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PREVIEW: #6 Alabama @ # 20 Arkansas

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NCAA Basketball: Arkansas at Missouri Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Opponent: Alabama Crimson Tide
Date: Wednesday, February 24
Time: 8:00PM
Place: Bud Walton Arena, Fayetteville, Arkansas
TV/Streaming: ESPN2
All-Time Series: Arkansas Leads 35-29
All-Time Series At Arkansas: Arkansas Leads 19-6

#6 Alabama Crimson Tide 18-5 (13-1)

This Alabama team is a little different than they were when Arkansas played them in mid-January.

Don’t misunderstand me. Alabama is a still a very good basketball team, but they haven’t been playing quite as well in the recent weeks. The last 2 Saturdays, the Crimson Tide snuck past the Vanderbilt and South Carolina. Oklahoma beat them in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge. Missouri held them to 65 points. There are ways to beat the Tide.

Jordan Bruner is back for Alabama. He had missed nearly a month of time due to a knee injury. He played for the first time on Saturday. Bruner is a key rebounder off the bench for Nate Oats.

The Tide still shoot the ball very well and will make you pay for live-ball turnovers.

This roster is just so good. John Petty will shoot the cover off the ball. Josh Primo and Jahvon Quinerly both play the point guard position very well. Jaden Shackelford is a flat out scorer. Herb Jones is a soul of the team and will do anything to earn a win. Bruner and Alex Reese provide boosts off the bench in different ways.

There’s a reason Alabama is 13-1 in SEC play.

Here is what the Tide need to do to beat a streaking Arkansas team on Wednesday night:

-Force live-ball turnovers. In the first matchup, Alabama did this to build a big lead and never looked back.

-Shoot well. The team has snipers everywhere. Make 10 threes in Bud Walton and you are sitting pretty.

-Get to the basket and force fouls. Arkansas doesn’t have any paint depth behind Smith, Vanover, and Williams. Get those guys in foul trouble and it’ll be a long night for the Hogs.

#20 Arkansas Razorbacks 17-5 (9-4)

This is also a different Arkansas team.

That Arkansas team wasn’t healthy and wasn’t confident. They played scared and passive.

Jalen Tate was struggling. Devo Davis hadn’t hit his stride. Jaylin Williams didn’t play with aggressiveness. Justin Smith was far from 100%.

It’s a different Arkansas team now. It’s also a different Alabama team now.

Don’t misunderstand me. Alabama is a still a very good basketball team, but they haven’t been playing quite as well in the recent weeks. The last 2 Saturdays, the Crimson Tide snuck past the Vanderbilt and South Carolina. Oklahoma beat them in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge. Missouri held them to 65 points. There are ways to beat the Tide.

Arkansas has played so well in the past month. The freshman have started to produce.

Jaylin Williams is a true glass-cleaner. Devo Davis does the little things A LOT.

Jalen Tate has played great at point guard. He struggled early in SEC play, but has really turned it around.

Justin Smith has been arguably the best player on the team in the last 6 games. His consistency on both ends of the floor means so much for the Hogs. He is the most important player on this team.

Here are the keys to an Arkansas win:

-Take care of the ball. The Hogs cannot allow Alabama to get in the open floor.

-Play inside out. The Hogs have gotten to the basket early and often during this winning streak.

-Rotate, rotate, rotate. Alabama is very athletic. The Hogs must play great defense Wednesday night.

-Shoot well. Arkansas needs to hit 8-10 threes to give themselves a chance.

-Get out in transition. Forcing turnovers or looking to run off a rebound. When this team plays fast, they play better.

Prediction

This is the biggest game in the 21 century for the Arkansas program. Tonight will be the first Top 25 matchup inside Bud Walton Arena. Alabama is great and Arkansas is playing great. This is such a tough pick. Alabama is dealing with some injuries. Juwan Gary is out, Jordan Bruner is banged up, and Herb Jones is playing at less than 100%.

I think that plays a big role in tonight’s game. I’ll ride with the Hogs in BWA.

Arkansas 85 Alabama 81