Back Nine: UF gets good NCAA draw
Published: Tuesday, March 19, 2013 at 11:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, March 18, 2013 at 11:14 p.m.
The Back Nine comes at you after a long week in Nashville at the SEC Tournament. I still think the tournament should be in the Music City every year.
10. Now we know where Florida is going to play in the NCAA Tournament. When the regional sites were announced, I was hoping for Austin. Thank you very much. And, yes, it's all about me. When you start one of these journeys you have no idea how far it will go. That's the beauty of it. I think Florida got a good draw even though there was some outcry that a team that won a weak league shouldn't be a three seed.
That's preposterous if you watched any basketball this season. The Gators' loss in the SEC Tournament final was a tough one, especially because of the obnoxious behavior of Marshall Henderson. But to lose at the buzzer in a game where Erik Murphy and Scottie Wilbekin went 6-for-22 and Patric Young scored three points tells you the Gators have a chance to make a deep run. Florida is good enough to make the Final Four and shaky enough (especially at the free-throw line) to not escape the first weekend. Still, this is 13 trips to the Big Dance for the Gators under Billy Donovan. Florida had four prior to his arrival. The Gators have won 28 NCAA Tournament games under Donovan.
11. OK, I've filled out my bracket. Just one. I think it should be a law that you can't fill out more than one. I have Florida losing in the Sweet 16. I have Louisville and Miami playing for the national title. One of the interesting teams is Ole Miss. When you have an inside game like they have to complement the outside shooting of Henderson, you have a chance. But what you don't know is the mindset of the Rebels. They won the SEC Tournament, but this is still a team that lost to a miserable Mississippi State team and an awful South Carolina team. Ole Miss had a huge advantage in Nashville in terms of fans. Not only did they travel surprisingly well, they had Kentucky fans rooting against the Gators. Nashville is 230 miles from Oxford and even Ole Miss football coach Hugh Freeze made it to the final. Kansas City is 536 miles away. It will be interesting to see how the fans there react to Henderson. They may embrace him and root for the underdog or they may mind his boorish behavior and root for him to fail.
12. Speaking of mindsets, how pumped up will Kentucky be for a road game at Robert Morris where the gym seats all of 3,000 fans? And knowing that Louisville is playing in Rupp Arena. The Wildcats have enough talent to go all the way to Madison Square Garden if they want to. But who knows how much they want to? They certainly didn't look like a team that wanted to win in Nashville despite having the usual Big Blue Sea of fans. The egg they laid at the SEC Tournament was stunning. The other SEC teams in the NIT — Alabama and Tennessee — are also good enough to make a deep run but, again, it's all about how much they care.
13. Obviously, the SEC getting only three teams in the NCAA Tournament is a bit of an embarrassment for the league. Not that it was a surprise. I called it three weeks ago, but I had Kentucky in instead of Ole Miss. Somehow, some way, this league needs to figure out how to play in November and December. The losses suffered then cost the SEC because the perception was formed that it wasn't a very good league. And it wasn't. Donovan made that point on Sunday. He talked about how much better all of those bubble teams are now. But it didn't matter because of what happened during football season. With the exception of Kentucky, fans just don't show up around the SEC in November and December negating homecourt advantage. And the teams in this league have to understand that they have to schedule tougher games in the non-conference season.
14. Charles Barkley got killed on Twitter after he said on CBS that the Mountain West is better than the Big Ten. And he should have been. But I don't think a Big Ten team will make the Final Four. I think they have beaten each other up so much they won't have enough left. I know Tom Izzo said he'd rather play the Lakers than another Big Ten team and I get that. Sometimes a tough season can make you ready for the tournament, but sometimes it can wear you down. We'll see.
15. When did the NFL become Major League Baseball? There's so much movement in free agency these days you have a hard team keeping track of it. I don't blame the players, who have to cash in when they have the chance. And do the Cincinnati Bengals and Jacksonville Jaguars know that free agency started? I will be interested to see the Jags' draft with a new general manager. The reason they are in such a hole is because of a series of botched draft picks. Jacksonville hasn't drafted an SEC player since 2008. Uh, hello.
16. Did anyone in the country have a better day Sunday than Lauren Haeger? The Florida softball star belted a three-run homer to tie the game against Tennessee, a two-run homer to win it on a walk-off and got the win with hitless relief in the circle. Hand it to Tim Walton, who dealt with a difficult end to last season and has the Gators looking like a trip to Oklahoma City is not out of the question.
17. The Tweet of the Week is from college sports blogger Kevin McGuire — “Last time there were no teams from Texas in NCAA Tournament there were 32 teams and a third-place game. Also, Space Invaders one year away.” That's pretty amazing.
18. Hey, since we're going to be in Austin do you think they could have a special edition of “Austin City Limits” for the media. Just asking. Try these downloads — “Gotta Get Over It” by Eric Clapton, “Stubborn Love” by The Lumineers (and they killed it on Saturday Night Live) and for a classic cut “The Story In Your Eyes” by the Moody Blues.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at email@example.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.