Back Nine: NCAA tournament predictions and Georgia Dome farewell

Florida forward Will Yeguete (15) and center Patric Young (4) celebrate after beating Kentucky 61-60 to win the SEC Tournament on Sunday.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer/File
Published: Tuesday, March 18, 2014 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, March 17, 2014 at 9:13 p.m.

The Back Nine comes at you in the middle of another one of these basketball runs that make this a special time of the year. What did we do before Billy Donovan arrived?

10. Count me satisfied with the bracket the NCAA Selection Committee put together. In fact, I think it’s one of the best brackets I can remember. If I’ve learned anything it’s that there are always going to be surprises, but complaining never does anyone any good. And to every team that looks at its draw and says, “It’s hard,” well, guess what? It’s supposed to be hard. If you don’t like your seed, Louisville, play better teams in the non-conference. If you don’t like your seed, Michigan State, don’t lose eight games. If you don’t like your seed, Kentucky, beat somebody (or switch conferences). If you’re peeved that you didn’t get in, you weren’t going to win it anyway. I’ve said it before — the best thing about the NCAA tournament is that the complaining and criticizing lasts about 48 hours and then we’re playing ball and nobody cares.

11. My bracket? I had to throw it together quickly because Sunday was a new experience. Instead of covering the SEC final and watching the Selection Show back in the hotel, we were watching it out of the corners of our eyes because it was happening while Florida’s players and Billy Donovan were at the podium being interviewed. I seriously thought about not putting Florida in my Final Four for one reason — the mental grind these players have been dealing with for so long. It has to be taxing, doesn’t it? But I really like Florida’s bracket. I really believe if the Gators can get past the Colorado-Pitt winner they can make it to Dallas. Really going out on a limb there picking the nation’s No. 1 team to make the Final Four, eh? Wait until you see the rest of my Final Four.

12. I have Wichita State, which is a 1 seed which nobody thinks will make it. And I have Iowa State, if only because everyone else is picking Michigan State. And I have Wisconsin. I think Arizona is going down in its second game and I believe there aren’t any great teams in the West regional. Should I throw this bracket away now? Two pieces of advice when filling yours out. Look for teams with coaches and point guards and don’t let conference tournaments sway your thinking. Things are totally different when you’re playing against teams you know well.

13. The SEC? Please, don’t ask me how Kentucky will do. Do they take confidence away from the SEC tournament? “It was a big confidence booster,” Aaron Harrison said after the one-point loss to Florida. Or do the Wildcats continue to frustrate their fans? Does Julius Randle play like a lottery pick or like he did against Florida (four points in 29 minutes)? Seriously, who knows? I think Tennessee might actually win more games than Kentucky. The Vols will be a load for Iowa and then UMass.

14. The last SEC tournament in the Georgia Dome was interesting, but good riddance. It’s an awful place to hold a conference tournament and I had forgotten how bad it is. A lot of it is the little things like the sign at the Georgia Dome that said “Gates open at 6 p.m., Kickoff at 7 p.m.” Or the fact the hotel where Florida was staying didn’t get the early round games on TV. And it’s just too big.

15. Make it stop. I know the NFL is The King but this constant bombardment of free agency analysis is giving me a headache. I’m one of those fans who just wants to wait until it’s over to see where everyone ended up. Don’t forget that, for the most part, teams are filling holes rather than signing players who will drastically impact next season. But the NFL has found a way to make its sport a year-round story with the help of ESPN.

16. If it feels like the Florida baseball team is having trouble scoring runs, the Gators are (tied for last in the SEC). But it’s not going to get any better. Not in this league. Florida has a team ERA of 3.13. Pretty good, huh? In the late 1990s you might go undefeated with an ERA like that. But that ERA is 12th in the league. There are four teams with ERAs under 2.00. And, by the way, I had several conversations this weekend with Ray Tanner, the former South Carolina baseball coach who is now the athletic director. He’s a really great guy. We were talking about David Eckstein and Tanner told me a story about coaching a USA national team and when he arrived a coach told him not to evaluate one of the players based on tangibles and just take his word that he could play. The player was Dustin Pedroia.

17. The Tweet of the Week comes from Matt Zemek, who is a must-follow from — “Do not give the NCAA the satisfaction of knowing its stupid labels are adhered to. If you're writing stories, say ‘round of 64/round of 32.’ “ OK, good advice. I have a hard time calling the first game Florida will play “the second round.” And I still think they’d be better off playing the First Four games in cities that are already hosting regionals. But that’s just me.

18. I tried to get down to the workout room as much as possible in Atlanta. OK, I know where it is anyway. Try these downloads — “Talking Backwards” by Real Estate, Capital Cities’ electronic version of “Nothing Compares 2 U” and for a deep, old album cut “Dear Eloise” by The Hollies.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at And follow at

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