TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Another week and another opportunity for Alabama basketball to rewrite some history.
With the team making its first road trip in over two weeks, the 2022-23 Crimson Tide will look to become the third team since the 1986-87 season to start conference play a perfect 4-0. To do that Alabama will have to beat its fourth quad 1 opponent when it travels to Fayetteville to face No. 15 Arkansas.
“It’s a big road game for us and a big test,” Alabama head coach Nate Oats said. “If you’re trying to win a conference championship, these are big games you’ve got to come ready to play in. It’s two top-20 teams and they were picked high in the preseason and second by the media to win the title. They’ve got some really good players and a good coach.”
Here’s everything you need to know as the No. 4 Crimson Tide looks to win its seventh game at Bud Walton Arena against the Razorbacks.
How to watch
Who: No. 4 Alabama (13-2, 3-0) vs. No. 15 Arkansas (12-3, 1-2)
When: 6 p.m. CT, Wednesday, Jan. 11
Where: Bud Walton Arena, Fayetteville, Ark.
Watch: ESPN2 (play-by-play: Karl Ravech; analyst: Jay Bilas)
Listen: Crimson Tide Sports Network (play-by-play: Chris Stewart; analyst: Bryan Passink; engineer: Tom Stipe)
Alabama’s projected starting lineup
Jaden Bradley: 6-foot-3, 185 pounds, freshman
Stats: 8.9 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 3.7 apg, 44.2% FG, 25.0% 3-pt
Mark Sears: 6-foot-1, 185 pounds, junior
Stats: 14.7 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 2.8 apg, 43.3% FG, 40.0% 3-pt
Brandon Miller: 6-foot-9, 200 pounds, freshman
Stats: 19.1 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 1.9 apg, 43.3% FG, 41.9% 3-pt
Noah Clowney: 6-foot-10, 210 pounds, freshman
Stats: 9.6 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 0.9 apg, 51.6% FG, 28.6% 3-pt
Charles Bediako: 7-foot, 225 pounds, sophomore
Stats: 5.7 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 0.7 apg, 60.7% FG
Arkansas’ projected starting lineup
Davonte Davis: 6-foot-9, 185 pounds, junior
Stats: 7.9 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 2.6 apg, 35.3% FG, 18.5% 3-pt
Ricky Council IV: 6-foot-6, 205 pounds, junior
Stats: 18.1 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 2.3 apg, 47.1% FG, 32.6% 3-pt
Jordan Walsh: 6-foot-7, 205 pounds, freshman
Stats: 7.7 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 1.3 apg, 46.8% FG, 34.8% 3-pt
Anthony Black: 6-foot-7, 198 pounds, freshman
Stats: 12.5 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 3.8 apg, 48.8% FG, 40.0% 3-pt
Makhi Mitchell: 6-foot-9, 230 pounds, senior
Stats: 7.5 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 1.2 apg, 65.3% FG
Arkansas’ scoring duo
Arkansas’ hot start came at a cost as the Razorbacks lost Nick Smith due to a knee injury and Trevon Brazile for the season with an ACL tear.
Despite losing arguably its most talented players coming into conference play, Arkansas currently averages 76.2 points per game good for fourth in the SEC. With Smith and Brazile out, the Razorbacks turned to Ricky Council IV and Anthony Black for production. The move paid dividends immediately as either Council or Black has tallied 20 points or more in seven of the team’s 15 games this season.
Council ranks third in the conference in scoring averaging 18.1 points per game while Black is 21st with 12.5 points per game.
“We recruited both of them, to be honest with you,” Alabama head coach Nate Oats said. “We are very familiar with both of them. Both are really talented. Council is more of a scorer. Black can score but he’s a little bit more of a distributor. Council plays off the ball, Black plays with the ball and both are big skilled guards. We’re going to have to do a really good job on both of them. We’re going to have to keep Black out of the lane and we’re going to have to keep Council’s scoring limited.”
The scoring duo is flanked by five-star forward Jordan Walsh. The former No. 24 player in the 2022 recruiting class is averaging 7.7 points per game while sporting a 46.8% field goal percentage. Arkansas also gets production from Davonta Davis and Makhi Mitchell, but according to Oats, the Razorback offense relies heavily on Council and Black.
“I do think that Council and Black are the two guys that make them go the most but they definitely have some other talented players,” Oats said.
Turnover margin is key
Alabama-Arkansas will feature two teams on opposite sides of the turnover margin spectrum.
The Razorbacks are 26th in the country with a plus-3.9 turnover margin while the Crimson Tide sits 343rd with a minus-3.5. Despite averaging more than 16 turnovers per game, Arkansas has forced just 28 turnovers over the last three games which have hindered the offense.
Arkansas has out outscored its opponents in points off of turnovers in 10 of its 15 games this season and while it was able to win the turnover battle against Auburn, Missouri and LSU, the team went 1-2 in those games.
As for Alabama, the offense has cleaned up its poor ball security in its last two games, tallying less than 10 turnovers against Ole Miss and Kentucky. With the team going into its first-ranked road game since it defeated Houston in December, Oats emphasized the importance of ball security.
“They’ve got some guys that are aggressive,” Oats said. “I think with us on our end, I think guys have started to be a little bit more simple. (They) realize if you keep turning the ball over we’re not going to be able to play you, it’s hurting our offense. The guys have just been better. If you look at our primary ball handler has been better and we haven’t had the turnovers from the guys who don’t handle it that much.”
— Alabama is looking to improve to 4-0 in SEC play for the first time since 2020-21 and second time since the 1986-87 season
— Alabama is ranked No. 4 in the AP Top 25 Poll for the second time this season. Prior to this season, that is the highest AP ranking since 2006-07 (Ranked No. 4)
— After recording 16.9 turnovers per game during non-conference play, the Tide is now committing just 11.7 turnovers during SEC games
— Alabama is 13-12 against AP Top 25 teams during Nate Oats’ tenure
—Alabama has posted four wins over top-25 opponents in back-to-back seasons for the first time in program history
— For the second straight week and fourth time this season, Brandon Miller has been named SEC Freshman of the Week
— Miller is averaging 19.1 points per game, the most by any freshman in the country and No. 34 overall
— Miller is the only freshman in the country to rank in the top 65 in points per game (No. 34) and rebounds per game (No. 63)
— Miller is one of 10 players in Division I, the only player in the SEC and the only freshman in the country that has scored 280 points and recorded 125 rebounds this season
— Miller and Noah Clowney are tied for No. 63 in the country at 8.5 rebounds per game, which is second-best among freshmen in the country
— Alabama ranks No. 1 in the country in rebounds per game (46.1) and defensive rebounds per game (32.6), while also ranking No. 13 in offensive rebounds per game (13.5) and No. 13 in rebound margin (+8.3)
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