ACC Basketball

Yellow Jackets Looking to Trip Up Cardinals

Jamie Rhodes | USA TODAY Sports Images

HOW THEY GOT HERE:
The Louisville Cardinals have won just two games out of their last five and in those two victories over Pittsburgh and Miami, the Cards have needed to erase double-digit deficits. In between, they have had to deal with the suspension and return of Chris Jones.

Georgia Tech’s reputation this season is that of a team that keeps it close, no matter who the opponent, but ultimately always finds a way to lose. Ten of their ACC loses have been by 38 total points. However, on Saturday, North Carolina wanted no part of that, building a 39-point lead over the Yellow Jackets before winning by 29. Georgia Tech fell to 3-12 in the ACC.

FIVE DEEP THOUGHTS

  • Louisville’s big three has been reduced to the big two as Chris Jones was dismissed from the team, one game after returning from a one-game suspension. This is huge. The Cardinals don’t beat Miami without Jones’ 14 second half points. Freshman Quentin Snider is talented and will have a great career, but this is probably asking too much from the young man.
  • Terry Rozier has really struggled to put the ball through the basket. In his last five games, the sophomore has hit just 23 of 76 shots (30%) and just 4-16 from deep (25%). He’s 3-14 from two in each of his last two games, as he’s continued to enter the paint and putting up shots despite the traffic or level of difficulty. Rozier is young, small and playing a ton of minutes, so it’s fair to question whether he’s getting worn out. A tired body tends to take bad shots.
  • Montrezl Harrell should own the Yellow Jackets interior. In the ACC, he’s one of the most efficient players the league has to offer and he’s disciplined. He works wonders with the pick-and-roll off elbow hand offs and is not afraid to get dirty under the glass. Georgia Tech’s Robert Sampson will get the assignment to guard him. Sampson is not a pounder, but he’s the third best defensive rebounder in the conference. Still, I think Tech doubles up Harrell inside with whomever is playing the 5-spot, either Charles Mitchell or Demarco Cox. It doesn’t matter who Rick Pitino has playing center, Chinanu Onuaku, Mangok Mathiang or even Anas Mahmoud, none are a scoring threat.
  • The one advantage Tech has is on the offensive glass. They are second in the ACC in offensive rebounding, while Louisville is ninth in defensive rebounding. The trick is turning those offensive boards into points, as the Yellow Jackets have struggled to walk away with second chance points. There are two reasons for this. A) Their big men are terrible finishers. B) The best shooter after an offensive rebound is a man standing alone on the three line, but Georgia Tech is ranked #343 in 3P%. This is why I want Quinton Stephens to get more playing time, since he’s Brian Gregory’s best chance at hitting a deep ball.
  • Expect a low scoring game, maybe first one to 60 wins. Both teams are top-four in the conference defensively. The Cards had rely on Terry Rozier to get in the face of shooters to keep them off their sweet spots, while inside they are first in block%. Georgia Tech forces turnovers and prevents teams second chance shots. Since both these teams are pretty brutal from deep, this game will be fought in the paint, but less with big men and more with guys like Louisville’s Rozier and Tech’s Marcus Georges-Hunt (top-12 in the ACC in scoring) taking it to the rim.

FINAL THOUGHT:
The Cardinals are coming off a brutal five-game stretch, all against teams either in the tournament (or would be if they could like Syracuse) or on the bubble and are now without their senior floor leader. It’s hard to see how they come out, just 48 hours after their last game and pull this out against a Yellow Jackets team that can do damage on the glass.

WORTHLESS PREDICTION: Georgia Tech, 62-57

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