Alabama at Arkansas
When: Saturday, 5 p.m.
Where: Bud Walton Arena, Fayetteville, Ark.
Records: Alabama (17-13, 8-9 SEC), Arkansas (16-14, 7-10 SEC)
TV: SEC Network
Radio: 95.3 FM
For a couple of weeks now, the Alabama basketball team has seen its hopes for an NCAA Tournament bid moved from serious condition to critical to its current status, which is “life support with a 3-year trying to unplug the ventilator.”
Still, as Avery Johnson pointed out on Friday, things could be worse.
“We are still out here fighting and scratching,” Johnson said before the Crimson Tide left for its final game of the regular season against Arkansas. “A lot of teams out there would love to be in our position. We’ve just got to win some games.
“It’s been tough in this conference,” Johnson said. “That’s why so many teams go around 9-9. But we’d love to have the opportunity to go to back-and-back NCAA Tournaments. It would be important for this program.”
The game against Arkansas would be part of that process, given it’s possible effect on SEC Tournament seeding. If Alabama loses the game, it would end up as the No. 10 seed in Nashville next week and find itself, presumably, in the same bracket as both Kentucky and Tennessee, each of which will bring significant numbers of fans. A victory over the Razorbacks would put Alabama as either the No. 7, No. 8 or No. 9 seed and could hypothetically lead to an easier path.
The key, though, is for Alabama to find a way to finish games rather than letting second-half leads slip away.
“We have to have stamina, fitness, endurance,” Johnson said. “We should be in great game shape at this time of year but we’ve got to be tougher mentally, taking care of the ball, making stops defensively. We should be willing to run through a wall at this point.”
Arkansas, which had dropped to the mark .500 after a six-game losing streak in SEC play, has regrouped to win its last two games, including an 84-48 blowout of Vanderbilt last Wednesday. The Razorbacks are led by 6-foot-11 sophomore Daniel Gafford, who averages 16.6 points per game. More ominously for Alabama, the Razorback defense leads the SEC in turnovers caused this season.
Two Alabama players, guard Dazon Ingram (quad bruise) and forward Daniel Giddens (bruised hand) will be gametime decisions for the Arkansas contest, Johnson said.
Reach Cecil Hurt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0225