Louisville Cardinals (15-3, 6-1) vs. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (8-10, 3-5)
Game Time: 7:04 p.m.
Location: KFC Yum Center: Louisville, Ky.
Television: Regional Sports Networks (Fox Sports South in Louisville)
Announcers: Tom Werme (play-by-play) and Mike Gminski (analyst)
Favorite: Louisville by 13.5
Officials: Ted Valentine, Pat Driscoll, Matt Potter
Series: Louisville leads, 21-13
Last Meeting: Louisville won 79-51 on Jan. 19, 2019 in Atlanta
Probable Starting Lineups:
About Georgia Tech:
Though they’re just 3-5 in the ACC and 8-10 overall, Georgia Tech has quietly been playing much better basketball since the calendar flipped to 2020. Josh Pastner’s team has lost narrow games to Duke, Notre Dame and Virginia — all games they had chances to win heading into the final segment — and lopsided road wins over North Carolina (96-83) and Boston College (71-52).
The primary issue for the Yellow Jackets heading into Wednesday night’s game against Louisville is the health of leading scorer Michael Devoe (15.9 ppg). The sophomore guard who is a lethal outside shooter has been held out of practice this week and was spotted with a boot on his right foot. If Devoe isn’t able to go against U of L, an already offensively-deficient team should have an even more difficult time finding enough scoring to pull off what would be a sizable upset.
Junior point guard Jose Alvarado has been dealing with back spasms this week, but has been practicing and is expected to play. Alvarado was one of three Georgia Tech players who sat out last year’s game against Louisville, and the Yellow Jackets looked lost without him. Known more for his defensive ability and his prowess as a facilitator on offense, Alvarado is coming off of one of his best offensive games of the season. He went 8-of-14 from the field and scored 20 points in GT’s 63-58 loss to Virginia on Saturday. At 6’0, he isn’t yet another guard who will have a massive size advantage over Fresh Kimble and Darius Perry, but I think it’s still safe to expect another night where we get a healthy dose of David Johnson (which, in fairness, is probably going to be every night from now on, regardless of the size of the opposing backcourt).
As solid as Alvarado and Devoe are, the strength of this Georgia Tech team is inside. Moses Wright is a guy whose raw ability and off the charts potential has been talked about for what feels like the better part of the last decade. Finally, as a junior, it’s starting to show itself. After a forgettable first two seasons in Atlanta, Wright enters Wednesday averaging 13.4 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. His streak of eight consecutive games with 12 points or more was broken on Saturday when he went just 3-of-10 from the field and scored seven points against Virginia. Still, the super talented 6’9 forward will be a challenge defensively for Louisville.
MAKE WAY FOR MOSES pic.twitter.com/AiCDCgEjXj— ACC Network (@accnetwork) January 4, 2020
The other half of Georgia Tech’s two-headed monster inside is the more familiar James Banks III, who mans the five spot. Banks’ offensive numbers (10.3 ppg/50.8 percent from the field) have dipped slightly this season, but he’s still one of the best defensive big men in the country. An All-ACC Defensive Team selection in 2018-19, Banks is currently averaging 2.8 blocks per game, the second most in the conference. At 6’10, he’s giving up a small amount of size to both Steven Enoch and Malik Williams, but he’ll certainly be a worthy challenge to both. He almost single-handedly came last year’s game against Louisville semi-respectable, finishing with 24 points and 11 rebounds.
Georgia Tech’s primary issues this season have rested on the offensive end. They enter Wednesday as the third-worst offensive team in the ACC, ahead of only Boston College and Virginia.
Devoe is a terrific outside shooter, but he’s really the only consistent outside threat the Yellow Jackets have. As a team they’re shooting just 29.2 percent from beyond the arc, good for 324th-best in the country. They’re also an abysmal team when it comes to turning the ball over — happening on 23.1 percent of their possessions, the 331st-worst mark in D-I — and free-throw shooting (65.0 percent as a team). Thanks mostly to the tandem of Wright and Banks, the Jackets are shooting a very respectable 51.6 percent from inside the three-point line. This is pretty much the only thing they do well on offense.
The story is much better for Pastner’s team on defense, where they’re the fourth-strongest team in the ACC. The bad news is they’ll likely be playing a fairly loose zone Wednesday night against a great outside shooting Louisville team that has feasted on zone defenses often this season. Like the Cards, Georgia Tech doesn’t force a ton of turnovers. They make their living on forcing challenged shots from the outside and using Banks and Wright to alter shots around the rim.
While Louisville thrived on attacking the rim last Saturday against Duke, this is a game where they’re going to be forced to go back to knocking down the outside shot. That should be music to the ears of guys like Jordan Nwora and Ryan McMahon. The former dropped 25 on GT in the only meeting between the two last season.
—Louisville has won eight consecutive games against Georgia Tech and is 6-0 against the Yellow Jackets since joining the ACC. GT hasn’t defeated U of L since December of 1997.
—Louisville has started with a 6-1 ACC record for the third time in its six years in the conference (best ACC start is 7-1). The Cardinals have started with at least a 15-3 overall record through 18 games for the seventh time in the last 10 years.
—Louisville is 5-2 all-time in games against Georgia Tech head coach Josh Paster. Pastner went 2-2 against the Cardinals when he was at Memphis, but is 0-3 against them with the Yellow Jackets.
—Georgia Tech has lost 17 consecutive road games against top 25 opponents. The Jackets last defeated a top 25 team on the road back in 2016.
—Louisville and Georgia Tech played the first college basketball ever inside the Georgia Dome. The game was played in front of the largest crowd ever to witness a college game in the state of Georgia at the time (28,885). The Jackets won the game on a halfcourt buzzer-beater by James Forrest.
—Louisville is eighth in the nation in field goal percentage defense (.368), 12th in three-point field goal percentage (.387), 21st in scoring margin (+12.7), 39th in rebound margin (+6.2) and 40th in scoring defense (62.2).
—Louisville has made nine or more three-pointers in a game 10 times this season, including in five of their last 10 games.
—Georgia Tech is banned from postseason play in 2020 because of NCAA violations. The Yellow Jackets are currently appealing the ban.
—Louisville’s Jordan Nwora currently leads in the ACC in scoring at 19.6 ppg.
—Georgia Tech’s Moses Wright ranks No. 2 in the ACC in field goal percentage (53.8) and No. 8 in rebound average (7.8).
—Louisville and Georgia Tech were founding members of the Metro Conference in 1975, but the Yellow Jackets left for the ACC in 1978.
—Jordan Nwora’s sister, Ronni, is a freshman basketball player at Georgia Tech.
—Oddly, Georgia Tech is 3-1 in ACC road games this season, and 0-4 in conference games played at home.
—Louisville is 14-0 when leading at halftime this season, and 1-3 when trailing at the break.
—Dwayne Sutton’s next rebound will be the 800th of his college career.
—Louisville has blocked at least one shot in 320 consecutive games.
—Louisville has a 40-13 record during the month of January over the last five years.
—Louisville has won 161 consecutive games when holding an opponent under 50 points.
—Louisville has won 152 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 72, Georgia Tech 58