February begins with Petty and company at crossroads vs. Hogs

Where to watch: (15-5, 3-4 SEC – #35 KenPom rating) at Alabama (12-8, 4-3 – #44) – Today 5 p.m. Central, Coleman Coliseum, SEC Network

Who to watch: . Just when it looked like everything was squared away with the one-time five-star prospect, Petty missed his first start of the season at LSU because wasn’t satisfied with the Crimson Tide’s practice efforts. It isn’t clear how much of that was directed at Petty and how much it was a tactic to shake the team up after two weeks of increasingly casual efforts, but it plainly didn’t work out in Baton Rouge. Petty had just four points despite playing 33 minutes and Bama never seriously threatened the league leaders. It hasn’t always been pretty, but Petty has absorbed a healthy share of criticism in his three seasons with the Tide and channeled it into becoming a better player. How well he handles the lessons from this week will determine what direction the season takes for Alabama.

What to watch for: A reversal of fortune on the glass. Oats has peeled the paint off the locker room walls after watching his team get badly outrebounded the last two games. If Bama can’t turn that around against the Razorbacks it’s a bad omen for the rest of the season. Due to Arkansas’ roster issues and Eric Musselman’s preferred system, the Hogs don’t even try for offensive rebounds, collecting just 6.4 per game. What’s more, Arkansas is rebounding on less than 75 percent of its chances on the defensive end, a decidedly mediocre showing. Alabama shouldn’t merely have the rebounding edge, it should dominate by a healthy margin. If it can’t, then something has fundamentally broken down with this team.

Follow Chris DePew on Twitter @TideFansChris

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