Back Nine: Donovan, draw reasons for Gators' success
Published: Tuesday, March 26, 2013 at 6:30 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, March 25, 2013 at 7:19 p.m.
ARLINGTON, Texas — The Back Nine comes at you after a long drive from Austin where I had a great lunch with my cousin Diane. Oh, and where Florida won twice.
10. When I first saw Florida's draw, I thought the Gators had a good one. Because if I've learned anything from Billy Donovan's runs in the NCAA Tournament — both the long and short ones — is that the early rounds are all about matchups. On Sunday, Donovan won his 30th NCAA Tournament game out of 40, which is pretty darn good. Think about this — since his struggles in the Big Dance from 2001-2005 (when he went 3-5), Donovan's Florida teams are 20-3 in the tournament. So as much as the postseason is about matchups, there is no question that Billy's experience in this tournament is a factor as well.
For one thing, I saw a coach who was on edge all weekend in Austin. And while this team has done some remarkable things this year and I'm sure back in Gainesville everyone is thrilled with the way they have played, the best thing the Gators have going for them is the guy on the sideline sucking down lozenges one after another.
11. After Florida's win over Minnesota, Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley was in a good mood. He is always a bundle of nerves before these games. He saw me in the hallway of the Frank Erwin Center after the Gators advanced to the Sweet 16 and said, “We won a close game. Write that. We won a close game.” And I told him that I'm the guy who thinks the close game stat is misleading and that I had been telling everyone that this week in Austin. But the truth is that Florida didn't win a close game. It won by 14. But there is a difference between winning a close game and a hard game. That was a hard game to win, especially when Minnesota made the run that cut it to seven and Andre Hollins couldn't miss. The two Alabama games were hard games. Florida played a lot of hard games this year. But for some reason, people get hung up on this “in games decided by five points or less” junk.
12. I got my first glimpse of the Jerry Jones Dome here in Arlington as we were looking for our hotel. (Why does Marriott always try to hide its Residence Inns?) It's quite impressive. I'm looking forward to seeing the inside. The stadium will host the Final Four next year and the NCAA always likes to give it a trial run with a regional the year before. It will be interesting to see how a team like Florida, which is so reliant on making 3-point shots, will fare in a spacious arena.
13. The Ohio State-Iowa State game has caused a lot of gnashing of teeth because of the missed call on the block by Ohio State's Aaron Craft. His right foot did appear to be in the restricted area, but I can see how the official missed it. The block/charge call is the second worst thing about college basketball. (The worst is the long delays while officials look at a monitor to see if a player accidentally touched another player with his elbow). The best way to make it less of an issue is to expand the restricted area. To halfcourt. I'm just tired of so many games being affected by a judgment call. Take the play out of basketball and it would be a better game with more scoring.
14. When I was watching Minnesota and UCLA playing in Austin, I had no idea I was watching two coaches who would be unemployed days later. I thought it might be a loser-leave-town game but I didn't think both Ben Howland and Tubby Smith would be fired. When he was asked about the possibility Saturday, Donovan said, “I don't know all the dynamics that go on inside another athletic department. So is it something that's greater or bigger than winning and losing? I don't know.” I took that as a reference to Howland because there have been so many off-the-court issues. I don't get the firing of Smith. He's a class act who would have had a really good team next year. Someone is going to inherit some real talent. But as Eamonn Brennan pointed out on ESPN.com, Smith's Minnesota teams were 15-29 in February when teams are supposed to be getting better.
15. So Tiger Woods has climbed all the way back to No. 1. And he looks like the guy to beat at Augusta. Is he back? Or does he have to win a major and restart the assault on Jack Nicklaus' record to be back? These are questions that we'll all be pondering for the next couple of weeks. But, man, is he golfing his ball right now.
16. So how's your bracket. Mine isn't that bad. I mean, it's not good enough to win anything (in the 94th percentile on ESPN which is good for 54,248th place) but I do have 10 of the Sweet 16 teams correct. I had Wichita State, Florida Gulf Coast, LaSalle, no, just kidding. Really, when people brag about their brackets, not only does the person they're bragging to not care but it could be totally made up.
17. The Tweet of the Week comes from Associated Press golf writer Doug Ferguson -- “Impressive about Tiger this year: No one ever got closer than two shots of him in the final round in all three of his wins.” Very impressive. And maybe it's more proof that he's all the way back. Nobody makes runs at him when he's ahead, which is what used to happen before, well, you know what.
18. Walking in the streets of Austin was an adventure. The sidewalks will grab you because they're so uneven and it's very hilly downtown. But the music was great. Try these downloads — “You're Gonna Miss Me” by The Band of Heathens (an Austin favorite), “Sad Night, Where is Morning?” by The Ocean Blue and for old schoolers “Bus Stop” by The Hollies.
Contact Pat Dooley, sports columnist at The Gainesville Sun and Gainesville Magazine, at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.