Back Nine: UF winning the SEC still a big accomplishment
Published: Tuesday, March 5, 2013 at 7:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, March 4, 2013 at 6:20 p.m.
The Back Nine comes at you after a morning where I had to scrape frost off my car's front window. What is this? Wisconsin?
10. Before Billy Donovan came to Florida, the Gators won one SEC regular-season championship. Under Donovan, they have won or shared five. The fifth came Saturday with a little help from Arkansas. It's just another example of why Donovan will one day be in the Hall of Fame. And I'm not sure there has been a more impressive SEC title than this one because of all the injuries the Gators have endured. Sure, the SEC is down. But it's still one heck of an achievement. There has been no doubt during this season that Florida is the best team in the SEC, especially when it plays like a team. But it's still difficult to win the title with an 18-game schedule. SEC championships still mean something around here and Florida can make it an outright title with a win Wednesday night against Vanderbilt (not that the trophy is any smaller if you share it). It's also Senior Night Wednesday and it will be emotional because of what Kenny Boynton and Erik Murphy have meant to this program over the last four years. Remember that when they came to UF, the Gators had been to consecutive NITs. They'll finish their careers with two SEC titles and four straight NCAA appearances. And they already have six NCAA Tournament wins under their belts. I'm not taking anything away from Mike Rosario, who is also a senior. But Boynton and Murphy have been the glue that has produced a 45-19 SEC record over the last four years. Only Kentucky has had a better record during those five years at 51-13 and the Wildcats have a lot more NBA first-round picks during that span.
11. Does anybody in the conference besides Florida and Missouri want to get into the tournament? Saturday was crippling for the SEC because all of the bubble teams lost unless you consider Arkansas a bubble team, which I'm not buying yet. The worst loss was Ole Miss falling to Mississippi State, which had lost 13 straight games and had been embarrassed in almost every one of those losses. You lose to South Carolina and Mississippi State this season and it's difficult for me to consider you an NCAA team. Despite those losses, Joe Lunardi has Tennessee in and Jerry Palm has both Kentucky and Tennessee in. The Wildcats have to win at Georgia and beat Florida if they are going to get in. If Tennessee wins out, it will mean a win over Missouri, which would help. But I think the Vols still have to do some damage in the SEC Tournament to get in. The tournament should be entertaining because there could be as many as five teams trying to play their way into March Madness. But I'm sticking with my prediction that three SEC teams make the field.
12. Watching the Duke-Miami game Saturday night left me with one thought — I could see either one of those teams winning the whole thing. Miami's rally late in a game that appeared lost was one reason, Ryan Kelly was the other. I doubt if he's going to score 36 points again this season, but that show was high drama. I don't envy the selection committee trying to figure out the No. 1 seeds because right now you could make an argument for about seven teams. And one of them is Florida. The Gators need to win at Kentucky on Saturday for that to happen and then at least reach the final of the SEC Tournament. My head is so full of speculation and bubble watching and anticipation and excitement I think it's going to explode. That's the beauty of this time of year.
13. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski brought up the dangers of storming the court last week after his team went through its fourth storming of the season. I've never been a fan of it whether it be football or basketball ever since a fan used my shoulder as a hoist to storm the court in Columbia, S.C., many moons ago. I also understand the people who say it's part of college basketball. The SEC, of course, has financial penalties for the act and it would be great if all conferences penalized schools who won't control their fans. Unfortunately, something really bad is going to have to happen before people take it seriously.
14. I've been quick to criticize Florida fans for walking out of tight basketball games or not showing up for big events. I also know we live in a different world now where everything is on TV. I say all of this because I think Gator fans need to be commended for this weekend. Not only did they show how difficult it can be to play in the O'Connell Center, but those fans who braved frigid conditions to show up for the baseball team's three-game series against Miami deserve a free hot chocolate or something. I was there Friday night and it was brutal. And give the Gators credit for taking two of three from the Hurricanes. After Friday night's game you could tell there wasn't a lot of difference between the two teams. Maybe this will get the Gators going in the right direction.
15. I was tweeting this weekend about things that I think are overrated. One of them is certainly Bracketology in February. But at least it's entertaining. The other is players dropping or rising on the big boards of the so-called experts. The reason it's overrated is that so many NFL teams put out false information hoping a player will drop to them in the draft. The latest is Georgia's Jarvis Jones. If you pass on him, you will regret it. Trust me on that.
16. You may have missed this over the weekend, but former UF golfer Billy Horschel had one of the great rebound rounds of the golf season at the Honda Classic. He was in the mix after two rounds but rode the double-bogey train to an 81 on Saturday. He came back Sunday to shoot a 70 and is now 43rd on the money list with $362,124. Former UF golfer Brian Gay is still in the top 10 at ninth with $1.1 million.
17. The Tweet of the Week comes from USA Today's Dan Wolken — “Hopefully the NCAA will look at eliminating the First Four after this year. Last four bids are a joke, and the event isn't the NCAA Tourney.” I am in agreement on this for the most part and I have given the NCAA alternative ways to conduct the First Four that would spark more interest. But when I see a projected First Four that includes Kentucky and Tennessee as No. 12 seeds, I get a lot more interested. I wonder if Wildcat fans are already buying tickets for Dayton.
18. Two things happened this weekend that changed my musical life. First, I discovered Spotify. Second, I revived my old iPod and the 1,200 songs that are on it. Try these downloads this week — “Sweetest Thing” by The Rifles, “Hear or Anywhere” by The Lovely Bad Things and for the old-school in you “Peace Train” by Cat Stevens.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.