tournament games.  Production like that will keep the Wichita State train rolling along.

Two years ago Connecticut was the center of the basketball universe, claiming both the men’s and women’s national titles.  Last season the men lost in the 1st round of the NIT.  Ryan Boatright is gone, but they do return their next six top scorers.  Heading the freshmen class is guard Jalen Adams.  He should get plenty of run in the backcourt with Sterling Gibbs, a senior transfer from Seton Hall.  Gibbs is a flashy scorer and playmaker who averaged over 16 points and nearly four assists for the Pirates last season.  His offensive abilities should help the offensively challenged Huskies who averaged just 64 points per game last season.

This season the immediate impact transfers will make will be clear.  Some of the most prominent programs in the country will be relying on them to be integral parts of their success in 2015-16.

Engles Has Built a Foundation of Improvement and Success

19 Oct

Entering its 10th season as a division 1 program the New Jersey Institute of Technology Highlanders could be considered the poster child of a basketball team making the jump to division 1.  The road has been a long one for the small school of just over 10,000 students located in Newark, NJ.

Over their first two seasons they won a total of five games including an 0-29 campaign in 2007-08.  As a result, there was a coaching change.  Athletic Director Lenny Kaplan decided to hire Jim Engles who had spent the previous five seasons as an assistant at Columbia.  In Engles’ first season the team lost its first 18 games and then finally got off the broke into the win column by defeating Bryant for their only win of the season.

After competing as an independent since joining division 1 the Highlanders joined the Great West Conference in 2009.  They remained there for four seasons, increasing their win total each season, from 10 in 2009 to 16 in 2013 winning the regular season conference title.  After the season NJIT once again found itself as an independent because the remaining basketball schools found other homes at the height of conference realignment.  They have since spent the last two seasons playing a myriad of teams while searching for a new conference to call home.

Things really turned the corner last season as they got a marquee win for the program in December as they went to Ann Arbor and defeated #17 Michigan 72-70.  They finished the year with 21 wins and their first ever trip to the post-season, a run to the CIT semifinals.  This July they also found a home, accepting an invitation to join the Atlantic Sun Conference.

Through it all Engles has been the man leading the charge and is now beginning to see the fruits of his labor.   One would think taking over a team that went winless the year before would be a scary proposition, not for Engles.

“The main thing for us to set a foundation for what we wanted to do going forward.  It was hard from a record standpoint, in actuality it was one of the more enjoyable seasons because we had kids who really listened, who really wanted to try.” Said Engles.

NJIT moved to the Great West during the height of conference realignment. While the geographical fit wasn’t perfect and travel was difficult Engles thinks the time in the Great West was good for his program. “We were all dealing with the same issues.  We were all dealing with the same kind of recruiting hardships and trying to put our programs on a solid foundation.”

As teams in the Great West began to leave for more stable homes, Engles wondered what was going to happen to his program.  “What are we doing? Are we going to be able to get in anything here?”  The immediate answer was no, because NJIT was at a different place geographically than the other teams in the Great West, when the dust settled they were left as division 1’s lone independent for the last two seasons.

This season however they do have a home, and although the geographical logistics aren’t ideal for them in the Atlantic Sun Engles is looking forward to having a place to call home and the new challenges and opportunities that will bring.  The Highlanders finally found themselves on the positive side of the numbers game and Engles knew it.  “When the A-Sun lost Northern Kentucky I knew it would be a good fit for us because obviously they were going to need another member and we were the only independent.  So we were hoping and had our fingers crossed.”

They got that long-awaited invitation and even though the conference is based mainly in the southeast that won’t be an issue for the Highlanders having dealt with logistics of being a geographical outlier as a member of the Great West.

As a team with a conference affiliation, that opens new doors in terms of recruiting for Engles.  “It has already helped us because we are getting a lot more attention nationally from recruits.  We get information from kids every day that we never got before because we weren’t in a conference.  We would like to try and get into Florida and the southeast corridor.  Some good things are happening which will allow us to branch out a little bit more than we have in the past but we are still trying to figure out if that’s the right thing to do.”

