The Back Nine: UK a different beast at Rupp
Published: Tuesday, March 1, 2011 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, February 28, 2011 at 2:09 p.m.
The Back Nine comes at you after a great weekend that included a lot of basketball watching and quality time with the family before the madness cranks up.
10. I looked at the Kentucky game differently than Billy Donovan did, I'm sure. I thought the Gators were playing with house money in Lexington. If they won, great. If they lost, it was understandable and the really big game is tonight anyway. Tonight is for a championship. The winner is assured of being presented with a trophy next Friday night in Atlanta. After watching Kentucky on Saturday, I have a theory as to why the Wildcats haven't lost at home but have been average away from home. This Kentucky team is only as good as it shoots the ball, and the biggest advantage for a home team isn't the crowd or the home unis. It's the rims you are used to and the shooting backgrounds you are most comfortable with. It's why the Back Nine would not want to have Kentucky in an SEC Tournament pool and doesn't expect the Wildcats to go far in the NCAAs. This isn't a grind-it-out Kentucky team.
11. It is a grind-it-out Alabama team that comes into Gainesville tonight, and it's also a desperate team. The Tide's loss to Ole Miss on Saturday means that these last two games against Florida and Georgia are crucial to its NCAA hopes. A team playing for a championship and a meaningful postseason is going to be tough to handle, especially because Donovan indicated after the Kentucky game that fatigue could be an issue for his team. In Chandler Parsons, Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton, Florida has three of the top eight players in the league in terms of minutes played. This UF team will have to use the energy of its crowd tonight as an ally.
12. Bubble, Tennessee. Tennessee, bubble. As secure as it appeared the Vols' berth was in the NCAA Tournament a few weeks ago, the Back Nine is putting the Vollies on the bubble. I know about the good RPI and strength of schedule, but Thursday's game at South Carolina is crucial for Bruce Pearl's team. If Tennessee loses that one and the season finale against Kentucky, I don't think a 7-9 team in a conference that has been demeaned all season will be enough. That would also put UT's overall record at 17-14 entering the SEC Tournament. Most of the brackets have the Vols as an eighth, ninth or 10th seed right now, but Pearl needs a win badly.
13. As we get closer to the madness, let us stop to take a look at the women's side. Florida has suddenly found a way to win close games. The Gators head into the tournament just outside the bubble with a chance of getting into the conversation with a couple of wins in the tourney. Uh, except if they win their first game against Arkansas, the Gators would face Tennessee, which went unbeaten in the league. Never mind.
14. I've said it before and I'll say it again — it's a perfect storm for the Florida baseball team. The Gators are loaded with pitching, play excellent defense and the bats have been changed so that nobody can hit a homer off the handle. In seven games, Florida has given up 10 runs. Of course, this week will tell us a lot about this team with a game tonight against Florida State and three this weekend against Miami.
15. Even more impressive has been Florida's softball team. Tim Walton was excited to see what this team could do, and so far it is 14-0 with five wins over ranked teams. The Gators are hitting .352 compared to .166 for the opposition. Walton's freshmen have been huge, especially Hannah Rogers, who gives the Gators a second quality pitcher. She leads the team in ERA and is 6-0. Also, a Back Nine shoutout to the men's track team, which brought the hardware home from the SEC Indoor track meet.
16. So now it's Cam Newton's turn to get hammered at the NFL Combine for his passing. I don't know why they just don't make the Combine all about meetings and the Wonderlic Test. Nothing else really matters for a quarterback. You know what he can do based on his college career.
17. Tweet of the Week comes from Ian Poulter, who was the defending champion at the Match Play Championship but was knocked out in the first round: “Maybe I should give @Tigerwoods a call and see if we can have game this weekend. We could have our own Matchplay. #Nothingbettertodo.”
18. The iPod will get a workout in the coming weeks because it's almost TOURNAMENT TIME! Nothing better. Try these downloads — “The Ballad of Mona Lisa” by Panic! At the Disco, “Dog Days Are Over” by Florence and the Machine, and for the old school in you, “Travellin' In Time” by Uriah Heap.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at email@example.com. You can listen to The Pat Dooley Show weekdays from 4-6 p.m. on 104.9 FM. And follow at http://Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.