College Basketball Game of the Week: Alabama vs. Arkansas
The No. 20 Arkansas Razorbacks play host to the No. 6 Alabama Crimson Tide with immense SEC implications on the line on Wednesday.
The Razorbacks sit just 3.5 games back from Alabama for the top spot in the conference, and a win here would bolster a strong tournament resume for Arkansas – a team typically not known for March Madness success.
These two teams squared off on Jan. 16 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, when the Crimson Tide dominated the Razorbacks 90-59.
The Crimson Tide’s bench outscored the Razorbacks’ bench 38-13, and Alabama was led by three double-digit scorers. Guards John Petty Jr. and Jaden Shackelford scored 17 and 16 points respectively helping bully Arkansas’ defense.
The Razorbacks were carried in this matchup by guard Moses Moody, who scored 28 points on 10-25 shooting. Moody took 39.6% of his team’s shots and hit three of his team’s four 3-pointers.
Despite the fact that Alabama won the previous matchup by 31 points, ESPN’s Basketball Power Index has Arkansas favored 56.6% to Alabama’s 43.4%.
After the loss against Alabama, Arkansas has won seven of its last eight games with four double-digit wins.
Moody is the team’s leading scorer with 16.2 points per game, and Arkansas will be looking at the talented freshman to repeat his excellent performance earlier this season.
Justin Smith is also a key player in this matchup. Smith does a little bit of everything for the Razorbacks with 11.8 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game. The 6-foot-7-inch senior can be an important catalyst on both offense and defense.
Arkansas’ starting lineup should be something to watch for in this game.
In their earlier matchup this season against Alabama, Arkansas started Jaylin Williams and Desi Sills. Both of these players came off the bench in Arkansas’ last game against Florida, so the Razorbacks need to put their best lineup forward against its No. 1 SEC foe.
The Crimson Tide have been impressive this year, especially with a 10-game win streak coming during the middle stretch of this season.
Shackelford is the leading scorer for Alabama averaging 14.5 points per game, but the main player to watch in this game is Herbert Jones.
Jones scored 13 points against Arkansas earlier this season and is a major part of this team outside of just scoring.
The 6-foot-8-inch senior forward leads the team in rebounds, assists and steals per game, and he is second in blocks per game. Look for Jones to try and take over this game for the Crimson Tide.
The outcome of this game will have major ramifications for both teams.
Alabama currently sits atop the SEC with a record of 18-5, but a loss would shrink their lead over the conference significantly. Alabama has lost its last two road games, so a trip to Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville, Arkansas could prove to be difficult for the Crimson Tide.
Arkansas is 17-5 and currently on a four-game win streak, but they were handedly defeated by Alabama earlier this year. The Razorbacks are tied with LSU for second in the SEC, and Arkansas can’t afford to lose ground among the SEC’s elite.
In a game with major tournament implications for both SEC squads, neither team can afford to fall in this highly anticipated matchup.
Eric Fenstermaker is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email him at email@example.com.
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