The Back Nine comes at you after a full weekend that included one of the best atmospheres ever at the O-Dome, a little softball and baseball series win over the hated Hurricanes and a lot more.
10. Let us start with the scandal that rocked college basketball. The biggest question out there isn’t how it will affect the NCAA Tournament. There will be 68 teams and there may not be a Sean Miller, but the impact will be more on the distant future of the sport than the more immediate one. Everyone has an answer and an opinion on what should be done. It’s just that nobody has a lot of confidence the NCAA will figure it out. There have been proposals to allow the players more opportunities to make money by signing things and retaining the rights to their likenesses for profit. Like that would keep agents from trying to bribe players, coaches and families. Gary Parrish, one of the best in the business from CBS Sports, suggested we just get rid of amateurism and let players get paid by agents while they are playing. That’s another answer that makes some sense, but would make the sport even sleazier. There is one thing I believe would help, but it’s not up to the NCAA. The one-and-done rule has created this culture. But it’s still up to the NBA to go to the model that college baseball uses. Why make kids go to college if they don’t want to? If they want to go to the pros out of high school, let them go. If they want to go to college, make them stay for three years. But don’t act like basketball is the only sport where agents are involved while players are still eligible.
11. But no matter what changes are made, there are always going to be coaches who cheat and agents and shoe companies who are paying under the table. I did like what Mark Fox of Georgia said when he pointed out that it needs to start with administrators who continue to hire coaches who have been involved with NCAA investigations. I’m guessing he was looking at Bruce Pearl. Fired for cheating, goes to Auburn, ends up in the middle of another cheating scandal. Who saw that coming?
12. Brandon Zimmerman of the SEC Network pointed out that teams in the SEC playing Saturday night games at home have a much better record than those playing day games on Saturdays and we saw evidence of that in Gainesville. Saturday night crowds are different. The energy in that building against Auburn was reflected on the court. It doesn’t hurt when someone hits a shot from three-quarters of the court. (KeVaughn Allen’s reaction to the make was the most calm in the building; he just turned and started walking to the locker room). That was as loud as I have ever heard it in the O-Dome and it carried over to the second half. Media boys may not like those late starts, but the fans take it to a different level.
13. Florida’s win might be all it takes to secure a bid in the NCAA Tournament, but feel free to add something else to the resume, fellas. Certainly, the opportunities are there with a game at Alabama and a home game against Kentucky plus the SEC Tournament. The thing we all have to remember is that those Quadrant 1 wins are what really matters. (Joe Lunardi has Florida as a six seed because of the Gators’ good wins). Florida has eight Q1 wins this year, which is as many as Auburn and five more than Kentucky, which is a lock for the tournament. Take a team like Kansas, which Jerry Palm has as a one seed. The Jayhawks have 11, the most in the nation. And when you look at the teams just inside the bubble, their resumes can’t compare with Florida. There’s no doubt that this team has some bad losses. But all of them are within the conference that has a real shot at getting eight teams into the tournament. Saturday’s win was huge for a lot of reasons. “Hopefully, it gives us some confidence,” Mike White said.
14. Lunardi still has eight SEC teams in (which would be a record) and all are in comfortably (no team lower than a nine seed). Of course, things could change and he could be wrong, but he’s usually pretty accurate. One of the big questions is Mississippi State, which he has listed as being in his first four out. The Bulldogs have won 7-of-9, but are missing big non-conference wins. They may need to win out (Tennessee, at LSU) and make some noise in the tournament to get into the serious discussion. Then again, we could see some teams fall out because of the FBI probe and Mississippi State sneak in. Anything is possible.
15. You never like to lose, especially to Miami, but Florida is still ranked No. 1 in baseball after taking the series from the ’Canes. Perhaps a loss wasn’t the worst thing in the world, because it was all coming so easily for UF early in the season. The Gators are hitting .298 with an ERA of 2.08. Nelson Maldonado just keeps hitting with a .419 average while JJ Schwarz is at .400. It’s good to see Blake Reese get off to a good start with a team-leading 10 RBIs. It’s another busy week for the Gators, who have five games: against UNF and Stony Brook.
16. So what was a bigger deal Sunday — that Justin Thomas won the Honda in a playoff or that Tiger Woods finished 12th? I think you know the answer. Just having Tiger back in contention is like an adrenaline shot for the Tour. When is the Masters? Maybe the biggest deal was that Thomas got a heckler tossed during his final round.
17. The Tweet of the Week goes to UF gymnast Kennedy Baker, whose career-ending Achilles injury resulted in the quietest O-Dome ever during a sporting event — “Hey you guys unfortunately my Achilles is torn. I love you all so much…. this is not the way that I wanted to end my senior season, but there’s no way I could’ve made it this far without all of your support. Thank you guys for being the best fans in the world.” She sent this out less than an hour after the injury. Baker is the kind of athlete/person who all UF graduates and everyone in this community should be proud of.
18. Made a long playlist for the SEC Tournament so I have that out of the way. I don’t know when I’ve looked forward to the tourney more because the league is so much better, but I still don’t get St. Louis as a site. But that’s just me. Here’s a sample:
• “My Name is Jonas” by Weezer.
• “In This Life” by the Strumbellas.
• “To Find A Friend” by Tom Petty.
• “Heads Will Roll” by Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
• And for an oldie but goodie, “Nevada Fighter” by Michael Nesmith.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.