(Photo of Moses Wright, David Johnson: Brett Davis/USA TODAY Sports)
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Despite a noticeable uptick in effort, a cold shooting night from all areas of the floor doomed Louisville on the road against Clemson. Next up for the Cardinals (10-4, 5-3 ACC), they will return home and host Georgia Tech. Tipoff is scheduled for Monday, Feb. 1 at 2:00 p.m. EST on the ACC Network.
Here are a couple of the more significant storylines to follow ahead of Cardinals' matchup with the Yellow Jackets:
Finally Time to Dance?
One of Josh Pastner's goals as the head coach of Georgia Tech has been to get the Yellow Jackets back to the NCAA Tournament, as the Ramblin' Wreck gas not been to the Big Dance since 2010.
The way this season started, not only did it look like that might not happen, but it seemed like Pastner might have to start packing his bags. Georgia Tech opened up the season with back-to-back home losses to Georgia State and Mercer, two teams well outside the KenPom top 100.
Once Pastner reverted back to full contact practice, as he had limited it up to that point due to the virus, a switch flipped. The Jackets went on to win seven of their next eight games, including against Kentucky, North Carolina and Clemson.
Even during their current two-game losing streak to Virginia and Duke, Georgia Tech had a chance to turn both those games into wins. The game against the Cavaliers was tied up until final minutes, but resulted in a 64-62 loss in Charlottesville, Va., and the contest against the Blue Devils was tied with 1:37 left to go, until Duke pulled away for a 73-68 win in Durham, N.C.
This is probably Pastner's best chance to reach the tournament in his five years as the head coach. All the Jackets have to do is learn how to finish games.
Flipping the Script
A staple of Pastner's teams, both at Georgia Tech and Memphis, has been that they rely on their defensive effort to will themselves to victory.
Well, this season, that mantra has flipped on it's head, as Georgia Tech actually sports one of the best offenses in the Atlantic Coast Conference. They shoot 47.1% from the field and 37.7% on three-point attempts, both good for third in the ACC, which translates into an effective field goal percentage of 54.5% - the third best in the league behind Virginia and FSU.
They also do a very good job of not only taking care of the ball, but putting it where it needs to go. The Jackets turn the ball over just 11.4 times per game, again good for third-best in the ACC, and they tally 16.5 assists per game - second only to Syracuse's 17.2. Put that all together, and you have an assist/turnover ratio of just 1.45 - the 21st best mark in D1 basketball.
If you like stellar guard play, then this is the matchup for you. You can make the argument 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 Georgia Tech's duo of Jose Alvarado and Michael Devoe are just as formidable.
The conversation undoubtedly starts with Alvarado, as the senior point guard's 18.1 points, 4.2 assists and 2.8 steals lead the team. His scoring output is third in the ACC, his assists are fourth, and his steals top the league. His field goal percentage of 54.3 is also third in the ACC.
But don't sleep on Devoe. He can also score with ease and dish out dimes, adding 13.1 points and 31. assists per game. Oh, and both guards can flat out shoot the three. Both have connected on over 25 three-pointers, with Devoe shooting at a 39.7% clip and Alvarado at 44.1%.
The Wright Time
Like in many games this year, Louisville's bigs will have another test down low in the paint, with senior forward Moses Wright having arguably the best year of his collegiate career.
He is second on the team in scoring with 16.6 points per game, and lead in rebounding with 7.1. The big man is also very good at making outlet passes, as he averages 2.4 assists per game.
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