The Back Nine comes at you after a weekend where I really didn’t watch much sports, which is about as rare as a white rhino. I was unavoidably detained. But I caught up quickly.
10. Even with so much going on in so many different sports around here, the biggest story last week was a football one. My take on Florida-Miami possibly moving up a week as a kickoff to the 150 Year Celebration of college football was different than most because the first thing I wondered was whether or not a waiver to start the season Aug. 24 would set a precedent. It probably won’t because the NCAA can say this is a one-time thing, a special occasion. But it should. For player safety and to have more flexibility in scheduling (especially with so many games postponed in the last few years because of hurricanes), I’ve never really understood why college football doesn’t start a week earlier all the time. (The weird thing for Florida and Miami is that if the waiver goes through they will each have three open dates. That’s a lot of chili-making for yours truly). But in most years, starting a week earlier would mean every team would get two bye weeks. I don’t see how that is a bad thing. One thing for sure, with a game on Aug. 24, SEC Media Days will feel a lot more like the start of college football because Florida will start practice a week earlier.
11. There isn’t a Florida fan in the world who wasn’t bitterly disappointed at the performance of the Gators on Saturday night in the O’Connell Center. The loss to Georgia wasn’t crippling, but it certainly didn’t help UF’s chances to reach the NCAA Tournament. Florida dropped to 35th in the NET Rankings, and Joe Lunardi has the Gators as a nine seed. But if UF loses these last two games against two really good teams and goes one-and-done in the SEC Tournament, hello NIT. Beat LSU on Wednesday night and it covers up the loss to Georgia. But we have no idea how this team will respond because of its schizophrenic nature. The bottom line is that this team is weak mentally. I thought Mike White had the quote of the year after the game. “Certain teams can get casual at home,” White said. “We’re certainly one of them.” This Florida team has been good on the road, and that will earn some points with the selection committee. But for some reason, these guys aren’t as competitive at home (4-4 vs. SEC). Georgia was not as bad as its record, but it was almost like the Gators just assumed they would win because they were playing at home. That doesn’t cut it.
12. One of the few things I did get a chance to watch was Tennessee’s demolition of Kentucky, which told me more than anything that the two teams are about even. The Vols are fourth in the NET and Kentucky fifth. It could be that the SEC Tournament will be for a No. 1 seed if both teams win their last two games and get to the championship game in Nashville. Either way, the SEC has two teams with a shot at winning it all, and I wouldn’t count out LSU. There are six teams in the country with only one loss on the road — LSU, Gonzaga, Virginia, Duke, North Carolina and Houston. That’s usually a good indicator of the best teams when it comes to the postseason.
13. The Florida baseball team became the first SEC team in history to hit three grand slams in a game, and the Gators certainly feasted on Winthrop pitching. A series like that can pad your stats, especially when you hit .429 in three games. The weekend bumped the Gators’ overall batting average all the way up to .287 heading into Tuesday night’s tonight’s game against Florida Gulf Coast. Kevin O’Sullivan said it was going to be a roller-coaster ride early in the season, and he was right on.
14. The NFL Combine told the rest of the world what we already know — that speed in the SEC is at a different level. It seemed like my Twitter feed just kept bubbling about ridiculous 40 times SEC players were running. And then there was Jachai Polite, who apparently didn’t take the Combine seriously and was considered one of the biggest losers in Indianapolis. Polite has time to get his stuff together before Florida’s Pro Day on March 27, but he needs to get the right people around him to work on his speed and get the extra weight off. He was listed on the Florida roster at 242 and weighed in at the Combine at 258. It didn’t look like it was good weight either. Look, the Combine is a bizarre exercise, especially the interview part of it (where one player was asked if he had both testicles and another was asked to be in a staring contest), but it’s part of the job.
15. Kudos to the Florida gymnastics team for winning the SEC, and you could tell from the videos and photos that the ladies really enjoyed it. Florida has one more meet — at home against Penn State on Friday night — before the postseason cranks up with the SECs in New Orleans. Florida won three conference championships in less than a week, which should certainly help with the Gatehouse SEC All-Sports standings.
16. I did watch a little golf Sunday, and it was a great finish even if the announcers were a little over the top in their coverage. Sheesh. One story that is getting a lot of play in the golf world is that players are complaining about the new rules even though they knew they were coming and waited until they were actually applied to whine. The USGA fired back at Justin Thomas for his complaints, pointing out that the time for feedback was last year when the new rules were being rolled out. All I know is that watching players have to drop from knee level is the silliest thing I have seen in sports this year. Of course, it’s still early.
17. The Tweet of the Week as we approach Madness and welcome the swoopers into the world of college basketball comes from the Bleacher Report’s Kerry Miller — “I wish ESPN/CBS/Fox would require its color commentators to take a crash course in bracketology and at least get a cursory understanding of it. So many of them spout nonsense, but keep talking about it like they are experts anyway.” Yeah, take that.
18. A long time ago, someone who was observing the media boys who covered the Gators on the road referred to us as “third-graders with beer.” After attending a wedding this weekend, I can tell you it still applies. My head hurts. Here’s your playlist:
• “All Over Now” by The Cranberries, Dolores O’Riordan’s last song with the group before she passed away.
• “High As A Kite” by Weezer.
• “Talk About It” By The Mowgli’s.
• “You Mean The World To Me” by Freya Ridings.
• And for an old one, let’s go with “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” by the Temptations.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.