The Back Nine comes at you after a weekend with plenty of news and a Mother’s Day Sunday that made me miss mine that much more.
10. Certainly, last week was not the best for Dan Mullen with the whole Chris Steele saga and some high-profile commitments changing their minds about UF. And it didn’t help when some Gidiots went after Steele on Twitter. Sometimes I think Twitter should require a license, like, you have to pass a common sense test to log on, but that’s another story for another day. There certainly was a faction of UF fans who turned on Mullen, although I get the level of concern right now because he worked so hard to close the gap with Georgia and now it feels like — personnel-wise — the Bulldogs are starting to pull away again. But this is a long-term project, not one that will be defined by one player leaving. It wasn’t a good look for Florida publicly, but as is the case with every transfer there is more to the story. And Mullen isn’t the kind of coach who is going to come out and say anything about a player leaving just so you can feel better about yourself.
11. I don’t know why I am surprised at anything anymore, but John Beilien to the Cavs was definitely one of those “What!??!?” moments Monday morning (Beilein once said of Michigan, “This is our home forever.”) Now Michigan has a big hire to make and, of course, one of the names that has popped up is Billy Donovan. I don’t know if Billy wants to get back into the grind of recruiting, but Michigan has to take a swing at him. One reason the NBA appealed to him was that Donovan is a basketball junkie and loved the idea of only having to worry about basketball. I’ve never gotten the impression he is anything but happy in Oklahoma City, but he’s 4-12 in the postseason since Kevin Durant’s departure. There have been inquiries before from elite programs about Donovan’s availability since he went to the NBA and he has passed. He is on a one-year deal so it will be interesting to see where this goes.
12. So here is what we know about Florida’s first-round opponent in the NCAA softball tournament, Boston University. The coach, Ashley Waters, is a star on the rise. Top pitcher Ali DuBois has faced Tennessee and Arkansas early this season and allowed 10 hits in 5.2 innings. Alex Heinen is the top hitter at .332 with 10 home runs but the Terriers have hit only 31 and rank only 157th in home runs per game. The two programs have faced each other twice, splitting a pair of games, the most recent was a 4-3 Florida loss way back in 2000 in Tampa, where one of the UF pitchers was current LSU coach Beth (Dieter) Torina. The most interesting thing will be to see if Tim Walton unleashes red-hot Kelly Barnhill on Boston or saves her for the Saturday game.
13. Allow me for a minute to go into my full softball geek mode and tell you that the NCAA Selection Committee seems to have gotten most of it right, but the one area where there was controversy involved the mighty Gators. Once again, a selection committee is pushing teams to schedule tougher opponents in the non-conference and it certainly helped Florida and hurt regular-season SEC champs Alabama. If you’ve seen the video of the reaction of the Florida players when their five seed was announced, they are almost incredulous, like they were sheepish about being such a high seed. I was stunned as well, especially with Alabama being an eight. Alabama swept Florida in Gainesville and lost by a run in the SEC Tournament final. But the Tide played the 106th toughest non-conference schedule. On the other hand, Minnesota got the seven seed because it played one of the toughest schedules in the conference but also went 0-5 against SEC teams. In the end, Alabama still gets to stay at home, so it’s almost meaningless. But as is always the case with selection committees, there is flawed logic. It was reminiscent of the Florida men’s basketball team in that they played a tough schedule and it didn’t seem to matter that they lost most of those difficult non-conference games.
14. Meanwhile, it doesn’t look like we will see a postseason for the Gator baseball team, something that hasn’t happened under Kevin O’Sullivan. It’s difficult to see a path to the NCAA tournament that doesn’t include a sweep at Missouri this weekend and maybe a couple of wins at the SEC Tournament. I thought that come-from-behind win against Tennessee on Friday might turn this thing around, but pitching continues to be a problem. Crooked numbers, getting behind in counts, gopher balls to light hitters, it’s all there. The guys expected to carry the load on the mound have been scuffling and Sully has been forced to push freshmen into roles they were not ready for. Junior Austin Langworthy said it was “embarrassing” that the Gators finished off their home schedule with two losses in must-win games, but it’s just been one of those seasons to forget. And yet, you’d like to think the guys next year will be hungry to restore the standard. Don’t forget, this group was talking about a national championship in the preseason.
15. Anyway, it’s a men’s tennis school, right? There is not much that is more agonizing than watching the scores in real time on your phone of a match as tight as Florida’s win over Tennessee to advance to the Elite Eight in Orlando. Duarte Vale, who won his 13th straight match, got the clincher for UF, his second one in the NCAAs. Talk about a clutch gene. Next up is Baylor at 7 p.m. Thursday for a chance to reach the final four.
16. As usual, I get into the NBA during the playoffs — the fourth quarter of the playoff games. My Golden State bandwagon still has room for anyone who wants to get on board. So we have the conference finals this week and the PGA (my pick to win is Xander Schauffele, at 25-1, so go make some money) and softball regionals all going on this week. Is it a great time of the year or what?
17. The Tweet of the Week comes from Yahoo Sports stud columnist Pat Forde — “Maximum Security jockey Luis Saez was suspended 15 days for his Kentucky Derby infraction. John Beilein is an NBA coach. Didn’t expect either development this morning.” That pretty much sums it up. That’s why we love sports. There are no scripts.
18. Because I haven’t been driving until recently because of the knee surgery, I’ve missed my Sirius music channels. And yet, I still came up with this playlist:
• “All of Our Yesterdays” by Mac DeMarco.
• “I Wish I could Write You a Song” by John Paul White.
• “The Whole of the Moon” by Karine Polwart.
• “Raise Well” by Luke Sital-Singh.
• And for an old one, “Sweet Baby James” by James Taylor.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.