Back Nine: UF needs to win at least one game in New Orleans


Florida Gators forward Will Yeguete (15) knocks the ball away from Auburn Tigers forward Adrian Forbes (45) during the second half at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center on Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2012 in Gainesville. Yeguete was averaging 6.3 rebounds a game before leaving the contest in the second half with an injury later diagnosed as a broken foot. Florida won 63-47.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Monday, March 5, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, March 6, 2012 at 12:21 a.m.

It's a new season for The Back Nine. Everybody is oh-and-oh. We've got our backs against the wall so we have to put our noses to the grindstone because everyone from here on out is as good as advertised. Sorry, but this time of the year makes we want to clean out my cliche notebook.

10. So when Will Yeguete went out with his broken foot against Auburn, I thought Florida was done. I thought that killed any faint hopes of them winning the SEC Tournament and making a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. And nothing I've seen since has changed my mind. Every team needs that player who does the little things. John Calipari is blessed to have a whole team of those players. But Florida had one in Yeguete. He was the blue-collar player on a team that lives in the suburbs. Maybe these guys will surprise me. They actually played pretty well against Kentucky, but just couldn't get shots to fall. But that's the problem. This Florida team has to shoot well to win against quality opponents. And when they don't shoot well, they are not strong enough mentally to do the other things well. Billy Donovan even resorted to putting a bubble on the basket in practice. “Nobody's making shots today,” he said.

11. The Back Nine knows Florida isn't beating Kentucky in the semifinals, but it is important to beat Alabama (assuming the Tide takes care of South Carolina) in the second round for NCAA seeding purposes. You don't want to hand the committee a resume that includes four straight losses to end the season. One thing that may work in the Gators' favor is they are familiar with the arena, having played Sweet 16 and Elite 8 games in New Orleans a year ago. I just know I'm looking forward to watching eight games Thursday and Friday.

12. Perhaps the most interesting call for this year's NCAA Tournament committee is Tennessee. The Vols probably need to beat the Ole Miss-Auburn winner on Friday to even be considered for the Big Dance. They have a lousy RPI because they were awful in December. But once they got Jarnell Stokes eligible, they became a different team. Florida can attest to that. Still, 18-13 is 18-13 and the committee is supposed to judge your entire body of work. The fact Tennessee is even a bubble team is amazing. Win one in New Orleans and they probably still need some help (like as many teams as possible who are in the tourney winning their conference tournaments). Beat Vandy again in the semifinals and that would do it.

13. The SEC's athletic directors made progress last week in Nashville concerning the scheduling for the future in the new 14-team league. There was a story that came out of the meetings that Florida and LSU would not mind dumping each other as permanent partners in football. LSU may want that but Florida does not. A high-ranking SEC official told the Back Nine that Florida wants to keep LSU as the team it always plays from the West because having the Tigers come to Gainesville every other year is good for business. And even though LSU is a lot tougher to play every year than, say, Ole Miss, I think Gator fans like that trip to Baton Rouge every other year. The ADs will meet again in New Orleans and should come closer to figuring out what will happen not only in football but the other sports as well.

14. I never thought I'd see the day when Florida would win 11 straight over Miami in baseball. Never. Kevin O'Sullivan has done a masterful job in turning the Gators into one of the elite programs in college baseball. And to see the emotion that the players were displaying during their ninth-inning rally in Coral Gables on Sunday was very cool. Between baseball and softball, it's going to be an exciting spring around these parts.

15. I've been listening to all of this talk about Bounty-gate and it's quite a dilemma facing Roger Goodell. You have to think the penalty is going to be severe not only for Gregg Williams but for the Saints. After all, Goodell has been trying to make the league a kinder, gentler place and the NFL's investigation turned up what we already knew — that players who knock out opposing players get rewarded financially. With lawsuits coming concerning the concussion issue and player safety being a high priority, you have to think Goodell is going to send a message. The interesting thing is that St. Louis, where Williams is employed, could be penalized for something it didn't do because Williams will likely face a suspension.

16. Golf's majors can't get here fast enough. Now that Rory McIlroy is No. 1 in the world and playing better than anyone on the planet and Tiger Woods seems to be really close to being back after his 62 in the final round at the Honda, it looks like we're going to get quite a show at The Masters. We use to root for a Tiger vs. Phil Mickelson back nine at Augusta but now I think the highest drama would be to see McIlroy and Woods paired together and tied for the lead with nine to play.

17. The Tweet of the Week comes from my buddy and former Gainesville Sun columnist Mike Bianchi — “If I am Magic GM Otis Smith, I would contact John Calipari and UK immediately and offer Dwight Howard for Anthony Davis.” That young man is going to make a lot of money in the NBA. The amazing thing is that he has such a good offensive game and he's known for his defense.

18. One of my favorite things about a trip to New Orleans is taking an early morning walk down Bourbon Street. You never know what you might see as they are cleaning up from the previous night. So the iPod will be getting a workout this week at the SEC Tournament. Try these downloads — “Close to Nowhere” by Band of Skulls, “The Ancient Commonsense of Things” by Bishop Allen and the Back Nine remembers the late Davy Jones with my favorite from the wee lad “Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow).”

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at dooleyp@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

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