#5 Louisville at Georgia Tech – Preview & Prediction 2/12/20
Spread: Louisville -5.5
7pm Central – McCamish Pavilion, Atlanta, GA
#5 Louisville Cardinals (21-3, 12-1)
The ACC-leading Cardinals look to continue rolling through conference play tonight, as they’ve won 10 straight ACC contests and haven’t lost since January 4. A win puts their magic number at 5 in order to clinch the ACC regular season title, given they own the tiebreaker over Duke having beaten the Blue Devils on the road earlier this season, and outside of road dates at Florida State and Virginia, they face a very favorable schedule coming down the stretch. Junior guard/forward Jordan Nwora, having broken out of a mid-season slump, is now the league’s leading scorer (19.5 PPG) by a comfortable margin, given Syracuse junior forward Elijah Hughes failed to score last night before exiting after just 3 minutes with a “lower body” injury. Nwora has raised his shooting percentages across the board in the last two weeks, and he’s now shooting 46.3% from the field, 44.1% from deep, and 81.8% from the line. He even managed to put up 22 points against Virginia’s top-ranked defense, making 4-8 from deep while adding 7 rebounds. His three-point and FT percentages are career bests, and he’s put to rest any questions about his draft stock that arose during the first half of the season.
The Cardinals aren’t just a one-trick pony, though. Outside of Nwora, four players average 8.0 PPG or more. Beyond balance, Louisville is a poised, mature team; any time we write about the Cards, their experience and senior-laden roster is a focal point. Louisville features the 29th oldest roster in the country by years of experience and their starting lineup consists of three seniors and two juniors. In fact, out of the Cardinals’ nine-man rotation, only two are underclassmen: freshman guard and matchup nightmare David Johnson and freshman wing Samuell Williamson.
Offensively, Louisville is lethal from downtown. They shoot 40.4% from three as a team, and they actually jumped from 4th in the country to 2nd in that metric after their performance against Virginia’s stout defense when they scored 80 and shot 40.9% from deep.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (11-13, 5-8)
Georgia Tech is looking to avenge their four-point road loss to Louisville they suffered earlier this year on January 22. The Jackets have been inconsistent all season, and turnovers have plagued Head Coach Josh Pastner’s team on an almost-nightly basis. The Yellow Jackets average 15.9 turnovers per game, a number that puts them last in the ACC and 329 out of 353 in Division I. They seemed to be making progress in that area, as they turned the ball over just five times in a road loss at Notre Dame on February 1 and 10 times in a home victory over Virginia Tech last week, but turnovers reared their ugly head in Tech’s 73-64 loss at Pittsburgh on Saturday when they gave the ball away a shocking 22 times in defeat. Georgia Tech turns the ball over on 22.5% of their possessions—a rate that puts enormous pressure on a team with an average offense and a slightly-above average defense.
In his radio show on Monday night, Pastner spent a chunk of time attempting to explain the spike in turnovers as a result of fatigue, specifically for junior point guard Jose Alvarado, who experienced the birth of his first child last week. If Tech wants to have any chance of knocking off Louisville at home tonight, they’ll need Alvarado to be rested and at his best. Alvarado is the heart and soul of this Yellow Jacket team, but his six turnovers at Louisville went a long way to determining the fate of these two teams’ matchup earlier this year.
The Jackets have been plagued by injuries to multiple contributors this season, and they’ve only had their full lineup available for roughly four weeks this season. Alvarado missed much of November and December with a sprained ankle, while sophomore and leading scorer Michael Devoe (16.2 PPG) has missed time with an injured foot recently and junior forward Evan Cole has missed the past two games with a sprained ankle. Cole is listed as questionable for tonight’s game, but is not expected to suit up.
This year’s earlier matchup in Louisville indicates tonight’s game should be a close one. However, while Georgia Tech is 14-8-1 ATS this season, they’re just 6-5 ATS in true home games. They’ve been arguably better on the road than at home, with the exception of last week’s win vs. Virginia Tech in which they dominated a free-falling Hokies squad. Louisville, on the other hand, is 4-2-1 ATS in true road games this season and absolutely wrecked Tech by a score of 79-51 when they most recently set foot on the court at McCamish Pavilion last season. I like Louisville to continue rolling in conference games tonight. Take Louisville -5.5.