El Dorado News-Times
Arkansas hits road for SEC clash against Alabama
FAYETTEVILLE — The hype and scrutiny swirling around today’s matinee matchup between the University of Arkansas and No. 2 Alabama promises to be intense for two SEC rivals jockeying for NCAA Tournament positioning.
The Razorbacks (19-9, 8-7 SEC), No. 15 in the NCAA’s NET Rankings, could seemingly solidify a tournament berth with an upset today at 1 p.m. (ESPN2) on senior day at Coleman Coliseum in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
That would mark a first on the season, as the Crimson Tide (24-4, 14-1) is 13-0 at home with an eye-popping average win margin of 27.7 points.
The Coleman crushing has included a 78-52 rout of Kentucky and out-ofcontrol wins of 40-plus points over LSU (106-66), Vanderbilt (101-44) and Georgia (108-59).
“You want to compete, you want to try to minimize the crowd involvement in the game,” Arkansas Coach Eric Musselman said.
“You have to do that by defending, and Alabama’s a really hard team to defend because of their spurt-ability, because of their dribble-drive along with their 3-point accuracy.”
Alabama Coach Nate Oats noted the Tide is 7-0 in SEC home games.
“It’s a big game,” he said.
“We’re a game up from A&M with three games to go, so if you’re planning to win an SEC championship, you can’t give away home games.”
Alabama is the first SEC team to score 100plus points against three SEC opponents since Arkansas did it in 1998.
The closest anyone has come at Alabama is three points by Memphis (9188) and Mississippi State (66-63).
However, this will be the first home game for the Tide since revelations in a murder investigation involving former Alabama player Darius Miles and Michael Davis included police testimony that ace freshman Brandon Miller transported the handgun allegedly used to kill 23-year-old Jamea Harris on Jan. 15.
Oats has been the subject of withering criticism since those revelations for what was seen as his tone deaf response that Miller was in the “wrong spot at the wrong time.” Oats provided clarification to those remarks last week.
Many college basketball analysts are appalled that Alabama Athletic Director Greg Byrne, in consultation with university officials, elected not to suspend Miller, a likely NBA Draft lottery pick whose 19.5 scoring average leads the SEC and all Division I freshmen.
Oats was questioned further on that point on Friday.
“Look, I mean, we’ve been taking it very seriously from Day One,” Oats said when asked if there’s a level of punishment Miller should have faced.