THE BACK NINE

Dooley: White has UF back on big stage


Published: Monday, March 20, 2017 at 4:34 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, March 20, 2017 at 4:34 p.m.

The Back Nine comes at you on one of those wild rides with a Gator basketball team. They are never not fun, but Orlando was a blast.

10. Mike White said something interesting Thursday evening after his Gators won his first NCAA Tournament game as a head coach. “I mean, Florida was going to get back, regardless of who's sitting right here,” he said. Some of us weren't so sure. It was nothing against White, but when you can go back to the days of Neal Walk and Gene Shy and have lived through Norm Sloan, John Lotz and Don Devoe, you know nothing is guaranteed when it comes to Florida basketball. The Billy Donovan Era was amazing, from his mercurial climb to his March slumps to the Oh-Fours to, well, you were around for most of it. But everything before it was a big collective underachievement with pockets of success, which is a nice way of saying Florida basketball was occasionally entertaining. Then came Billy and Florida turned into a power, but that didn't mean that without him it would continue. Donovan left on a downturn, a team that finished under .500. White inherited a bunch of guys who didn't sign up for him and it took a year to get everyone on the same page. No matter what happens the rest of this crazy ride through March Madness, White has done this — made Florida relevant again. And gained a bunch of fans in the process.

11. If I'm SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey and I'm in New York to see both Florida and South Carolina play Friday, I might stand in the middle of Madison Square Garden and shout, “How ya like me now?” Sankey has worked hard to get the SEC back to where it was many moons ago and his efforts have been rewarded. It still comes down to teams winning games, but the success of the SEC in this year's tournament is going to mean a lot of cash money for the league and its 14 teams over the next few years. Meanwhile, the ACC has only one team alive and North Carolina is barely dancing. Still, don't get any more judgmental about the leagues than you should over bowl season. They are different animals. All you can try to do is get as many teams in as possible and hope for the best, whether it be matchups, officials or breaks.

12. Here's what I have done with my bracket. At first, I ignored it like a girlfriend who's done me wrong. Then I begged it to take me back after the first two days. Now, well, now my plan is to waterboard it, set it on fire, drag it behind my car for a couple of miles and then toss it into a landfill. I know, it's not the fault of the bracket. It was so pretty and shiny when I first printed it out. Then I had to go and fill it in.

13. By the way, that's how I feel about MY bracket. I don't care about yours. I also don't care about your fantasy team or that you were walking here. Sorry, but if I'm going to spend a few days in New York City I have to practice at being a jerk. The brackets I do care about are the two that are at the top on ESPN. One of them has North Carolina winning it all. The other has Wisconsin. The latter person is not a big fan of Florida's right now. Neither is CBS Sports basketball guru Seth Davis, who inspired the Gators by picking them to lose to East Tennessee State in the first round. His ESPN bracket ranks in the bottom 16 percent of the country. I think I know where the term “so-called expert” comes from.

14. I have to admit I chuckled when I heard Monday that Tim Tebow will start this minor league baseball season in Columbia, S.C. Haven't those people suffered enough? I mean, Tebow basically won the Heisman Trophy in 2007 with his five rushing touchdown performance against the Gamecocks. And he scored the winning touchdown the year before in the famous blocked kick game. And he led Florida to 56 points in 2008 against South Carolina. And he threw a 68-yard TD pass as a senior in Columbia. At least I know I can sleep at night knowing Tebow has a team. And because Tom Brady's jerseys have been discovered. Whew!

15. Florida's baseball team is having trouble winning on the road, which is exactly where the Gators are going to find themselves in the postseason if they can't turn it around. I'm not seeing a lot of resilience or fight from this team and I'm certainly not seeing a lot of adjustments at the plate, hence the .240 team batting average. Hey, guys, it's OK to sit on a pitch and take it the other way. Instead, I see too many big swings, everyone trying to hit an eight-run homer. And it doesn't help that Williston's Austin Langworthy is out for a month after surgery on a broken bone in his wrist. I don't know if it's junior-itis, but something is wrong with this team and they had better turn it around with LSU coming to town this weekend.

16. Or you can simply turn your attention to a softball team that is 26-1 with a .327 batting average and an 0.56 ERA. It's going to start to get really interesting for Tim Walton's club when they face Auburn this weekend, but it's another great start to the season.

17. The Tweet of the Week comes from the great Jamie Lee Curtis and it was directed at Vanderbilt player Matthew Fisher-Davis after his gaffe in the first round — “The measure of a man or woman is the ability 2 make a mistake & own it & move on. U r human and talented. Bravo on a great effort.” I thought that was really nice of her to reach out to him like that.

18. Oh, boy, New York City in March. Gotta pack well (and warm) and that will include this playlist for the flight:

* “Feels Like Summer” by Weezer.

* “Hot Thoughts” by Spoon.

* “Manchuria” by Pinback.

* “Don't Worry About Me” by Frances.

* And for a real oldie, “She'd Rather Be With Me” by The Turtles.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at pat.dooley@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

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