(Photo by Moses Wright, David Johnson: Brett Davis / USA TODAY Sports)
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Despite a noticeable increase in effort, a cold night of shooting from all sectors of the ground doomed Louisville on the road against Clemson. Next meetings for the Cardinals (10-4, 5-3 ACC), they will return home and host Georgia Tech. Tipoff is scheduled for Monday, February 1 at 2:00 p.m. EST on the ACC network.
Here are some of the most important stories to follow before the Cardinals game with the Yellow Jackets:
Time to dance at last?
One of Josh Pastner’s goals as Georgia Tech’s head coach has been to bring the Yellow Jackets back to the NCAA tournament, as Gas Ramblin ‘Wreck hasn’t been to the Big Dance since 2010.
The way this season started, not only did it seem like it might not happen, but it looked like maybe Pastner should start packing. Georgia Tech opened the season with back-to-back home losses to Georgia State and Mercer, two teams well outside KenPom’s top 100.
Once Pastner returned to the practice of full contact, as he had limited until then due to the virus, a switch flipped. The Jackets have won seven of their next eight games, including over Kentucky, North Carolina and Clemson.
Even during their two-game losing streak against Virginia and Duke, Georgia Tech had the chance to turn those two games into wins. The game against the Cavaliers was tied until the final minutes, but ended in a 64-62 loss in Charlottesville, Va., And the game against the Blue Devils was tied with 1:37 to go, until what Duke retires for a 73-68 victory in Durham, NC
It’s probably Pastner’s best chance to reach the tournament in his five years as a head coach. All the jackets have to do is learn how to finish the games.
Flip the script
A critical part of Pastner’s teams, both at Georgia Tech and Memphis, has been that they rely on their defensive efforts to dedicate themselves to victory.
Well, this season that mantra has been turned around, as Georgia Tech is actually one of the best offenses in the Atlantic Coast Conference. They are shooting 47.1% from the field and 37.7% on three-point attempts, both good for the ACC’s third place, which translates into a field goal percentage of 54, 5% – the third best in the league behind Virginia and FSU.
They also do a really good job of not only taking care of the ball but getting it where it needs to go. The Jackets turn the ball just 11.4 times per game, again good for the ACC’s third best, and they have 16.5 assists per game – second only to 17.2 from Syracuse. Put it all together, and you’ve got an assist-to-spin ratio of just 1.45 – the 21st highest score in D1 basketball.
If you like stellar guard game then this game is for you. You can argue that the Cardinals and Yellow Jackets have the two best backcourts in the ACC.
Louisville fans know what Carlik Jones and David Johnson bring to the table, but the Georgia Tech duo of Jose Alvarado and Michael Devoe are equally formidable.
The conversation undoubtedly begins with Alvarado, as the main point guard’s 18.1 points, 4.2 assists and 2.8 steals lead the team. His score is third in the ACC, his assists are fourth and his interceptions are league-leading. His 54.3 field goal percentage is also third in the ACC.
But don’t sleep on Devoe. He can also easily score and distribute dimes, adding 13.1 points and 31. assists per game. Oh, and the two guards can shoot all three squarely. The two connected at more than 25 three points, with Devoe shooting at 39.7% and Alvarado at 44.1%.
As in many games this year, the Louisville greats will have another test down in the paint, with senior forward Moses Wright arguably having the best year of his college career.
He is second on the team with 16.6 points per game and leads the rebound with 7.1. The big man is also very good at making out passes, averaging 2.4 assists per game.
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