Back Nine: Too much time left to declare UF SEC hoops champ
Published: Tuesday, February 26, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, February 25, 2013 at 9:13 p.m.
The Back Nine comes at you after a weekend of way too much time on the recliners in the Dooley Dome. Like I needed to watch every game, the 500, the Match Play and the Oscars on Sunday?
10. After Florida's win over Arkansas on Saturday night, I was going to write about how we will look back at Feb. 23 as the day the Gators won the 2013 SEC basketball championship. But I'm old enough to know better. Sure, the win coupled with Alabama's loss gave Florida a two-game lead with four to play and I still like UF's chances, but we all know that it's not over because of Florida's back-loaded schedule and the injuries to Billy Donovan's team. I don't like their chances tonight at Tennessee with only six proven players and the Vols red hot. Remember back in October when Donovan proclaimed Tennessee to be the team to beat in the league?
There was a reason for that. It does seem like we've been here before with Cuonzo Martin (like, oh, last year) when Tennessee is dismissed early and makes a strong run late for an NCAA Tournament berth. The Vols lost four games in a 12-day span in January that could have ruined their season. But they have clawed their way back onto the bubble. Tennessee may need to win out and win a game or two in Nashville at the SEC Tournament, but the Vols have a chance and that makes them even more dangerous tonight. Florida will have to defend and — here's a novel idea — make some free throws. The Gators rank 13th out of 14 teams in league games only in free-throw percentage.
11. If I had to bet (although gambling is illegal at Bushwood, sir), I'd have Florida, Missouri and Kentucky going to the NCAA Tournament when it's all said and done. I think one thing that is going to kill Ole Miss is its strength of schedule (145th) and I think Tennessee is one loss away from being eliminated. But we'll see. The league would love an upstart team like an LSU or Georgia to win the tournament and add another team to the mix. And there's always the chance Ole Miss or Tennessee or even Alabama could win out. But there is also the chance that all of the bubble teams could flop down the stretch and the league could end up with two teams. Remember the good old days? From 1999-2008, the SEC had six teams in the tournament eight times and five in the other two. Since then, the league is averaging four teams in the tournament. Hmm, the conference's NCAA issues have coincided with its dominance in college football. Any connection? At any rate, I'm not sure the league has had so many bad teams as it does this year (three of them have an RPI of 200 or worse). It's amazing to see how far Mississippi State has fallen. The Bulldogs have lost 11 straight games and the average margin of defeat during that stretch is 24.6 points per game. Yikes.
12. Now that I've bashed the league, let me say that Saturday was one of the most enjoyable days I've had watching regular-season basketball in a long time thanks to the SEC. The league played nine overtimes in four games. That's the first time since 1979 that four league games went to OT. The LSU-Alabama game would be all everyone was talking about Monday if it had been in the NCAA Tournament. It was high drama.
13. It was a lost weekend for the Florida baseball team. We knew this would be a team that struggled, especially early. But I don't think anyone thought it would be this bad. I've said this before, but I think college baseball coaches have it the toughest of any sport because they can lose players to the pro draft two ways. It all comes down to hitting on your classes. For example, in 2009, everyone showed up. Guys who I think will eventually be in the majors like Mike Zunino came to school and helped Florida go to three straight College World Series. But the combination of those guys all leaving a year early and the incoming class getting decimated by the pros has left Florida short on talent. That said, these young players will get better and Kevin O'Sullivan has the No. 1 recruiting class coming in next year. If it shows up.
14. Words I never thought I would say — “Hey, can you put the race on?” On Sunday, I had to wait an extra half-hour for Kelsey's volleyball practice and found a place with a TV so I could watch the finish of the Daytona 500. I'm not a NASCAR guy and that will likely be the last race I watch until next year, but I am annually fascinated by the sport's Super Bowl. The Danica Patrick presence made it even more watchable and Fox's ratings were up 30 percent from last year's mess. The cool thing about Sunday was we got to see two Super Bowls — the 500 and the Oscars. And count me among those who thought Seth MacFarlane was hilarious. If you hire the guy who created “Family Guy” and “Ted,” you have to understand what you're getting.
15. Despite the bad weekend for the Gator baseball team, it was a really good weekend for Florida athletics. Special kudos go out to the men's swimming team for winning the SEC title and ending Auburn's long winning streak. And to women's tennis for its big win over Stanford. And to Amanda Butler's team for finding a way to win a close game.
16. My one trip to Indianapolis for the NFL Combine in 2010 was incredibly productive, but it won't bother me if it was my only trip there. Too much sitting around doing nothing. It is surprising how much more comfortable players are in the mass interview sessions than they were in college. They'll say anything, as we saw with LSU's Sam Montgomery. “You know, some weeks when we didn't have to play the harder teams, there were some times when effort was not needed,” Montgomery said at the combine. “But when we had the big boys coming in, the Bamas or the South Carolinas, I grabbed close to those guys and went all out.” Hmm.
17. The Tweet of the Week goes to Jeff Howe, who covers the New England Patriots for the Boston Herald — “Florida safety Matt Elam is a personable kid, loves being a versatile player who can play special teams and in the slot. Hello, Patriots.” It's nice to see Elam let his personality come out. We saw it a bit in New Orleans, but for most of his Florida career he was pretty closed off. He runs his 40 today. By the way, Jordan Reed ran a 4.72 and Sharrif Floyd a 4.87.
18. I love my satellite radio, but my favorite channel — The Spectrum — plays way too much Talking Heads and U2. Anyway, try these downloads: “What Would I Do Without You” by Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors, “Upstarts” by Johnny Mann and a classic cut that I heard for the first time in 100 years Saturday “Hocus Pocus” by Focus.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.