One thing a conference affiliation does for the program is give them a real chance at an NCAA Tournament bid.  Coming off a season where they won 21 games and had perhaps the upset of the season when they defeated Michigan to go along with a run to the CIT semifinals, They Highlanders are one of the preseason favorites in the Atlantic Sun.

When talking about the NCAA Tournament Coach Engles says, “That’s been the easiest thing for me to deal with.  We’ve never been able to motivate that way, we’ve really had to motivate with the idea of getting better, improving.  It’s exciting to see it in their eyes because there’s definitely an energy with the guys knowing that they are working towards a specific goal at the end of the season.”

Engles knows that a successful season isn’t going to be because of new surroundings or post-season potential; it’s going to be on the same principles he started with when they won a single game in his first season.  “We never talk about winning, we talk about improving.  We are talking about the same exact stuff which has been able to keep us competitive.  We are talking of dealing with the expectations of having a good year last year and being able to continue that this year.  We don’t want to lose sight of the things that have made us successful and that’s coming in everyday and getting your work done.”

From day one improvement has been the foundation for Jim Engles.  That’s what his team has done since his arrival.  Now not only are the Highlanders coming off a signature season for the program with a new conference to call home and a new facility that will be finished in two years, they return 10 players from that squad that gained invaluable experience.  There is a chance Engles could see his team improve itself right into an NCAA Tournament berth.

Head Coach Jim Engles

Opening Night Games to Watch

13 Oct

The opening night of college hoops on Friday Nov. 13 doesn’t seem to have as many intriguing match ups as years past, but there is a trio of games that should catch your eye.

In one of the first games to tip off Bruce Pearl returns for his second season at Auburn and opens with a tough Alabama-Birmingham squad.    The Tigers finished just 15-19 last season but made a magical run to the SEC semifinals, a solid building block for the 2015-16 season.  They do lose three key players in Antoine Mason, KT Harrell and K.C. Ross Miller but senior big man Cinmeon Bowers returns to lead a recruiting class headlined by two top 100 recruits, 6-9 forward Horace Spencer and 6-7 swingman Danjel Purifoy, whose status remains unresolved by the NCAA Clearinghouse.  UAB finished last season on a much higher note.  After dropping two straight to end the regular season, the Blazers won three straight to win the Conference USA tournament and proceeded to knock off #3 Iowa State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.  The Blazers return their top six scorers from that team including senior Robert Brown who averaged 13.7 points a game last season and sophomore William Lee who scored 14 points with 12 rebounds in the upset over Iowa State as a freshman.

It seems we say this about Baylor every season but the Bears are again extremely athletic and long (eight players 6-5 or taller) and could be a contender in the Big 12.  They won 24 games but fell to Kansas in the Big 12 semifinals and then were knocked off by #14 Georgia State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in a game that had you on the edge of your seat.  Baylor returns plenty of experience with five players that averaged over 17 minutes a game returning, led by seniors Rico Gathers and Taurean Prince.  Scott Drew’s team certainly has a stiff test to open the season, hosting Stephen F. Austin.  A Lumberjack team that has won an average of 29 games over the past 3 seasons under Brad Underwood returns seven of the nine players that saw double digit minutes last year including Player-of-the Year candidate Thomas Walkup.  They must find a way to replace Jacob Parker but there are plenty of candidates on the roster like the 6-5 duo of Ty Charles and Clide Geffrard, Jr.

