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Louisville-Texas Tech preview: Cards face Red Raiders in Jimmy V. Classic showdown

It’s the current No. 1 vs. last year’s national runner-up inside the World’s Most Famous Arena.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: NOV 15 2K Empire Classic - Syracuse v UConn Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

No. 1 Louisville Cardinals (9-0, 2-0) vs. Texas Tech Red Raiders (5-3)

Jimmy V. Classic

Game Time: 7 p.m.

Location: Madison Square Garden: New York, N.Y.

Television: ESPN

Announcers: Dan Shulman (play-by-play), Jay Bilas (analyst) and Holly Rowe (reporter)

Favorite: Louisville by 6

Series: First Meeting

Probable Starting Lineups:


Louisville Uniforms:

Texas Tech’s Season to Date:

Relevant Videos:

About Texas Tech:

After winning their first five games and climbing to as high as No. 12 in the AP poll, the reigning national runners-up suddenly find themselves the losers of three straight entering Tuesday night’s game against Louisville. A key injury and some spotty guard play have resulted in Texas Tech dropping consecutive games to Creighton, Iowa and DePaul, leaving Chris Beard’s team in desperate need of a jolt of life. A win over the No. 1 team in the country would certainly provide that.

The primary topic of discussion surrounding the Red Raiders at the moment is the health of leading scorer Jahmi’us Ramsey (17.3 ppg). The freshman guard, who was heavily recruited by Louisville, suffered a hamstring injury during Texas Tech’s eventual loss to Iowa. That injury has sidelined Ramsey for the last two games, overtime losses to Creighton and DePaul. As of Tuesday morning, Ramsey’s status for the Louisville game was described by Beard as “a game time decision.”

Texas Tech is a completely different team with Ramsey available than they are without him. Not only does the 6’4 freshman lead the team in scoring, but he’s their leader in steals (1.5 spg) and their second-leading rebounder (6.0 rpg). In their two games without him, the Red Raider offense has looked clunky and ineffective for long stretches.

With or without Ramsey, Texas Tech has started a lineup that features four guards and one forward all season. They rarely feature a lineup that has more than one player on the floor taller than 6’6, and their most consistent inside presence is 6’6 guard Chris Clarke, a player Louisville fans likely remember from his time at Virginia Tech. Clarke is only a scoring threat in the lane, but his strength and his ferociousness have him averaging a team and career-best 8.4 rebounds per game. He’s also emerged as quite the facilitator this season, especially with Ramsey out, and leads the team in assists at 5.9 per game.

Clarke is one of the more unique players in the country in that he creates and initiates much of the offense for Texas Tech despite being more of an inside threat who is never going to look smooth handling the basketball. On a lot of possessions, his move to the basket will simply be backing his man down from the three-point line all the way to the block, and then either looking to score in the post or passing out to a shooter on the wing. It’s not aesthetically pleasing, but his strength and his relentlessness make it work.

A more traditional-playing guard is Davide Moretti, the only returning starter from last year’s national finalist squad. As a sophomore in 2018-19, Moretti became the only player in the history of the Big 12 to shoot at least 50 percent from the floor, 50 percent three, and 90 percent from the free-throw line in a season. He’s been asked to shoulder more of the offensive load with Jarrett Culver and company gone, and the returns have been mixed thus far.

Moretti is still shooting the outside shot at a very high clip (43.9 percent), but while asked to serve as more of a facilitator, his turnover numbers are up (1.3 tpg to 2.1 pg) while his assist numbers have remained stagnant (2.4 apg).

No player has been more affected by the absence of Ramsey than Moretti has. The native of Bologna, Italy was shooting an absurd 62.2 percent from the field over the first five games this season, and was 12-of-20 (60 percent) from three. Playing the role of primary guard with Ramsey sidelined, Moretti has struggled. He’s just 11-of-37 from the field and 6-of-21 from three in Texas Tech’s last three games, and has posted eight turnovers against just two assists. Moretti’s struggles were the most apparent in the Red Raiders’ loss to DePaul last week, where he went 1-of-10 from the field and turned the ball over five times. Perhaps most notably, the career 90 percent free-throw shooter missed his first freebie of the season in the closing seconds of regulation, allowing DePaul to tie the game and send it into overtime with a three just before the buzzer.

Even with his recent struggles, Moretti is a player Louisville’s defenders have to have a beat on at all times. He’s clearly more dangerous when Ramsey is out there to draw the lion’s share of attention, but with or without his running mate, Moretti is the type of shooter who only needs to see the ball go through the net a couple of times before he’s locked in for the evening. With Texas Tech’s current offensive struggles, U of L can’t afford to let one guy get hot from deep and a make a bunch of shots that can cover up the Red Raiders’ warts.

Terrence Shannon, a 6’6 freshman from Chicago, is another young player Texas Tech fans are extremely excited about. He didn’t arrive in Lubbock with quite as much hype as Ramsey, but he possesses about as much ability. The lefty known for his athleticism and ability to slash and score almost single-handedly lifted the Red Raiders past DePaul last week, scoring 24 points and grabbing eight boards. He’s a decent enough outside shooter that you have to respect it, but he’s far more dangerous off the dribble.

I really, really like this kid’s game.

Shannon will be a tough assignment for Jordan Nwora or whomever is checking him. Also ... please, please, please remember at all times that this is a left-handed player who would prefer to go left.

