Who: #6 Alabama (18-5) vs. #20 Arkansas (17-5)
When: 8 pm CT, Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021
Where: Bud Walton Arena; Fayetteville, AR
Radio: Crimson Tide Sports Network (Play-by-play: Chris Stewart; Analyst: Bryan Passink)
The sixth-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide will be hitting the road for the first time since their matchup with South Carolina on February 9th, traveling to face the 20th-ranked Arkansas Razorbacks. The two teams matched up during the first half of the season, with Eric Musselman and company hoping to avoid a rout the likes of their 31-point loss over a month ago. The Razorbacks, led by a productive trio of upperclassmen in Justin Smith, Jalen Tate, and JD Notae alongside team-leading scorer Moses Moody, are coming into this game having won four straight after joining Alabama with losses during the Big 12 Challenge against Oklahoma State and presumptive top pick Cade Cunningham. Alabama, meanwhile, is looking for its fourth straight win and another top-tier win after close recent matchups with Vanderbilt, South Carolina, and, in a loss, Missouri.
The Crimson Tide, who are looking to secure their first regular season SEC championship since 2002, are looking for big performances from senior duo Herb Jones and John Petty, both of whom had underwhelming offensive performances in their last outing against the Vanderbilt Commodores. Jaden Shackelford, however, could not be coming into the game more hot, having scored 15 or more points in four of the team’s last five games, with a decisive 27-point outing this past Saturday. The Tide also look to see some continued stellar production from guards Joshua Primo and Jahvon Quinerly, with Primo adding defensive effort and hard hat performance as a true freshman and Quinerly notching double-digit points in each matchup since the Tide’s nail-biting loss against the Oklahoma Sooners. Perhaps the most important key to an Alabama victory and SEC regular season championship tonight will be the three-point shot. As fans have learned that the team does not necessarily “live and die by the three,” seeing a performance from deep more akin to the Tide’s victory against Georgia rather than a shaky three-point outing against Vanderbilt could ensure that Alabama feels a lot less pressure in crunch time.
With Arkansas hoping to maintain a position within the Top 25 in the nation, Alabama offers a massive opportunity for the team to make a leap into the upper echelon as March Madness approaches. With only a few games remaining and a chance to take down a top-ten giant which handed them their largest loss since 2016, the Razorbacks have surged in recent weeks to the tune of a second-place standing in the SEC West. Considering star freshman Moses Moody has avoided a single-digit scoring performance since January, the team will try to lean on him once again to buoy an offense which is approaching the nation’s top ten in scoring. Coupled with a defense which has seen similar production to the Crimson Tide’s this season, the Razorbacks offer a tough matchup as another team which leans heavily on performance from its wings and backcourt. Perhaps the biggest disadvantage for Arkansas coming into this game will be on the glass, where Alabama has dominated this season and will hope to exploit possibly Arkansas’ most glaring weakness.
Arkansas Players to Watch
Moses Moody (16.2 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 1.6 apg)
Justin Smith (11.8 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 53.2 TS%)
Jalen Tate (11.1 ppg, 4.3 apg, 2.9 topg)
Connor Vanover (7.9 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 2.0 bpg)
Alabama would like to make this game a breeze by opening up from deep and closing Arkansas down in the same area, and with the Razorbacks boasting streaky perimeter shooters, they might be able to do so. Eating glass and playing tough defense will be crucial if the Tide want to put a stake through the heart of an upstart Arkansas squad and answer the question of who owns the SEC this regular season.
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