The nightcap of opening night pits two teams with something to prove, Texas and Washington.  After years of disappointing finishes in Austin Rick Barnes was finally let go.  Brought in to replace him is the most highly sought after mid major coach in recent memory, VCU’s Shaka Smart.  Smart doesn’t exactly inherit an empty cupboard either, the Longhorns are coming off a 20-win season that culminated in an NCAA Tournament berth.  He also returns nine of the ten players that played in at least 20 games only losing NBA lottery pick Myles Turner.  It remains to be seen how havoc will play in Austin but some of the excitement is back for a program that had become stagnant.  No team was hit harder by defections in the offseason than Lorenzo Romar’s Washington Huskies who lose eight players off last year’s team including their best player Nigel Williams-Goss who transferred to Gonzaga.   As a result, after Andrew Andrews and his 15 points per game the highest returning scorer is Donevan Dorsey and his 3.8 along with eight freshmen and four sophomores.  It will be interesting to see how so much turnover affects a team that won just 16 games last season.

This trio of games should be enough to whet your appetite for another five months of mayhem and unpredictability that is college basketball.

Previewing the Big Ten

8 Oct

Despite being one of the most consistent conferences in the country over the last decade the Big Ten has been in a prolonged National title drought.  Despite having two teams reach the Final Four, Wisconsin and Michigan State and the Badgers reaching the title game, the conference has been without a title for 15 years.

This season another team will take aim at ending that drought.  Maryland seems to be the consensus favorite to win the conference and be the team with the best title chances.  The Terrapins won’t be without contenders in the Big Ten.  The other Final Four team from last year Michigan State and Tom Crean’s Indiana Hoosiers should be the other top contenders.  Teams like Wisconsin, Ohio State and Michigan should be solid again but are likely to take a step back while Purdue is looking to take a step into the upper echelon of the conference.

Despite losing the likes of Dez Wells, Evan Smotrycz and Richaud Pack to graduation from a team that won 28 games last season they do return big man Jake Layman and sophomore guard Melo Trimble.  Joining Mark Turgeon’s squad is Duke transfer Rasheed Sulaimon, Georgia Tech transfer Robert Carter and five-star recruit center Diamond Stone.

March always seems to be Tom Izzo time no matter what kind of talent he has on the roster.  This season Denzel Valentine, Matt Costello, and Tum Tum Nairn return and are joined by a transfer Erron Harris from West Virginia and 6-10 freshman Deyonta Davis should add to the frontcourt options to go along with Costello.

It has been a few years since Indiana has been atop the Big Ten that could change this year.   The team’s top four scorers return led by Yogi Ferrell and James Blackmon, Jr.  With the shot clock being reduced to 30 seconds Tom Crean has said he would like the team to play even more upbeat which is saying something for a team that averaged over 77 points per game.  Thomas Bryant is an athletic big man who comes to Bloomington getting rave reviews for his athleticism and work ethic.

Wisconsin is like Michigan State.  Bo Ryan always seems to be in the mix no matter his roster.  The Badgers lost a ton off of its National runner-up team.  Gone are Frank Kaminsky, Sam Dekker, Josh Gasser and Traevon Jackson but back are Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig lead a roster that has seven freshmen on it including top recruit guard Brevin Pritzl.

Like Wisconsin, Ohio State lost a lot including lottery pick D’Angelo Russell, Shannon Scott and Sam Thompson.  Marc Loving returns as the team’s lone junior but Thad Matta brings in five 4-star recruits including a trio of guards;  6-4 Austin Grandstaff, 6-5 Jaquan Lyle and 5-9 A.J. Harris joining them are 6-7 Mickey Mitchell and 6-10 Daniel Giddens.

After struggling through mediocrity last season the Michigan Wolverines are hoping a healthy Caris LaVert can help them rebound.  Both LaVert and Derrick Walton, Jr. suffered season-ending injuries in January.  The injuries allowed the likes of Aubrey Dawkins, Zak Irvin and Ricky Doyle to develop as players.  Even though the Wolverines haven’t added much outside of center Moritz Wagner if LaVert and Walton are healthy Michigan should be much improved.

If there is a sleeper in the conference it is the Purdue Boilermakers.  Matt Painter’s squad lost Jon Octeus to graduation but seniors A.J. Hammons and Raphael Davis return along with sophomore Vince Edwards from a team that won 21 games and finished third in the conference.  Senior transfer Johnny Hill makes Purdue his third team in his college career after transferring from Texas-Arlington and highly-touted forward Caleb Swanigan should help replace Octeus and then some.

