With LSU’s loss at Georgia, Will Wade’s squad can no longer win the SEC outright. Tomorrow night’s matchup between Alabama and Arkansas now becomes the first potential SEC title game for Alabama. This is what we’ve been waiting for, everyone. Tip is set for 8:00 on ESPN2.
The Opponent: Arkansas is now a different squad than what Alabama destroyed (90-59) in Coleman Coliseum last month. The Hogs have won 7 straight and have knocked off Missouri, Florida and others in the process. The one glaring difference is the effort that Arkansas has consistently brought since the loss in Tuscaloosa. Eric Musselman has demanded his team play hard and the kids have responded. I won’t bore you with the fancy stats this time...this won’t be nearly as easy as it was for the Tide the first time around. The only stat that matters to me in this game is home and away. Arkansas is 13-1 at Bud Walton arena this season and Alabama has struggled there for years.
Players to Watch: This is a no-brainer as it pertains to Arkansas. 6’5 G Moses Moody is NBA ready in my opinion and quite frankly could’ve scored as many as he wanted in the first matchup. Luckily, Alabama’s nearly perfect play on offense seemed to kill his motivation in the 2nd half. Moody and Notae combine for over 80% of offense for Arkansas when you factor in both points and assists. Alabama MUST defend without fouling. If the referees begin to control this game in the manner that Pat Adams and his crew did last Saturday...it will be detrimental to the road team.
Alabama is starting to get healthy again and the Tide offense has proven it. Jahvon Quinerly and Jaden Shackleford have particularly been impressive of late whereas John Petty has cooled off a bit. I expect a big game from 23, but I think the player to watch this time is Jordan Bruner. In his first game back against Vanderbilt, Bruner provided excellent minutes although he only managed a single point. The defensive effort and rebounding will always be there for Bruner, but Alabama is nearly unbeatable when he is able to provide points in the paint while the Guards are shooting well from the perimeter.
My Thoughts: This is it, friends. The game we’ve wished, hoped and prayed would happen for nearly 2 decades. Alabama is a win over Arkansas away from being crowned SEC Champions and hanging a new banner. The team has played extremely well on the road this SEC season save for a miserable first 35 minutes at Missouri. We can only hope that the much maligned SEC officials actually allow the players to determine the outcome tomorrow night. If that is the case, AND the culture has truly shifted to the point that Alabama brings the energy and effort into a big game on the road...Bama will win the SEC Championship tomorrow night.
Prediction: Alabama 79, Arkansas 74