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Louisville-Georgia Tech preview: Cards look to kick off 2022 with road win

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Josh Pastner’s face shield has other ideas.

ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament - Georgia Tech v Florida State Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Louisville Cardinals (8-4, 2-0) at Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (6-5, 0-1)

Game Time: 6:01 p.m.

Location: McCamish Pavilion: Atlanta, Ga.

Television: ESPN2

Announcers: Mike Monaco (play-by-play) and Dan Bonner (analyst)

Favorite: Louisville by 3

Officials: Roger Ayers, Mark Schnur, Tommy Morrissey

Series: Louisville leads, 23-14

Last Meeting: Louisville won, 74-58, on Feb. 1, 2021 in Louisville

Series History:

Possible Starting Lineups:

Statistics:

Georgia Tech’s Season to Date:

Relevant Videos:

About Georgia Tech:

Yet another ACC team coming off a COVID pause, Georgia Tech will be taking the court on Sunday for the first time since an overtime win over Georgia State on Dec. 21. That win snapped a four game losing streak for the Yellow Jackets, one which included three defeats at the hands of top 25 teams and another to North Carolina.

The reigning ACC tournament champions don’t have Moses Wright or Jose Alvarado anymore, but they do have Michael Devoe, and the senior guard enters Sunday as the ACC’s scoring leader at 21.0 ppg. Devoe has scored 25 or more points in five of Georgia Tech’s 11 games so far this season, and has gone over 30 points twice. It’s likely that Devoe is going to get his, the key for Louisville is making sure he uses an above average number of possessions to get there, and that they limit the Yellow Jackets’ secondary scoring.

That secondary scoring mainly comes in the form of senior Jordan Usher, another key returnee from last year’s team. The 6’7 forward is Tech’s only other double figure scorer (14.9 ppg), and his 7.2 rebounds per game are a team-high and (easily) career-best. Usher scored a career-high 30 points in the win over Georgia State, and is averaging 18.7 points and 7.3 rebounds over the last three games. Over that stretch, he has hit 18-of-37 shots from the floor and 7-of-13 from three.

Tech works mostly by committee after its top two. Kyle Sturdivant, Dallan Coleman, Deivon Smith and Khalid Moore are all players with pedestrian stats who are good enough to have standout performances on any given night. The other player to keep an eye on is Bubba Parham, who has yet to play this season because of knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee, but reportedly could see his first action of the season on Sunday.

Replacing Wright inside has been the biggest issue for Josh Pastner so far this season. He’s turned to the frontcourt trio of Rodney Howard, Saba Gigiberia and Jordan Meka, who have produced limited returns thus far. Howard has been the primary starter inside for GT this season, but has been hampered by an ankle injury recently.

Offensively, Georgia Tech has an odd profile. The Yellow Jackets have virtually no inside game, struggle mightily with turning the ball over, but are one of the best three-point shooting teams in the country at 37.4 percent as a group (35th-best in D-I). Defensively, GT is as solid as usual. They don’t do anything spectacularly, and Wright’s absence has made their rim protection numbers fairly dismal, but they’re solid in virtually every other area.

This is another team that will be more than happy with turning its game against U of L into a rock fight. The Cardinals need to not be as willing to oblige as they have been at many times earlier this year.

Notable:

—Georgia Tech head coach Josh Pastner announced Saturday that he’ll be returning to wearing the face shield that led the Yellow Jackets to the 2021 ACC tournament title.

—Louisville has won 10 of its last 11 meetings with Georgia Tech, losing just once to the Yellow Jackets since 1997.

—Georgia Tech is 5-3 at home so far this season, while Louisville is 1-2 in true road tests.

—Georgia Tech’s Michael Devoe is the ACC leader in scoring average (21.0 ppg), and is No. 2 in three-point percentage (45.9).

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

—Louisville has an all-time 15-3 record in games played on Jan. 2, winning its last three games played on that date.

—Louisville has won nine of its last 11 games in its first game of a new calendar year. The Cardinals won 76-64 at Boston College in last year’s first game of 2021 on Jan. 2.

—This is the only scheduled Sunday game on Louisville’s 2021-22 schedule.

—Louisville will play 10 games during the month of January, marking the first time it has played as many in that month since the 1997-98 season, when the Cardinals played 11 games in January.

—Georgia Tech has out-rebounded seven of its 11 opponents this season and has a plus-3.1 rebound margin collectively, the best mark for the Yellow Jackets in five plus seasons under head coach Josh Pastner.

—The Cards are 8-1 against the Yellow Jackets since joining the ACC in 2014-15. Of those eight ACC wins over Georgia Tech, four have been decided by four points or fewer.

—Louisville is 7-3 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 1-5 against them with the Yellow Jackets.

—Chris Mack is 3-1 against Georgia Tech as a head coach. He was also 5-2 against the Yellow Jackets during his time as an assistant at Wake Forest.

—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 unbeaten this season when out-rebounding its opponent (7-0), shooting a better percentage from the field than the opposition (7-0), or shooting more free-throws than its opponent (6-0).

—Louisville is 216-12 over the last 20 seasons and 13-0 over the last three when scoring 80 points or more.

—Louisville is 166-7 over the past 20 seasons when shooting 50 percent or better and 13-0 over the last three.

—Louisville is 34-3 over the last three seasons when scoring at least 71 points.

—Louisville is 14-0 over the past 10 seasons when limiting opponents to no more than one three-point field goal.

—Since 2004, Louisville is 130-0 when leading by more than 10 points at halftime.

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

—Louisville has won 156 consecutive games when scoring at least 85 points in regulation.

—Louisville is one of only five schools to be ranked in the AP Top 25 poll at least once during each of the last 18 seasons (others: Duke, Gonzaga, Kansas, & North Carolina).

Ken Pomeroy Prediction: Louisville 67, Georgia Tech 66