Back Nine: It's good to be back


Published: Tuesday, January 29, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 29, 2013 at 12:07 a.m.

The Back Nine comes at you from my desk at The Sun, which is a major milestone after hip surgery. I still have a ways to go and I'm going to miss being treated like an infant by my wife and daughter. But every step toward normal (well, normal for me) is a giant step.

10. It's the goal of every college basketball coach and it's easier preached than accomplished. You want your guys to understand that they are a five-headed monster on the court working as one, but it doesn't always work out that way. Sometimes it's egos, sometimes it's friction between teammates, sometimes it's a player wanting to do too much. We've seen it before all over the landscape of college basketball and certainly at Florida. People talk about chemistry but it's more than just guys liking each other. I have a lot of friends who can't play a lick and if you put five of us out there on the court it would be a disaster. The point of this is that I believe one reason that Florida has been so successful to this point in the season is that these guys like playing with each other. “The biggest thing we've tried to talk about is everyone using each other's skills based on the defense they're facing,” Billy Donovan said. “Get more pleasure from what's open, who's open. It's hard for some guys. The ego part, they don't have to be selfish, but when things aren't going well they want to inject themselves into it.” A perfect example is Kenny Boynton, who came back for his senior season. Boynton is leading the team in scoring, but not because he is forcing shots. Instead, he's waiting for the right opportunities to shoot and is finding open teammates. In Florida's six SEC games, Boynton has 18 assists and four turnovers.

11. Whenever any of the talking heads discuss Florida on a national scale they always talk about how the SEC is down. There is no question the league isn't very good this year, but I don't see other teams winning by 20 every night out. The bottom line is that Florida has to take care of Florida and not worry about what anybody else is doing. UF is now fifth in RPI and is 4-2 against RPI top 50 teams and 7-2 against the top 100. As bad as the league is, Florida still has half of its remaining regular-season games against top-100 teams.

12. How many of you thought Jim Larranaga was an odd hire at Miami? How many of you wondered if he was going there to retire? The former George Mason coach has done an amazing job with the Hurricanes, who are currently third in the nation in RPI. It's an actual event now in Miami

when the 'Canes are playing basketball and that's something I never thought I would see.

13. Is it possible that Florida helped Alabama humble Notre Dame in the BCS National Championship Game? I'm hearing that after Florida's loss to Louisville, Nick Saban addressed his team and pointed out that it's easy to underestimate an opponent and Florida was an example of what could happen. His team had watched enough video of Notre Dame to know that the Tide was the superior team, but going in with that attitude can kill a team. Not only did Saban have this year's Florida Sugar Bowl game to use as an example, but also his own 2009 Sugar Bowl loss to Utah to use as another. Saban asked Florida coach Will Muschamp in the days after the loss to Louisville if he saw signs of a problem. Muschamp did not. But he saw it on the first play of the game when the Gators ran a play they had repped over and over only to see Jordan Reed line up on the wrong side of the field. The tight end played sparingly the rest of the game. That's the thing — different players play differently when they know they are going pro. Sharrif Floyd played his tail off in his last game as a Gator. Reed checked out.

14. I can't remember a Super Bowl where I could care less who wins it. Nothing against either team, but usually there is either a team I kind of like or a team I kind of don't like, so it's easy to know who I'm rooting for in the big game. This year, I mean, we have two brothers going against each other. Which Harbaugh do you prefer? Sheesh. I guess I'll watch for the commercials and root for whichever team is behind.

15. While I was out, the whole Lance Armstrong thing broke. My wife asked me if I felt betrayed because I defended him when he was being accused. I felt a little duped but, really, how much do I know about blood doping and cycling? Someone also asked me why I was still wearing my yellow LiveStrong bracelet. Hey, I'm still for fighting to find a cure for cancer. While Armstrong embarrassed himself and let down a lot of people, let us not forget the good that he has done in raising money for the fight. That can't be ignored nor its impact diminished.

16. It's been a rough start to the year at my house and I can't thank readers and friends enough for all of the well wishes. Unfortunately, we had to put down our dog Delilah on Sunday. She was a rescue dog who had the weirdest rare disease — her body quit producing protein. As a result, the top half of her body was a skeleton and bottom filled with fluids. She lasted way longer than she should have and we probably waited longer than we should have because she brought so much love into our home. We all miss her.

17. The Tweet of the Week comes from my favorite college basketball analyst and a must-follow Jay Bilas — “Love college hoop officiating. Clutch, grab and body up all you want on defense, then call an illegal screen on offense for a slight lean.” I don't know which game he was watching at the time. Could have been any of them. Don't get me started on college basketball officiating. We'll be here all day.

18. I went 16 days without driving or listening to my iPhone and the latter seems silly when I look back on it. At any rate, it's time to get the music going again. Try the 10,000 Maniacs version of “Peace Train,” “You Never Need Nobody” by The Love Bellow and for the old school in you “Dirty Work” by Steely Dan.

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