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Louisville-Georgia Tech preview: Cards head to Atlanta seeking season sweep of Jackets

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U of L looks to make it 11 in a row overall and 10 in a row over GT

NCAA Basketball: Syracuse at Georgia Tech Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Louisville Cardinals (21-3, 12-1) At Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (11-13, 5-8)

Game Time: 8 p.m.

Location: McCamish Pavilion: Atlanta, Ga.

Television: ACC Network

Announcers: Chris Cotter (play-by-play) and Chris Spatola (analyst)

Favorite: Louisville by 5.5

Officials: Jamie Luckie, Jeffrey Anderson, Lamar Simpson

Series: Louisville leads, 22-13

Last Meeting: Louisville won 68-64 on Jan. 22 in Louisville

Series History:

Probable Starting Lineups:

Statistics:

Louisville Uniforms:

Greys (3-0)

Relevant Videos:

About Georgia Tech:

Since taking a hard-fought loss inside the KFC Yum Center three weeks ago, Georgia Tech has continued its trend being a difficult team to pin down. The Yellow Jackets were impressive in victories over NC State, Virginia Tech and Morehouse College (a strangely scheduled game), and fairly competitive in road losses to Notre Dame and Pitt. They remain a team with four extremely talented players and an overall record that doesn’t reflect where they ought to be at this point in the season.

The best thing Georgia Tech has going for it at the moment is its health. The Jackets have only played 12 games at full strength this season, and often the players they’ve been forced to take the floor without have been guys they couldn’t afford to lose. The lone impact player for Josh Pastner who figures to be sidelined Wednesday night is reserve forward Evan Cole, who has missed the last two games with an injured right ankle sustained during the team’s shootaround the day of the Virginia Tech game on Feb. 4. Cole played four minutes and did not score in the first meeting with Louisville.

Chris Mack talked on Tuesday about the ability of Georgia Tech’s guards to control a game. They certainly did just that in round one with Louisville, as point guard Jose Alvarado scored 13 points and collected 10 rebounds, while Michael DeVoe — the team’s leading scorer at 16.2 ppg — dropped a game-high 21 on 7-of-14 shooting from the field. DeVoe, a 6’5 sophomore from Orlando, is coming off a 22-point performance against Pitt on Saturday where he knocked down 3-of-5 shots from deep. Though he’s been in and out of the lineup because of injuries, DeVoe has scored 20 or more points in three of his last five games.

Alvarado is a streakier outside shooter than DeVoe, but he’ll still knock down the outside shot if you give him enough space. He’ll then do an air guitar move afterward that seems to annoy every fan base in the ACC. He’s typically a reliable ballhandler and a terrific creator, but he did have a season-high six turnovers and only two assists in the first game against Louisville.

Another guy who feels like he should have played better in round one against the Cardinals is junior forward Moses Wright, who scored 11 points and grabbed three boards. Both those numbers were below his season averages of 12.9 and 7.2.

”Honestly I didn’t think I played up to my standard against Louisville,” Wright said on Monday. “I felt like there were a couple plays here and there that I could have done differently. I’m going to give it my all this time against Louisville.”

Wright is a supremely talented player who’s just starting to figure things out after being brought along slowly as a raw freshmen/sophomore. The only Tech player to start every game this season, Wright has scored in double figures in 13 of his last 15 games, averaging 14.0 points and 6.7 rebounds while hitting 52.4 percent of his shots from the floor. The versatile 6’9 forward ranks No. 2 in the ACC in field goal percentage (53.2) and No. 13 in rebound average (7.2).

Big man James Banks III is a guy who always seems to play well against U of L. Despite being hampered with some foul trouble, Banks finished the first game against the Cards with 12 points, seven rebounds and a pair of blocked shots. Though the emergence of Wright has cut a bit into his offensive production this season, he remains one of the best defensive big men in the entire country, averaging 2.7 blocks per game.

Those four guys are all fantastic players. The drop-off after them is where Georgia Tech’s biggest problem lies.

Jordan Usher, the team’s fifth starter, is sort of a jack of all trades, master of none player. He does a lot of different things ok, but nothing great. Bubba Parham, a grad transfer from VMI, is Pastner’s biggest and really only weapon off the bench. He came to Atlanta with the reputation of being an outside assassin — he buried 10 three-pointers against Kentucky inside Rupp Arena last season — but has made more than two three-pointers in a game just once this season, and hasn’t scored more than 11 points.

