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Louisville-Georgia Tech preview: Cards and Jackets square off in Monday matinee

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Josh Pastner is in town for a non-holiday Monday afternoon game because why not?

Georgia Tech v Louisville Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Louisville Cardinals (10-4, 5-3) vs. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (8-5, 4-3)

Game Time: 2:01 p.m.

Location: KFC Yum Center: Louisville, Ky.

Television: ACC Network

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

Favorite: Louisville by 4

Officials: Roger Ayers, Pat Driscoll, Tony Henderson

Series: Louisville leads, 22-14

Last Meeting: Georgia Tech won 64-58 on Feb. 12, 2020 in Atlanta

Series History:

Possible Starting Lineups:

Statistics:

Georgia Tech’s Season to Date:

Relevant Videos:

About Georgia Tech:

Thanks primarily to the return of the “big three” of Jose Alvarado, Michael DeVoe and Moses Wright, Georgia Tech was widely viewed as a darkhorse contender in the ACC entering the 2020-21 season. Those expectations were altered right out of the gate when the Yellow Jackets kicked off their campaign with back-to-back home losses to Georgia State and Mercer.

Since those embarrassments, however, Josh Pastner’s club has looked more like the formidable squad they were down the stretch of last season. They knocked off a then well thought of Kentucky squad, beat down Nebraska in the ACC-Big 10 Challenge, and is off to a solid 4-3 start in conference play. In their most recent outing, Georgia Tech took down what was previously considered to be the hottest team in the league, Florida State, and did so by an impressive 11-point final margin.

Unlike in past seasons under Pastner, this is a Georgia Tech team that wins more with offense than defense. The Yellow Jackets are 41st in the country in adjusted offensive efficiency and 39th in effective field goal percentage. The Jackets have managed to exceed one point per possession in 11 of 13 games this season (Tech reached that benchmark 11 times in all of 2019-20), and its efficiency rating in its win over Florida State on Saturday was a sparkling 103.5. GT enters Monday’s gave averaging 77.7 points per game, the third most of any team in the ACC.

Alvarado, seemingly suiting up for his 17th season at Tech, is playing the best basketball of his career. The senior guard is as rock solid a floor general as there is in the ACC, and enters Monday’s game as GT’s leader in scoring, assists and steals. He and the sharpshooting lefty DeVoe make up perhaps the only backcourt that can compete with Louisville’s for the title of best in the ACC.

Alvarado and Devoe are averaging 18.14 and 15.14 points per game in ACC games, ranking No. 3 and 11, respectively, and have accounted for 47.4 percent of the Yellow Jackets’ points. They have scored or assisted on 72.6 percent of Tech’s field goals in conference play. Combined, they have shot 51.2 percent from the floor and 46.7 percent from three-point range. The Jackets are 5-1 this season when both players score in double digits, including three ACC wins. Alvarado has hit double figures in every game he’s played against Louisville, while DeVoe averaged 15.5 ppg in the two meetings against the Cards a season ago.

The third member of GT’s big three is Wright, who is Tech’s lone master of the paint now that James Banks III has moved on. The 6’9 senior enters Monday averaging career bests in points (17.1 ppg), rebounds (7.2 rpg), blocks (1.4 bpg) and steals (2.1 spg). Pastner moved Wright from the four to the five after the team’s two season-opening losses, and everything has been different since. Wright has a terrific physical presence, is a tremendous athlete, and will be a monster challenge for the Cardinal frontcourt.

Four Tech starters rank among the top 22 players in the ACC in average minutes played. The first three we just talked about, the fourth is senior guard Bubba Parham, who transferred in from VMI last season. Parham was a monster scorer at VMI (21.4 ppg in 2018-19) who has to pick and choose his spots on this far more talented Yellow Jacket roster. Even so, the 5’10 Parham can make some ridiculous shots from the outside, and has the ability to string together four or five made three-pointers in a row once he sees that first one go down. He missed the Florida State game for personal reasons over the weekend, but will be back in the lineup Monday afternoon.

