Back Nine: Kentucky vs. Florida in the title game is inevitable

Florida and Kentucky could meet for the fourth time this season in the NCAA title game if they both win semifinal games on Saturday.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer/File
Published: Tuesday, April 1, 2014 at 7:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, March 31, 2014 at 10:05 p.m.

The Back Nine comes at you after getting home and looking at my yard and knowing that it will be awhile before I get it where I want it. Can't landscape from North Texas.

10. You know it's coming. You know it's going to be the Final Fourth. UConn and Wisconsin are mere sidebars. It's going to be Kentucky and Florida again. I started feeling that way after the Wildcats beat Wichita State. It's inevitable. You think it's hard to beat a team three times? How about four? Kentucky had to do it twice in 1986. They swept Alabama and LSU in the regular season and conference tournament, but had to play them again in the NCAA tournament. The 'Cats beat Alabama, but lost to LSU in the Elite Eight. It's coming. Get ready for it. And I guarantee the Big Blue Nation wants another shot at the mighty Gators. I know, we're not supposed to look ahead and UConn is playing great. And I know Wisconsin is playing great. But in the pit of your stomach, you know it's coming. Brace for it.

11. So the SEC, which was a terrible conference, has half the teams in the Final Four and had another lose in the Sweet 16 on a questionable call. Man, think if the league had been any good. The critics will point out that the league was top-heavy, but I think the league toughened these teams up for the postseason. It was like going through some really tough fighters to get to the title bout. Here's my question — do you think Kentucky fans will root for Florida because they want to cheer for the SEC and want another shot at the Gators or do you think they don't want any part of UF and have a deep hatred for the team that has beaten them three times this year? Gosh, you'd think going 21-0 would be enough, but Florida may well have to win 22 straight games against the SEC to cut down a fourth pair of nets. This is big for the league not only financially (the league has already picked up 11 units of cash for the 11 wins in the tournament in the NCAA's system of awarding shares), but it's a huge boost for a conference that is trying so hard for hoops respectability.

12. I think it's important to point out I had half the teams right in my bracket. I had Florida and Wisconsin making it, so I have that going for me. I'll take a check for half a billion, Mr. Buffett. No? This tournament has been one of the best I've seen. The funny thing is the only team that hasn't played a game that came down to the wire is Florida. The Gators' average margin of victory in their four wins has been 12.3 points. I know, the games all felt closer than that, but Florida has a knack for pulling away from teams late. The SEC tournament, where Florida was tied with Missouri at the half and then beat Tennessee and Kentucky by a total of eight points, was actually tougher than the NCAA tournament so far. Which takes me back to my earlier point.

13. You might think Florida has an advantage because the Gators spent a week in Dallas/Arlington/North Texas last year to play in the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight. But Kentucky also played in the Jerry Dome early this season against Baylor, and UConn visited the arena before its game against SMU. All in all, Billy Donovan said Monday, it's pretty irrelevant because they'll practice there Thursday and have a shootaround Friday. “I think that we have more than enough time to get ourselves acquainted and familiar with the building in terms of being in there,” he said. “I think anytime you play in that kind of Dome setting, it is a little bit different. That place is as big of a place as I've ever been into. It's a gorgeous building. But it will be for us a situation where we have enough time that we can get prepared to play in that building with the opportunity the NCAA gives us to shoot and workout and practice there.” It's hardly an ideal setting for a basketball tournament, but that's not what the Final Four is about. It's about selling as many tickets as possible.

14. I'm not a big baseball fan, but I'm as much a sucker for opening day as baseball purists. The games seem so much more important on the first day of the season. You know when they don't? On the second day of the season.

15. As good as the week was for the Florida basketball team, how good was it for Kevin O'Sullivan? A second straight win over Florida State and then a sweep over LSU. The Gators might be the only SEC team to beat LSU ace Austin Nola this season. I said it before that this team appears to have that clutch gene that was lacking last year. The amazing thing is that they are tied for the SEC lead (I know, it's early) despite being 12th in the conference in hitting and 11th in pitching.

16. While the wonderful people at Stop Children's Cancer are enjoying this UF run as much as anyone, the timing isn't great for their gala, the big event of the year for the great charity. It will take place during the Final Four semifinal games with Florida still alive. It's such a wonderful event that I hate to miss, but they've told me they will have the games on TVs there at the O'Connell Center. I encourage everyone to support it. Who knew when they scheduled it that Florida would be playing at 6:09 p.m. Saturday?

17. The Tweet of the Week (and there were plenty to choose from) comes from ESPN's Jay Williams, the former Duke star — “Best part about the NCAA tournament is that you never know. Every bracket has been wrong and it's beautiful. Love this game.” That's exactly how I feel.

18. I heard a lot of great music and a lot of really bad music (such as hammered Dayton fans singing karaoke) in Memphis. In one place I went, there was a dude playing electric acoustic guitar who was phenomenal. Played some Dave Matthews and Tom Petty. Anyway, I did find time to download a few songs. Try “Shadow People” by Dr. Dog, “Low Rising” by The Swell Season and for a deep, old album cut “The Turn of a Friendly Card” by The Alan Parsons Project.

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

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