Georgia Tech’s overall makeup is more or less the same as it was heading into the first game against Louisville. The Jackets are a solid defensive team that, like U of L, thrives on forcing bad shots, not necessarily forcing turnovers. They’re a not great outside shooting team (I’m so sorry) that gets a higher percentage of its points from inside the arc than any other team in the ACC and all but three teams nationally. They block a ton of shots, they’re not great on the glass, and they suck at free-throws.

This is a team with four really good players that does a god job of remaining comfortable and in control regardless of their opponents’ style of play. Despite their less than stellar overall record, they’ve been a different team since getting Alvarado back after he missed 12 games early in the season. No team has beaten them by double figures since the calendar flipped to 2020. Don’t be surprised if this game resembles the first meeting as far as being both competitive and annoying for the Cardinal viewer.

Notable:

—Louisville has won nine consecutive games against Georgia Tech and is 7-0 against the Yellow Jackets since joining the ACC. GT hasn’t defeated U of L since December of 1997.

—Of those seven ACC wins over Georgia Tech, four have been decided by four points or fewer.

—Georgia Tech has lost 17 consecutive games against ranked opponents. The Jackets’ last victory over a top 25 foe came against Notre Dame on Jan. 10, 2018.

—Louisville’s current 10-game ACC winning streak is its longest ever ACC winning streak and longest conference winning streak in 37 years (since 1982-83).

—Georgia Tech’s six ACC losses in January and February have come by an average of 6.5 points. It’s four wins have come by an average of 14.3 points.

—Louisville’s 12-1 start in ACC play is its best start to a conference season since 1966-67, when the Cards would ultimately win the Missouri Valley Conference regular season title with a 12-2 record.

—Louisville is 21-3 through 24 games for the first time since 1982-83.

—Louisville is 6-0 in ACC road games.

—Louisville is 3-0 wearing the grey uniforms the Cardinals will be sporting Wednesday night.

—Louisville is 6-2 all-time in games against Georgia Tech head coach Josh Paster. Pastner went 2-2 against the Cardinals when he was at Memphis State, but is 0-4 against them with the Yellow Jackets.

—Georgia Tech forward Moses Wright has scored in double figures in 13 of his last 15 games, averaging 14.0 points and 6.7 rebounds while hitting 52.4 percent of his shots from the floor. The 6’9 junior ranks No. 2 in the ACC in field goal percentage (53.2) and No. 13 in rebound average (7.2).

—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 enters Wednesday ranked No. 7 in the NCAA’s NET Rankings. Georgia Tech is No. 82.

—At 40.4 percent, Louisville ranks fourth in the nation in team three-point field goal percentage.

—Georgia Tech ranks No. 1 in the nation in 2-foul participation, a measure of percentage of available minutes played by players with two fouls (68.1 pct. for Tech). The Jackets led the nation in this category in 2018-19, was fourth in 2017-18 and 35th in 2016-17.

—Louisville has made as many as nine three-pointers in a game on 15 occasions this season, including each of its last five games. The last time the Cardinals did not hit that mark was their first meeting with Georgia Tech.

—Jordan Nwora’s younger sister, Ronni, is a freshman basketball player at Georgia Tech.

—Louisville ranks 12th in the nation in field goal percentage defense (.379), 14th in scoring margin (+12.7), 24th in rebound margin (+6.6) and 34th in scoring defense (63.4).

—Georgia Tech ranks No. 1 in the ACC in percentage of points scored on two-point field goals (60.0), and have been the No. 1 team in the conference in that category all four years under Josh Pastner.

—Louisville and Georgia Tech were both founding members of the Metro Conference in 1975, but the Yellow Jackets left for the ACC in 1978.

—Louisville is 15-0 this season when holding opponents to 68 points or fewer, and 6-3 on the year when teams score more than 68.

—Louisville is 18-0 when leading at halftime this season, and 3-3 when trailing at the break.

—Georgia Tech is 6-1 this season when leading at halftime, and 5-12 when trailing at the break.

—Louisville has won 161 consecutive games when holding an opponent under 50 points.

—Louisville has won 153 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 19 seasons. Gonzaga, Duke and Kansas are the others.

Ken Pomeroy Prediction: Louisville 71, Georgia Tech 65