Jordan Usher is yet another Georgia Tech senior who’s playing the best ball of his college career. The 6’7 guard is averaging career-bests in scoring (11.0 ppg), rebounding (4.8 rpg), assists (2.8 apg), and field goal percentage (49.6 percent). He scored 40 combined points in back-to-back games against Clemson and Virginia last month, and can absolutely burn you if you focus too much time and energy into slowing down the players around him.

Thanks in large part to starting four guards and having the third most experienced roster in college basketball, Georgia Tech is one of the best teams in the country when it comes to taking care of the ball. The Jackets rank No. 2 in the ACC and No. 20 nationally in assist/turnover ratio (1.43), and they rank No. 2 in the ACC and No. 15 nationally in turnover margin (plus-4.4). Only Virginia and Notre Dame have turned the ball over fewer times per game than has Tech (11.62) in all games, and Tech has forced the most average turnovers (16.00) behind NC State. Six of Tech’s rotation players have positive assist/turnover ratios.

The bottom line is that this is a super talented and super experienced roster that, after an inexplicably disastrous start, has been playing like the team we all thought they could be for the last few weeks. They shoot it well from pretty much every spot on the floor (free-throw line is suspect outside of Alvarado who shoots almost 90 percent there), they have an NBA talent in the post in Wright, and they generate a ton of steals. Louisville’s going to have to be much, much better than they’ve been recently to pull off a win Monday afternoon.

Notable:

—Louisville had won nine consecutive games against Georgia Tech before last year’s loss in Atlanta.

—The Cards are 7-1 against the Yellow Jackets since joining the ACC in 2014-15. Of those seven ACC wins over Georgia Tech, four have been decided by four points or fewer.

—Louisville has won six consecutive home games against Georgia Tech. The Cards have not lost to the Yellow Jackets at home since Jan. 25, 1992.

—Louisville has a 60-17 record in its conference home games over the last nine years (.773).

—Georgia Tech has won 10 consecutive ACC home games, but has lost all three of its conference road games this season.

—Carlik Jones ranks fourth in the ACC in scoring (17.8 ppg) and third in assists (4.6 apg). Jones has 96 career double-figure scoring efforts, including the last 36 consecutive games (all 13 at U of L).

—In ACC games, Georgia Tech is averaging 9.1 made three-pointers per game, the most of any team in the conference.

—Louisville is 6-3 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 just 1-4 against them with the Yellow Jackets.

—Georgia Tech has forced 20 or more turnovers five times this season. The Jackets have forced 16.0 turnovers per game this season, 16.0 per game against ACC foes, and has the second-best turnover margin in the conference (plus-4.4 overall, plus-4.6 in conference games).

—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 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 scheduled to play nine games during the month of February for the first time in 21 years (since 1999-2000).

—Georgia Tech has not been to the NCAA tournament since 2010. It’s the longest tournament drought for the program since it went from 1960 to 1985 without playing in the dance.

—Georgia Tech is 3-2 versus top 25 competition so far this season, with all three wins coming at home and both losses coming on the road. The Yellow Jackets are 9-24 against top 25 opponents overall under Josh Pastner, with only one of those wins coming away from home.

—Through 14 games this season, Louisville has produced 13 runs of 8-0 or better.

—Georgia Tech has collected 52 steals in its last six games and is averaging an ACC-high 9.9 in conference games. The Jackets are averaging 9.4 in all games.

—Since 2004, Louisville is 126-0 when leading by more than 10 points at halftime.

—Louisville is 25-1 over the last two seasons when scoring at least 71 points, including 7-1 this season. The lone loss came at Miami.

—Louisville has won 162 consecutive games when holding an opponent under 50 points.

—Louisville has won 155 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. Gonzaga, Duke and Kansas are the others.

Ken Pomeroy Prediction: Louisville 69, Georgia Tech 66