Back Nine: UConn's title proves regular season doesn't mean much

The Connecticut Huskies celebrate after winning the NCAA Championship game at AT&T Stadium on Monday in Arlington, Texas. The Huskies defeated Kentucky 60-54.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Tuesday, April 8, 2014 at 7:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, April 8, 2014 at 12:50 p.m.

The Back Nine comes at you, yes, still in Texas and ready to come home. It’s been a great ride but the one I’m looking forward to will be from the Gainesville Airport.

10. College basketball is never bigger than it is at a Final Four. But the powers that be know that it’s not until March and April that people start to really pay attention. It was interesting to hear Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby suggest reducing basketball to a one semester sport and shorten the season. I don’t think that is going to solve basketball’s identity crisis. What we had in the national final was simply another reason not to pay attention until March. UConn loses to Louisville three times, once by 33 points, and makes it to the final. Kentucky loses three times to Florida and loses at South Carolina and makes the final. It’s what you do in March (and April) that matters. I’m not saying the regular season doesn’t matter but it doesn’t matter to a lot of people. UConn is the perfect example of that. Who thought the Huskies had a chance to be the national champs when the bracket was announced? But they played their best basketball when it was the most important. I think it helped that some of their players had been through this before, even if they were just freshmen when UConn won it all in 2011. Just knowing what to expect is an advantage.

11. If nothing else, this tournament showed us that we need to take it seriously when someone says to pick teams with excellent guard play. It’s not only important for those guards to be scoring, but to be strong defensively as well. And that’s why Kasey Hill needs to have an incredible offseason for Florida to be a special team again next season. He has to get stronger and smarter and the soft-spoken one has to learn how to be a leader. It’ll help that he’ll have Eli Carter as well. Florida is going to be just fine next year. It’s probably not going to win 30 consecutive games, but who is?

12. So the North Texas Final Four is over. Nobody wants to hear about the media issues such as 1:45 waits for the shuttle or seats where you couldn’t see parts of the floor or being forced to stay two extra days even if your team is eliminated. My biggest problems with the games at AT&T Stadium was the parking (up to $100 per space) and the fact that there were so many bad seats that people paid a week’s wages to get. There were a lot of seats where the fans could only see one basket. But it was a grand spectacle. Sitting there at my seat for the Florida-UConn game I did pause to look around and drink it all in. The Final Four is the NCAA at its greedy best, but I consider myself a lucky man to be at four of them now. Thanks, Billy.

13. Days later, people are still trying to explain the funk that seemed to envelop Florida in its loss. I’m just speculating, but I do think this team was mentally drained. The target was on their backs since early February and I think they were mentally drained by it all. For a team with a small margin for error, not being mentally sharp was a killer. Still, these seniors will always have the three SEC titles and one SEC tournament title and they will always be known as a Final Four team. So they have that going for them.

14. Boy, those Kentucky bats can sure fluff up a team’s earned run average. Florida gave up 36 runs in losing two out of three in Lexington. Still, the Gators are tied for the SEC East lead and have an RPI of 8th in the nation. It doesn’t get any easier this week with a game at Florida State tonight and three at South Carolina this weekend. Both teams have records of 26-5.

15. The timing of the Masters is so perfect. Basketball season is over and we can slide right into the best golf tournament in the world. It’s a shame Tiger Woods won’t be there, but Billy Horschel and Matt Every will be so we’ll have Gators back in the “toonimint.” I need to make a pick on the record (not that I’m ever right except when Tiger was almost unbeatable). I’m going to go with Rory McIlroy. I know, you’ll take the field. I just think McIlroy is ready.

16. I have been on a hundred radio shows in the last four weeks and every one of them closes with a question about spring football. Because of basketball, I haven’t seen a second of it, but here’s what I’m looking for in Saturday’s spring game:. 1. Speed on the edge on defense; 2. A lot of deep passes just for the heck of it; 3. Improvement from Kelvin Taylor. We all know you can’t take anything away from spring games, but I think it’s important for these Gators to finish the spring on a positive note. In other words, just have a good practice. It’ll be nice just to be able to get multiple questions in after the game after dealing with the media frenzy at the Final Four.

17. The Tweet of the Week comes from legendary golf writer Ron Sirak of Golf Digest and Golf World — “Some storm-related humor from the Masters. Knock-knock. Who's there? Augusta. Augusta who? A gust a wind knocked me over.” They had quite a storm at the Masters on Monday. That’s enough, OK?

18. I managed to get some workouts in between writing and riding buses and found these downloads for you — “Look What You’ve Done” by Jet, “Home Is Not Places” by The Apache Relay and for an oldie and because a Gator fan on the plane ride out suggested I put some Dylan in here “Every Grain of Sand” by Bob Dylan.

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

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