The Back Nine comes at you after a weekend of hoops and hops, one play of the Pro Bowl and a Sunday evening not watching the Grammys but the Tupac movie on HBO. Really powerful.
10. They probably weren’t popping champagne corks in the SEC offices in Birmingham on Monday morning, but you could hardly blame Greg Sankey if he at least brought in breakfast for the crew. The league that has been so dominant in almost everything can finally crow about its men’s basketball after winning the SEC/Big 12 Challenge for the first time. I even found myself consolable after Kentucky won in a rousing comeback from 17 points down to Press Virginia because it gave the league a 6-4 advantage. And that was without league-leader Auburn being invited. Although I can’t get behind Rick Barnes’ argument that they need to wait until 10 days out to make the schedule to make sure the best teams are included. Logistic nightmare. The winners and losers from a wonderful Saturday of hoops:
• Kentucky, which showed it might be buying what John Calipari is selling, especially if Kenny Knox decides to show up every night.
• Alabama, with a resume-padding win over Oklahoma.
• Florida, which needed a bounce-back win even if Baylor doesn’t help the old RPI a bunch.
• Georgia, which needed a win badly but lost on its home floor to Kansas State.
• South Carolina, which couldn’t hold on against Texas Tech to cap off a big week of climbing into the NCAA Tournament mix.
• Texas A&M, which continues to spiral in the wrong direction after getting hammered at Kansas.
Let’s hope this series between the two conferences continues and wonder why we can’t have an SEC vs. another conference series in December because it makes for great television.
11. Every time you turn on an SEC game there is a graphic extolling the conference and how eight teams are projected to make the NCAA field. Not so fast. The league is loaded with bubble teams who are going to have to play well in the last 10 SEC games to make it. I have five who look good (Kentucky, Auburn, Florida, Tennessee and Alabama) and the rest all have some work to do. If I had to bet on how many are getting in I’d say six right now, but that’s still an improvement.
12. For the mighty Gators, the rest of the regular-season schedule is filled with opportunities, especially at the back end (as usual). The NCAA has a new system this year that rewards teams for wins based on where the games are played. It’s advanced math, but here you go:
• A Quadrant 1 win is against teams ranked 1-30 in RPI at home, 1-50 at a neutral site and 1-75 on the road.
• A Quadrant 2 win is against teams ranked 31-75 at home, 51-100 at a neutral site and 76-135 on the road.
And it goes from there. Florida’s remaining home games are against teams who average 32 in RPI and 60 on the road. UF’s thrilling win over Gonzaga in Portland has slipped to a Quadrant 2 win because Gonzaga is 57th in RPI. In the end, the Gators will either play well enough to make the field or they will not. And that’s enough math for one day.
13. Hey, it’s Super Bowl week so get ready for silly stories and even sillier questions. I’ve been to a lot of media days and my favorite story was asking a question to the Bears’ Alex Brown and all he wanted to talk about was that we put him too low on our Sun’s Top 100 players in Gator history. He was right. Prediction? I’m not betting against the Patriots, but I have a feeling it’s going to be a tight game. Good luck to all the Gators there including the brains behind the Eagles success. Howie Roseman, Philly’s executive vice president of football operations, is a UF grad. But I’ll take New England, 24-20.
14. It was quite an atmosphere at the Florida-Oklahoma gymnastics meet last Friday and Alex McMurtry walked away with the accolades after a pair of 10s. McMurtry is placing herself in the argument of greatest UF gymnast ever and it’s a pretty crowded argument. The plan for her is still not to do the all-around — and therefore the floor exercise — until the meet before SECs to rest her back, which is a smart move. She is one amazing athlete and such a great ambassador for the university and its athletic program.
15. One thing I took away from Florida’s baseball media day last week is that this Gator team looks like a group of guys who did their work in the weight room during the offseason. Bigger, stronger, even the pitchers. Florida is preseason No. 1 in every poll which is understandable but it’s a long way to Omaha and they talked about the grind of a long season and how they needed to focus on every game instead of thinking about the prize at the end. “That was last year’s team,” said senior JJ Schwarz.
16. I watched a lot of the final round of the Farmers Open because, well, I was not going to waste my time on the Pro Bowl or the NHL All-Star Game. It was riveting stuff because it went to a long playoff well after dark here on the East Coast before it was pushed to Monday. But one of the stories was how long it took to play the final round — over six hours. Not good. It didn’t help that J.B. Holmes took more than four minutes to decide what to hit on the final hole and then laid up into the rough. That prompted this Tweet from former Gator Mark Calcavecchia, who plays about as fast as anyone — “1. JB needs to be fined or better yet given 2 shots; 2. Needs eagle to tie. After all that lays up? Really??? 3. Horrendous sportsmanship to (Alex) Noren and (Ryan) Palmer (his playing partners); 4. Wow.” Even Jim Nantz and Sir Nick Faldo were aggravated in the booth.
17. But the Tweet of the Week goes to former sports writer Tom Luicci — “After seeing the scandals at Baylor, Penn State and Michigan State it’s mind-boggling to think SMU once got the death penalty for simply paying players.” Yeah, but SMU cheated, got caught, kept cheating, got caught again and still kept paying players. And the death penalty has been basically retired. Still, what a mess in East Lansing and another example that coaches with conflicts of interest have too much power when it comes to discipline.
18. The knee is getting better all the time and thanks for asking. Still a long way to go, but I’ve been making it into the gym with playlists like this one:
• “Moving Parts” by Trixie Matel.
• “Lottery” by Jade Bird.
• “Major System Error” by Marmozets.
• “Marble Skies” by Django Django.
• And for an old one because my friend Tim Brando blurted it out during the Indiana game Sunday and I can’t get it out of my head “Indiana Wants Me” by R Dean Taylor.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at email@example.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.