The University of Alabama men's basketball team will return home tonight to take on conference rival Arkansas. Alabama looks to rebound from a heartbreaking one-point loss at long-time nemesis Tennessee. The Hogs arrive fresh off an embarrassing loss of their own to South Carolina at Columbia. These teams share a 12-7 overall record and stand only one game apart in current SEC standings. Needless to say, both teams come in hungry to erase the disappointment of the last game and propel themselves towards what each hopes to be a strong finish to the season. The game will air on ESPN2 at 8PM CST.
As things stand today, neither Alabama nor Arkansas face a great chance of receiving an NCAA Tournament bid. Much has already been made about Alabama's disappointing non-conference home losses to Mercer and Tulane, which have all but guaranteed that the Tide won't get asked to dance. There are good wins against SDSU, Villanova, and Kentucky, but it will take much, much more to change Bama's fate. Similarly, Arkansas has an impressive win versus Oklahoma and some decent losses to top-ten opponents Syracuse and Michigan, but there's little else today to indicate that they will go dancing either.
So, what can we expect to see tonight? For starters, while the Hogs have been fairly inconsistent defensively, they have shown that they know what to do when they possess the ball, averaging 78.3 points and 16.3 assists per game. For some perspective, there are well over 200 teams who have lower averages than Arkansas but higher percentages than Alabama in these two categories. The Hogs are led by BJ Young, who leads the team in both scoring (16.4) and assists (4.1). These figures are better than those of the respective leaders for the Crimson Tide. The Bama defense will have its hands full.
That being said, Alabama's defense has continued to dominate against all but a few opponents. In fact, the Tide has only allowed an opponent to score more than 68 points on three occasions so far this season. In SEC play, Bama has allowed a mere 58.3 PPG. When you throw out the conference opening debacle at #10 Mizzou (in which we gave up 84 points), that figure drops to 53.2 in the last five games.
Still, as we have seen much, much too often so far this season (this weekend's loss alone stands as a glaring reminder), a stifling defense by itself cannot guarantee victory, especially against a conference rival with such potent offensive skills. Perhaps we can take heart that to date Arkansas has yet to win a game (0-4) on the road. If the crowd at Coleman resembles those of the last two games against Texas A&M and Kentucky, it certainly couldn't hurt our chances. But the bottom line is that the young men on this Alabama team will have to shake off the disappointment of their recent trip to Knoxville, regroup, and attack this foe with all it has.
Hope for the best. Roll Tide.
Record: (12-7, 4-2 SEC)
Rank: N/A (tied for 3rd in conference)
Record: (12-7, 3-3 SEC)
Rank: N/A (6th in conference)
Alabama: T. Releford, 16.1 PPG, 2.0 SPG; T. Lacey, 12.1 PPG, 3.6 APG; R. Cooper, 11.2 PPG, 4.2 REB
Arkansas: B. Young, 16.4 PPG, 4.1 APG; M. Powell, 15.7 PPG, 5.8 REB; C. Clarke, 6.9 PPG, 4.9 REB