After playing a limited role last season as a freshman, 6’4 guard Kyler Edwards has stepped up to be arguably Texas Tech’s most consistent contributor this season. He has scored between 9-15 points in every game but one (a 6-point effort on opening night) this season, and currently ranks second on the team in assists (3.8 apg) and third in rebounding (5.6 rpg). He can beat you on back-cuts if you get lost ball-watching, but Edwards is most dangerous as a catch and shoot threat. He’s knocked down at least one three in six of Texas Tech’s eight games this season.

Beard’s primary inside presence is TJ Holyfield, a 6’8 grad transfer from Stephen F. Austin. He’s currently averaging 10.1 ppg, but that number is a bit misleading. Holyfield racked up a total of 56 points in Texas Tech’s first three games against nobodies, and has hit double figures in scoring just once since then. In the Red Raiders’ last two games — losses to Creighton and DePaul — he’s scored only two points and gone a combined 0-for-3 from the field. The Red Raiders will crash down with multiple guys every time Louisville works the ball into the post, because Holyfield simply can’t defend Steven Enoch or Malik Williams on his own.

There really isn’t a whole lot to talk about outside of Texas Tech’s top six performers. Beard is working with an extremely thin bench that, like his starting lineup, is too heavy on guards. Avery Benson, another lefty, played solid minutes against DePaul and is a threat to knock down the outside shot. Freshman Kevin McCullar has more size at 6’6, but hasn’t been much of an offensive threat in recent weeks.

Defensively, Texas Tech looks the same as they have the last couple of years under Beard, who is notorious for his “no middle” defense. The Red Raiders simply will not allow opponents to get the ball into the middle of their defense. They dare ballhandlers to drive, force them to the baseline, and then feast on poor decision-making.

Like all of the best defensive systems in college basketball — Virginia, Michigan, Wisconsin — this only works if you have five guys on the floor who all have a full understanding of what they’re supposed to be doing. With four starters gone from last season’s squad, it’s understandable that the Red Raiders haven’t looked quite as stellar defensive through the first month of this season and they did a year ago. Even so, this a team that ranks No. 13 in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency and hasn’t allowed anyone to score more than 74 points against them in regulation.

The only downside to Beard’s no middle philosophy is that the Red Raiders will often leave space on the perimeter. This is especially dangerous against a well-coached team loaded with shooters like Louisville.

For a great extended read on the best way to score against the Texas Tech defense, go here.

Texas Tech will also “ice” the high ball screen, which means they will force the ballhandler to drive away from the side where the screen is being set. This is something that not a lot of teams have done affectively against Louisville, but which the Red Raiders are experts at.

Once again, there is some serious pressure on the decision-making of Darius Perry and Fresh Kimble Tuesday night.

Even without an elite on-ball defender like Culver and an elite rim protector like Tariq Owens, Texas Tech has the potential to be the toughest challenge for the U of L offense outside of Virginia. As Chris Mack said earlier this week, “they’re going to defend better than any team we’ve played thus far.”


—Louisville is 9-0 to start a season for the ninth time in program history and the first time since 2014-15. The Cards won their first 11 games of that year.

—Louisville has won 10 consecutive games at Madison Square Garden. The Cardinals are 32-27 all-time in games played inside “The World’s Most Famous Arena.”

—Texas Tech is 0-6 all-time against No. 1 teams.

—Under Chris Beard, the Red Raiders are 11-9 in games against ranked opponents.

—Texas Tech will be Louisville’s 327th different opponent in men’s basketball. The Cards are 244-82 in first-time meetings, including 55-2 since 2002-03. The only two losses over that span came against California and Baylor.

—Louisville is already 3-0 against first-time opponents — USC Upstate, Youngstown State and North Carolina Central — so far this season.

—Texas Tech is 8-24 all-time against teams from the ACC.

—Louisville is 31-18 all-time against teams from the Big 12.

—Louisville is fifth in the nation in field goal percentage defense (.353) 18th in field goal percentage (.496) and is fifth in scoring margin (+19.5).

—Texas Tech ranks second in the nation with 18.8 assists per game. The Red Raiders are leading the Big 12 with 131 made free throws, 150 total assists and 323 total rebounds.

—Jordan Nwora’s 194 points scored are the most by a Louisville player through nine games over the last 20 seasons. He leads the ACC in scoring (21.6 ppg, 15th in the nation).

—Dwayne Sutton needs 14 points to reach the 1,000-point mark for his college career.

—Louisville is 18-4 all-time in games played on Dec. 10, and have won their last 15 contests on that date.

—Louisville is 1-1 all-time in the Jimmy V. Classic. The Cards defeated Indiana (94-74) in the 2014 installment of the event, but lost to Arizona (72-65) in 2006.

—Texas Tech has lost three straight non-conference games for the first time since the 2012-13 season, and are now looking to avoid their first four-game non-conference losing streak since the 1990-91 season.

—Louisville is the only undefeated team remaining in the ACC and one of just eight unbeaten teams remaining in Division-I.

—Louisville has won 151 consecutive games when scoring at least 85 points in regulation.

—Louisville is one of just four schools which have won 20 or more games on the court in each of the last 18 seasons (also Kansas, Duke and Gonzaga).

Ken Pomeroy Prediction: Louisville 68, Texas Tech 60