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PREVIEW: Arkansas @ Alabama

NCAA Basketball: Arkansas at Louisiana State Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Opponent: Alabama Crimson Tide
Date: Saturday, January 16
Time: 2:30pm
Place: Coleman Coliseum, Tuscaloosa, Alabama
TV/Streaming: SEC Network
All-Time Series: Arkansas leads 35-28
All-Time Series at Alabama: Alabama leads 20-8

The Crimson Tide 10-3 (5-0)

The Tide are riding high. Nate Oats, in year 2 as the Head Coach, has this Alabama program headed in a great direction. There were high expectations for this team, but Alabama faltered out of the gate with 3 non-conference losses. Clemson, Stanford, and Western Kentucky all beat Alabama.

But since entering SEC play, the Tide are perfect. 5 wins. No losses. It’s not like they have played the bottom of the SEC either. Wins over Florida, Tennessee, and Auburn have bolstered their resumé.

Despite their great start, Alabama finds themselves in a tough spot. Jordan Bruner, grad transfer from Yale whom Arkansas recruited, went down with a torn meniscus last game. Starting PG Jahvon Quinerly has been sidelined for 3 straight games with a medical condition. And Herb Jones dislocated his finger last game. Bruner is out or 4-6 weeks. Oats said that Jones and Quinerly are available on Saturday on a “as needed basis.” Maybe it is just me, but I doubt we see either of them on Saturday.

Without Bruner and Jones, Alabama loses its’ defensive leaders. Bruner was averaging 7.8 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.5 steals, and 1.2 blocks per game. Jones has averaged 12.5 points, 6.1 rebounds, 1.5 steals, and 1.0 block per game. That is a lot of production. The type of players that will do it all are likely out. Quinerly would give Arkansas fits at PG, but Joshua Primo is very capable.

Shackelford and Petty will be tasked to increase production. Shackelford lit the Razorbacks up in Coleman Coliseum last year. Petty has been a great player for Alabama for years, but his record against Arkansas is 0-3. He will get 2 shots at the Hogs this year.

The Razorbacks 10-3 (2-3)

Arkansas needs a bounce back in the worst kind of way. The game against LSU was just abysmal. No effort. No energy. It was embarrassing. Eric Musselman said in the postgame presser that in his 6 years as a head coach in college he has never had a team show up with no intensity. No intensity is putting it kindly.

So onto the next one they go, but it won’t be any easier against Alabama. They have length and athleticism just like LSU. The injuries could play to Arkansas’ advantage, but the Hogs have to show up. This team has been to inconsistent this year. That doesn’t give much hope when facing the best of the SEC on the road.

The bright spots were Moses Moody and Jaylin Williams. The stat lines weren’t great, but they gave effort the entire game.

If a lack of effort becomes a trend, then you can officially wave the big red flag for this team. 10 new players has proven to be a difficult thing to overcome. Chemistry seems off at times. Some players are just extremely inconsistent.

Despite all of that, I still believe in this team. Maybe not to the expectations some had. I had the Hogs at 19-8 on the year. That may be close to reality. While others had dreams of a Sweet 16 and a 5 seed. Both are still possible, but I am losing hope. Either way, we should see this Arkansas team in the NCAA Tournament in Eric Musselman’s 2nd year.

Prediction

The terrible taste of the LSU game just won’t go away. Justin Smith won’t be back tomorrow. JD Notae is banged up. Arkansas is more than capable of winning this game, but this team just really misses Justin Smith. I just don’t have confidence enough to pick the Hogs in this one despite the Alabama injuries. Alabama 80, Arkansas 71