My Two Cents: After watching this Alabama team struggle to a 7-5 record through the non-conference schedule, it looked as if the season was going to be nothing more than a rebuild season while waiting for the 2017 class to arrive on campus. Give Avery, his staff and the players credit: they kept working, and they've improved. It's been a frustrating team to watch at times, but it's also been fun to watch this team figure things out, allocate roles, and play winning basketball. With just over four weeks to go in the regular season, the hope is this Alabama team can avoid peaking too early as they did a season ago.
Players to Watch: Donta Hall, Jimmie Taylor and Bola Olaniyan are extremely important to this team. One of the key reasons for Alabama's turnaround in conference play has been the improvement of Bama's post play. While these three guys aren't dynamic offensive players, they have had an impact on the defensive end. Rebounding, blocking shots, interior passing (Jimmie, in particular, has really improved as a passer), and getting the ball out quickly after a rebound have all been strengths of the post players. In the past, going into a game vs a team with a post player like Moses Kingsley was a cause for panic. Not so much anymore; our big guys are holding their own. I think interior play will go a long way towards deciding the game on Wednesday night.
It will be interesting how Avery and his staff scout this game. They have done a wonderful job of game-planning how to limit the opposing team's best player. The question is do they try and limit Dusty Hannahs (leads the team in scoring at 14 ppg) or Moses Kingsley (12 ppg, 8.1 rpg)? In addition to those two, Mike Anderson has three other really good guards in Daryl Macon, Jaylen Barford and Anton Beard, who are all capable of hanging 20 on you. As good as Alabama's defense has been (currently ranked 2nd in the league), it will be severely tested on Wednesday night.
Prediction: This Alabama team has been mentally tough, overcoming the slow start to the season, and bouncing back after their two losses in conference play. They'll need that toughness in Bud Walton, one of the toughest road environments in the league. I think our guys hang tough, but Arkansas ultimately has too much offensive firepower. Arkansas - 78 - Alabama - 72