Both the University of Arkansas and University of Alabama come into Saturday's 3 p.m. game in Tuscaloosa sporting 13-11 overall records.
But they have gotten there with very different paths lately with the Razorbacks (13-11, 6-3) in first place in the SEC West and riding a five-game win streak and the Crimson Tide (13-11, 3-7) enduring a four-game losing skid and stuck in fourth.
Arkansas head coach John Pelphrey knows his team faces a tough challenge.
"I think Alabama had been playing some good basketball before they got to our place and certainly since they left," Pelphrey said. "They have competed and had a chance to win every single game they have been in."
"The things that concern me with them are there will be a lot of full court pressure and half court pressure," Pelphrey added.
Alabama head coach Anthony Grant, who was an assistant at Florida with Pelphrey, knows the Razorbacks are playing well.
"They've [Arkansas] got four guys averaging double figures and are playing very good defense as a team," Grant said. "I've had a chance to see a little bit of film on them since our first game and I think it starts with their defense, they're playing really well on the defensive end. Offensively, Courtney Fortson, Rotnei Clarke and the post players are getting involved and doing a good job."
Arkansas beat Alabama 71-59 back on Jan. 16, but it was a close game until Crimson Tide star Senario Hillman got ejected after elbowing Razorback sophomore guard Rotnei Clarke.
"I thought the first basketball game we were very fortunate to win," Pelphrey said. "It was a very heavily competed contest basically throughout the game. We had a pretty good stretch there where we were able to get to get some stops and score some baskets. I think it was in and around Hillman's ejection."
Razorback forwards Marshawn Powell and Mike Washington were able to score inside after Fortson penetrated.
"Marshawn and Mike were able to score some points because of some dribble penetration and dump down passes and some offensive rebounding," Pelphrey said. "We didn't get a whole lot of post ups because Alabama is tremendous with their post defense. That is obviously a concern for us."
Arkansas has been better defensively lately in large part because of the play of reserves Marcus Britt, Stef Welsh and Julysess Nobles.
"I think Marcus and Stef and Julysess have been able to get out there and apply some pressure to the ball," Pelphrey said. "It starts there. Even though it is not the most conventional way of pressing or applying pressure in the full-court that is a way of getting it done. Those young men have done a very good job. Hopefully it brings fatigue into play where we can force a few mistakes or they are not as fresh in terms of shot making."
Arkansas will be seeking its third straight road win after previously enduring a 15-game losing streak away from home.
"It will take an unbelievable effort on the road to have a chance to win as it always does," Pelphrey said. "…It will be a big basketball game in a hostile environment and could be very, very meaningful to us."
A sweep of Alabama would continue to help Arkansas in its quest to own tiebreakers at the end of the season.
"It obviously would be big for us, but the bigger thing right now is it just another road game and you just want to go get that," Pelphrey said. "The thing you want to do in these weeks if you can somehow get two (wins) in a win, you are going to have a chance to be right there at the end.
"You are probably sit up for 1-1 and you want to do everything you can to stay away from 0-2," Pelphrey added. "It is hard to overcome that."
When the two teams last met, Alabama was considered a better team, but Arkansas' success in the last couple of weeks has changed that.
"Being in the West, a week can change everything – a couple of games can change everything," Pelphrey said. "…It just goes to show you how competitive these league is and how there is not a lot of separation between the teams – especially in the West."
Going For Sixth Straight
Hawgs Daily Top Stories
TCU vs Iowa State primerAfter falling in double-overtime to Arkansas, TCU looks to get back to their winning ways against Iowa State.
Horned Frog Insider09/15/2016
The Ultimate Midlands TeamThere is a lot of talent in the Midlands region, with a vast majority of the highest rated recruits playing high school football in the Lone Star State. Which prospects made the…
These rival helmet color swaps are revoltingSwapping rival teams' helmet colors? It shouldn't have been done, but someone did it anyway.
Post-July 2017 Top 100 Player RankingsWith the July evaluation periods, Nike Skills Academy, adidas Nations and Under Armour's Elite 24 over, Scout's basketball recruiting team has updated the 2017 top 100. DeAndre…