It might be Maryland’s turn at a National title but the conference should again be strong at the top perhaps with some different faces.  The question is, is this the year the drought ends?

Early Season Tournaments Provide Insight

8 Oct

During the first couple of months of the season tournaments give us a look at teams against competition we may not otherwise see before post-season play.  Here is a look at some of this year’s early-season tournaments other than the marquee Champions Classic which will again feature Kentucky facing Duke and Kansas battling Michigan State to finish off the Tip-Off Marathon.

The Advocare Invitational takes place Nov. 26-27, 29 and features Wichita State who could be poised for another deep run in March with the back court of Ron Baker and All-American candidate Fred Vanvleet.  The duo no longer has Tekele Cotton riding shotgun with them but they do welcome a couple of transfers, Anton Grady from Cleveland State should provide an inside presence for Gregg Marshall’s squad and Conner Frankamp who comes over from Kansas.  Also in the field are Dayton, Xavier, Notre Dame who have top 25 potential, Iowa, Monmouth and a couple of teams with intriguing coaches USC (Andy Enfield) and Alabama (Avery Johnson).

The Directv Wooden Legacy takes place at the same time.  This one features a match up everyone hopes to see; Michigan State vs. Arizona, Tom Izzo vs. Sean Miller, two top-level programs hoping for deep NCAA Tournament runs.  Both teams have exceptional talent, Michigan State with senior big man Matt Costello and guard Denzel Valentine, the duo is joined by West Virginia transfer Eron Harris.  At Arizona their senior duo is center Kaleb Tarczewski and guard Gabe York.  They are also joined by a transfer as Ryan Anderson leaves Boston College to head out west.  There are other teams hoping to spoil the party, namely Providence with guard Kris Dunn and Boise State with their senior sharpshooter Anthony Drmic.  Then there is Evansville who won 24 games a season ago and their secret weapon guard D.J. Balentine.

The Diamond Head Classic on Dec. 22-23,25 features a clear cut favorite in Oklahoma with Buddy Hield and three other starters returning from a squad that reached the Sweet 16 for Lon Kruger.  Aside from the Sooners, the tournament also features a Northern Iowa team that earned a 5 seed in last year’s NCAA Tournament and what should be the most fun on-the-court head to head with BYU’s Kyle Collinsworth facing off with Harvard’s Siyani Chambers in the first round.

The Jimmy V Classic on Dec. 8 has an undercard of West Virginia playing Virginia and Maryland taking on UConn in the night cap.  It is hard to call a game with Virginia the undercard as the Cavaliers could be national title contenders with their stifling defense and back court of Malcolm Brogdon and London Perrantes and senior big man Mike Tobey, but with a pre-season #1 team in Maryland and the other two years removed from a national title of its own in UConn, Virginia’s game with in-state rival West Virginia will be the warm up.  Maryland’s sophomore guard Melo Trimble is one of the best players in the country and should be a Player of the Year Candidate.  The veteran presence on the team is senior swingman Jake Layman who is a 6-9 big man who stretches the floor and rebounds.  Head Coach Mark Turgeon also landed on of the best recruits in the country when 7-1 Diamond Stone committed to Maryland.  Also joining this group is Duke transfer Rasheed Sulaimon.  As for UConn Ryan Boatright is gone but in steps top recruit Jalen Adams sophomore Daniel Hamilton should continue to improve.  NC State transfer Rodney Purvis needs to improve off a disappointing first season in Storrs.  Amidah Brimah returns as the nation’s best shot blocker and Sterling Gibbs a playmaking transfer from Seton Hall should help the Huskies score the ball.

