A second look at Georgia Tech-Louisville

Some more thoughts from Georgia Tech’s 77-54 loss to Louisville on Thursday night in Louisville, Ky. The “5 observations” story can be found here.

1. It wasn’t a great night for center Ben Lammers. He was 1-for-8 from the field, scored four points and had just four rebounds. He suffered what looked like a slight knee injury, and was to be held out of Georgia Tech’s practice on Friday in preparation for Sunday’s game against Duke.

But he still noticed point guard Jose Alvarado.

“I was very impressed with Jose,” Lammers said. “When you’re down by that much, or you’re down most of the game, it’s hard to keep your energy up. But he was competing till pretty much the last minute, so that’s something special to have.”

There are more skilled players and bigger players. But one thing coach Josh Pastner has said about Alvarado is that he was an important recruit as part of his first class because of his toughness and cutthroat instinct. It might not be next season (although it might), but in time, he will help Tech win games.

It’s clear. He has a point-guard mentality. I typically don’t sit close to the floor, but the media seating at Louisville’s KFC Yum Center is right on the floor at center court. It could scarcely be better.

And it provided a great vantage point to watch Alvarado and be reminded of what I’ve seen previously. He communicates, brings players together during stoppages, directs teammates on the floor and isn’t afraid to get on teammates, even as a freshman.

He didn’t have a great night – he scored only three points until the final 10 minutes of the game – and he had four assists against three turnovers in 40 minutes. But he’s getting incrementally better and showing increasing comfort. He’s shown much better discretion in drives to the basket. Rather than tossing up a shot in traffic, he’s driving through the lane and pulling the ball back out or finding a teammate.

He has a useful 3-pointer when he catches and shoots in rhythm. He has a nice burst, either dribbing upcourt or from the perimeter into the lane, that can catch defenses off guard.

And he showed fight till the end, as Lammers noted.

He can be better. Tech had a hard time against Louisville’s zone, and some of that falls on the point guard. He can do a better job of getting the ball to open teammates. But he’s getting all the experience that he could ask for this season. He has played 89.3 percent of Tech’s minutes this season. Only four freshmen in the country are playing a higher percentage, according to KenPom.

It will benefit him and his teammates in seasons to come.

2. With the loss to Louisville, the Jackets have now lost six of their past seven, and the road ahead isn’t particularly rosy. The final seven games: Duke, at Wake Forest, Virginia Tech, at Virginia at Clemson, N.C. State and Wake Forest. The two games with the Demon Deacons look like winnable games, but Wake Forest probably will look at Tech the same way.

Duke, despite losing to St. John’s and North Carolina, will be a tough matchup. Virginia Tech is excellent from 3-point range, which does not bode well. N.C. State plays a faster pace, which the Jackets haven’t handled well. Virginia speaks for itself.

Further, Tech is playing only six players, which likely will take an increasing toll as the season continues. Also, only guard Josh Okogie is playing consistently. The other five – guards Brandon Alston and Tadric Jackson, forward Abdoulaye Gueye, Lammers and Alvarado – have all played well at times and were less than that at others.

And, it would appear, the Jackets are not playing with great confidence.

The point being, there’s a danger of things going a little sideways. Tech can still get some wins together, but it will require enough players playing well at the same time and some of the issues – 3-point defense and turnovers, for starters – to be addressed.

3. Tech has now lost all five games it has played against Louisville in ACC games. The entire streak is seven games, dating to 1999. The five-game ACC losing streak is Tech’s second longest active streak to a conference opponent. You probably won’t have a hard time guessing the longest streak.

Duke has won 10 in a row over the Jackets.

My Uber driver report 

A rather remarkable coincidence attended my Uber ride home from the arena to my hotel. I got in, and the driver asked me who won the game, and I shared a little. Typically, I don’t think drivers are that interested. But then he asked me, “Is Josh in his second or third year?”

So I’m thinking, wow, this guy’s a pretty big basketball fan. Then he asked me who Tech had signed, and the first name I gave him was Michael Devoe. But then he starts rattling off a scouting report, mentioned his school (Montverde Academy), and I think at that point, I was like, “Who are you?”

The driver turned out to be Clark Francis, the author of the Hoop Scoop, a renowned publication covering high-school basketball and recruiting. Francis is high on Devote, thinks Khalid Moore can develop into a player and was not as high on Kristian Sjolund.

Quite a small world to be driven home by a basketball recruiting expert.

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