The Louisville Cardinals (16-3, 5-1) hit the road on Wednesday night and take on the Virginia Tech Hokies (12-8, 4-3), coached by Buzz Williams, pictured above doing an incredible Buzz Kick. Any road win in the ACC is big, and this one is no different. Virginia Tech is much improved, and it will take an exceptional effort for the Cards to leave Blacksburg with the W. Let’s look over some pregame notes.
Spread: Louisville opened as 9.5 point favorites.
Date: January 27, 2016
Time: 8:05 p.m.
Site: Cassell Coliseum Blacksburg, Va. (9,847)
Television: ACC Network (WAVE-TV in Louisville) Tom Werme, play-by-play; Dan Bonner, analyst.
Radio: WKRD (790 AM) Paul Rogers, play-by-play; Bob Valvano, analyst (Sirius channel 108, XM 94)
Series History: UofL leads 29-8 (15-3 in Louisville, 13-3 in Blacksburg, 1-2 neutral)
Last Meeting: UL 78, Virginia Tech 63 (Feb. 13, 2015 at KFC Yum! Center)
UofL National Ranking: 14th USA Today, 16th Associated Press
Officials: Brian Dorsey, Jerry Heater, Michael Roberts
Next UofL Game: Jan. 30 vs. Virginia, KFC Yum! Center, 1 p.m. ET (CBS / WLKY-TV in Louisville)
Last 5 Games
-Louisville enters the game on a 3 game winning streak and winners of 5 of their last 6. The Cards are 2-3 on the road this season, with those 3 losses being by a combined 10 points. Louisville is playing some good basketball right now, and hopes to continue that trend and pick up their 4th win in a row.
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-Virginia Tech is 2-3 in their last 5 games. Aside from the 24 point loss at Duke, they have been in some battles. All of the other 4 games have been decided by five points or less. Coming off of two losses in a row by a combined 7 points, they will surely come out hungry in this one, hoping to close out a game on their home floor and pick up a big win for themselves. Buzz Williams will have his team ready tonight.
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3 players to watch for Virginia Tech
–Zach LeDay, a forward that played his freshman season at South Florida, comes in averaging 16 points and 8.4 rebounds per game. The 6’7 junior can also step out and hit the three, connecting on 14-30 so far this season. In the last 6 games, his lowest point total is 17 points, which came against North Carolina when he shot 3-8 from the field. He has picked up 4 fouls in eight different games this season, so that is something to watch for as well.
–Justin Bibbs is a 6’5 sophomore guard who has made more three pointers this season than anyone on UofL’s roster. They have played one more game than Louisville, but Bibbs has made 45 threes. Damion Lee leads the Cards with 37. Bibbs made 45 threes all of last season, so he has matched that total just 20 games into the season. He has only taken 87 threes, so he is shooting 51.7% from behind the arc. He comes in with averages of 12.2 points and 2.5 rebounds in 30.8 minutes per game.
–Seth Allen is a junior guard who used to play for Maryland. He comes in averaging 13.5 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 2.7 assists per game. He leads the Hokies in shots taken, but isn’t exactly lighting it up. As I said, Justin Bibbs is 45-87 from three. Allen is 24-94 for 25.5%. He is shooting 36% from the field overall. In the last 5 games, he is 11-45 from the field for 24%.
An eye on Anas
Anas Mahmoud is coming off of his best game as a Cardinal, by far. Against Georgia Tech, he scored 15 points on 6-9 shooting, grabbed 4 rebounds, and became the go-to player late in the game for the Cards. Prior to that, his season high in points was 7.
So how does he follow up that performance? Was that a break out game that leads to more of the same? Not saying he has to score 15 again, but will he be a solid contributor again? Or will he go back to his season averages of 3.6 points and 3.2 rebounds per game? Let’s hope it wasn’t just a one game thing.
Sophomore Chinanu Onuaku is on a tear lately, recording a double-double in all 6 ACC games this year. In those 6 games, he is averaging 13.1 points and 12.3 rebounds per game. Oh and by the way, he has also made 11 of his last 14 free throws. Watch out!
It is evident that when Onuaku can stay on the floor, this is a different team. In the one ACC loss at Clemson, Nanu only played 20 minutes. In those 20 minutes, he was 7-8 from the floor with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Imagine if he isn’t in foul trouble and actually plays 28-30 minutes. Sometimes, numbers don’t lie. And when Onuaku gets more minutes, Louisville is a better team.
I must say that I am surprised by the spread in this one. I thought Louisville may be favored by around 3 points, but 9.5 seems like a little much. Virginia Tech is another one of those ACC teams that are playing everyone close (minus the Duke game). They beat Virginia when they were #4 in the country and played North Carolina to a 5 point game. This will be another one that I think Louisville will have a full 40 minute battle on their hands.
I think Onuaku double-doubles again. Lee and Lewis continue to get their offensive games back. Quentin Snider keeps up his fantastic play. Louisville goes on the road and wins a tough one 72-67.