The reason to watch the Legends Classic Nov. 23-24 is easy, LSU.  The expectations for the Tigers are as high as they have been in a long time and that is because of the recruiting class.  Johnny Jones landed three top 40 recruits headed by #1 Ben Simmons who is a 6-9 do everything forward.  He is joined by fellow freshmen standouts Antonio Blakeney and Brandon Sampson.  Marquette has its own freshman building block to boast about when coach Steve Wojciechowski landed top 5 recruit power forward Henry Ellenson.  LSU will see a familiar foe as Cat Barber and N.C. State are also in this tournament.  It was Barber’s 17 points that helped erase a 16-point halftime deficit eliminating LSU from the NCAA Tournament.

The Battle 4 Atlantis has possibly taken over as the must-watch early-season tourney.  This year’s field includes UConn and former Big East foe Syracuse, Michigan and Texas A&M both of whom are looking to climb into the upper tier of their respective conferences, Texas and Charlotte both made high profile coaching changes; Charlotte hiring former NBA star Mark Price and Texas luring Shaka Smart away from VCU and last there is Gonzaga who is long past the mid-major moniker and now simply retools like a lot of the major programs across the country.  The storylines in this tournament are aplenty besides the ones mentioned above, how about Washington who saw the transfer flood gates open this offseason and its best player Nigel Williams-Goss who is now sitting out the season but will see his former teammates as he is now enrolled at Gonzaga.  This is one of those tournaments where it doesn’t matter when you watch, there will be something worth watching.

The Maui Invitational Nov. 23-25 will feature the likes of Kansas, Indiana, UCLA, UNLV, St. John’s, Vanderbilt and Wake Forest joining host Chaminade.  Kansas leads this field with seniors Perry Ellis and Wayne Selden being joined guards Frank Mason III and Sviatoislav Mykhailiuk  and freshman Cheick Diallo.  Yogi Farrell’s Indiana Hoosiers are looking play more up tempo this season with their top five scorers from last season’s team that averaged over 77 points a game returning.  UCLA lost some firepower off its Sweet 16 team from a year ago but senior Tony Parker returns hoping build upon that success with a much younger roster.   Dave Rice’s tenure at UNLV has been up and down; the Rebels have won games but have had no success in the NCAA Tournament when they have reached it .  During the regular season one thing that has plagued Rice’s squads has been the inability to win marquee games to help solidify their March resume.  This tournament can provide them a chance to do so.  The addition of 7-foot freshman and St. John’s transfer Chris Obekpa should help.  Speaking of St. John’s they have a new coach in former Red Storm legend Chris Mullin who will be on display in Maui.

The College Game Might Look Different

7 Oct

Basketball purists find joy in watching teams like Virginia play stifling defense or Princeton run methodical half-court sets.  Some however felt as though the college game was getting too bogged down over the past few seasons, so the NCAA has implemented a few rule changes for the 2015-16 season designed to increase scoring and speed up the overall pace of play.

The three most significant rule changes are; the shot clock being reduced from 35 seconds to 30, the restricted area underneath each basket being extended out from three feet to four feet and the number of time outs teams will have at their disposal in the second half has been reduced by one, to three.

Scoring in the college game has been on a downward trajectory of the past few seasons and the NCAA has taken steps to try and change that.  Reducing the shot clock from 35 seconds to 30 will add a minimum of 14.5 possessions to each game, theoretically giving teams more opportunities to score points.

Aslo recently a big point of emphasis and contention has been the block/charge call officials have to make.  This call is the most difficult and perhaps the most judgmental one a referee has to make.  To help alleviate some of that pressure the NCAA adopted the NBA’s rule of a restricted arc under each basket.  In order to draw a charge call the defender must establish position completely outside the arc.  Last year saw a reduction in the number of collisions underneath the basket so the NCAA has decided to extend the arc out another foot to four feet from the basket, they hope resulting in even less collisions.

Even the most hardened college hoops fan gets annoyed with the number of stoppages that take place late in games from either unnecessary fouling or timeout after timeout being called. To that end, the number of timeouts a team is given will now be four instead of five and the most they are allowed to carry over into the second half of a game is three.

