The Back Nine comes at you after a wild weekend of NFL playoffs and college basketball that I hope you enjoyed. And you probably did unless you are a Jags/Kentucky fan.
10. There is no reason to look at the statistics. No comparisons needed for who is lighting it up on the scoreboard in the SEC. If you watch the games, you know the league is at a different level and that’s not going to change with so many top recruits heading to the league. But this is about this season and something that I think most Gator fans already know. If I had a vote on the player of the year in the SEC, I could make a great argument for Chris Chiozza. His numbers aren’t overwhelming — 12.3 ppg, 6.1 assists per game, 4.3 rebounds, 2.0 steals — but tell me who is a more valuable player in the league right now? There is still a long way to go, but all that means is that “Cheez” has a chance to make more big plays. And he is working his way into the hearts of all Gator fans as one of their favorites who have played at UF. I hope I haven’t jinxed him.
11. What made Florida’s win over Kentucky so impressive was that the Gators have been the team that had to shoot well to win and then they didn’t and they still won at an arena where teams just don’t win. Kentucky fans aren’t happy with the officiating at the end of the game, but I already wrote my essay on things evening out over a season last week. Who knew the debacle at Ole Miss would need only one week to come around the other way? Were either one of the last two blocked shots a foul? Not if they were not called. And let’s not act like there weren’t other calls during the game that could have gone the other way instead of against Florida. It’s just the way it is.
12. But it’s not like it gets easy for the Gators this week. The good news is that both South Carolina on Wednesday and Baylor on Saturday are at home. I watched both of their games Saturday and you can see how much better both of those teams are now. They are two scrappy teams who will make you work for everything. This weekend is the last chance for the SEC to improve its RPI and overall resumes with the SEC/Big 12 challenge. I think this league would take six games in the 10 games right now and be happy. Anything more and we could seriously be looking at a record number of conference teams making it into the tournament. Joe Lunardi currently has eight getting in and Florida has six wins over NCAA teams (as we speak) with opportunities to face several more not to mention bubble teams Georgia (twice) and Baylor. Buckle up. It’s going to get really interesting.
13. Once the dust had settled and the Super Bowl teams were established, it left me wanting something else. New England, again. Philadelphia, meh. But those were two of the best teams all season and they got it done when they had to. The New York Post headline read “WORST. SUPER BOWL. EVER.” And I guess it is if you are a fan of either New York team. The Pats are a six-point favorite, but do you think the Eagles care after being underdogs throughout the playoffs? Besides, the team wearing white has won 12 of the last 13 Super Bowls if you are looking for a betting edge. It’s the Super Bowl, so you know we will watch and I guess I have to root for the underdogs.
14. Of the four Gators in the Super Bowl (the second most behind Stanford), the most amazing to me is Trey Burton. It’s not that Burton is without talent, but he struggled to find a position at UF after Urban Meyer left and even called Meyer at one point to plead his case with Will Muschamp. I just never thought he’d be a guy with a career in the NFL, but he’ll be lining up in the ultimate game.
15. Doesn’t it feel like it’s really a new era for Florida football. There just seems to be a lot of momentum, probably more than we have seen from a first-year coach on the recruiting trail in a long time. I caught a lot of heat when I didn’t have Florida in my preseason top 25, but I still don’t know what the situation will be at quarterback and Florida has to show me it will be better at wide receiver. There is no magic wand. If there was, the previous two coaches would have used it. That said, Dan Mullen may have a little something for all of us doubters. One advantage that he has over Jim McElwain as a first-year coach is he has been recruiting in the SEC for a long time. McElwain might as well have been coming in from Lithuania. The kids he was trying to recruit in his first year didn’t have any idea who he was.
16. I don’t watch a lot of NBA during the regular season, but I did flip it over to watch Billy Donovan’s Oklahoma City team put up 148 points on the Cavs this weekend. A quick glance at the stats shows that only the Lakers and Suns are giving up more points than Cleveland this year. How long would it have taken Florida and Kentucky to get to 148 points on Saturday night? Yikes.
17. The Tweet of the Week comes from Sports Illustrated superstar Peter King — “Man, hats off to the Jaguars. What a great performance in defeat.” That was the consensus after the game. Nobody questioned how good that team was this year. I’m not a Jags fan, but I was impressed with how hard those guys hit as much as anything. They’re not going away either. Just not going to this year’s Super Bowl.
18. If you can get it on Netflix I highly recommend the documentary “The Wrecking Crew” about the session musicians who dominated the music scene in the 1960s. Really first rate, just like this playlist:
• “Nervous Young Inhumans” by Car Seat Headrest.
• “I’ll Be Your Pilot” by Belle and Sebastian.
• “Way With Words” by Bahamas.
• “Take Me For a Ride” by Caitlin Canty.
• And for an older one, but not really an oldie, “Zombie” by The Cranberries. Rest in peace, Dolores O’Riordan.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.