One more change that has been adopted involves the 10-second call when a team is trying to get the ball over half court.  In the past if there was a stoppage from a timeout or the ball going out of bounds the 10-second count would reset.   Beginning this year teams will have 10 seconds to get the ball over half court whether there is a stoppage or not.

What kind of consequence this has on the game remains to be seen but it’s clear the NCAA feels the game needs to be sped up and is trying to take steps to make sure that happens.

SEC Full of Intriguing Coaches

5 Oct

When anyone says SEC coaches obviously the name that first comes to mind, as it should is John Calipari and the pseudo-NBA teams he is fielding at Kentucky.  However, with the four additions to the conference’s coaching ranks this summer the SEC may boast the strongest group of head coaches of any conference in the country.

Behind Calipari the league still has veterans Kevin Stallings at Vanderbilt who has over 300 wins during his 16-year tenure in Nashville, Andy Kennedy who has seven trips to either the NIT or NCAA Tournament in nine seasons at Ole Miss and Mark Fox at Georgia, who is the league’s 4th longest tenured coach.

Over the past three years the league has added Frank Martin at South Carolina, Mike Anderson at Arkansas, Billy Kennedy at Texas A&M and Johnny Jones at LSU.  This quartet has amassed just two trips the NCAA Tournament with LSU making the big dance last season.

Speaking of the goings on in Baton Rouge, expectations continue to rise for Jones and his Tigers after the tournament berth last season and the addition of two top 15 recruits in shooting guard Antonio Blakeney and the top overall recruit in power forward Ben Simmons.

Last season Bruce Pearl made a well-publicized return to the conference taking the helm at Auburn.  The Tigers didn’t improve on the win total but the enthusiasm about Auburn basketball was palpable and grew to a crescendo as they made a run to the conference semifinals before falling to Kentucky.

Missouri also hired a new coach last season.  Former assistant Kim Anderson returned to Columbia as head man.  After 12 years as the head coach at division II Central Missouri that saw him have three 30-win seasons, make seven trips to the NCAA Tournament including three to the Final Four and a National Championship in 2014.  Anderson has some rebuilding to do at Missouri after winning just nine games last season.

This summer Alabama, Florida, Mississippi State and Tennessee all hired new faces to head their programs.

In Tuscaloosa Anthony Grant was let go after six seasons.  In walks Avery Johnson who had previously coached the Brooklyn Nets and led the Dallas Mavericks to their first NBA Finals.  Johnson inherits a team that won 19 games but must replace their top three scorers and navigate a roster that has nine freshmen and sophomores and just two seniors.

At Florida the long awaited presumed inevitability happened, Billy Donovan made the jump to the NBA leaving to coach the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Gators lured one of the country’s hottest coaching commodities to Gainesville, Michael White of Louisiana Tech.   Gone are Michael Frazier III, Jon Horford, Eli Carter and Chris Walker.   White spent four seasons at Louisiana Tech with 83 wins over the final three and three straight trips to the NIT.

Mississippi State was able to bring Ben Howland to town after two years away from the game.  Howland most recently spent 10 seasons at UCLA with seven trips to the NCAA Tournament and three consecutive trips to the Final Four from 2006-08.  It remains to be seen whether he can have the same effect in Starkville that Pearl has had at Auburn in changing the culture of the basketball perception.

After a tumultuous season on and off the court at Tennessee the Volunteers moved on after one season with Donnie Tyndall when his transgressions while at Southern Mississippi caught up with him.  Replacing him will be Rick Barnes who was let go after 17 years at Texas.  Barnes made the NCAA Tournament in 16 of those 17 seasons, what did him in was not making it past the second weekend in 12 of those years.  Barnes inherits a roster that returns seven of its top eight scorers, but the one that needs to be replaced is 16-point scorer Josh Richardson.

Calipari may get the ink on the page and all the media interviews but a look at the other coaches in the league reveals the storylines on the sidelines are just as intriguing as the ones between the lines.

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