The Back Nine prepares for rainy Nashville where there is still work to be done for the Gator basketball team. Haven’t we seen this script before?
10. Geez, is it me or is every Gator game the same game? Especially lately. Coming into the last four games, I said Florida had to go 2-2 to be a lock for the NCAA Tournament and the Gators went 1-3. In all four games, they fell into a deep hole. In one of them, they not only fought back but cruised to a win. In the other two, they fought back but couldn’t make the plays down the stretch. It goes back to what I was saying when I thought they were done after the South Carolina loss — fatigue is an issue. And this is where you say that if Ray Shipman had played more than nine minutes Sunday maybe there wouldn’t be so much fatigue. It’s a good point, but Shipman’s ball-handling skills aren’t good enough to play a lot of minutes.
11. Plus, Kentucky wasn’t going to lose that game on Senior Day. At home. We’ve seen this before from the Wildcats, how they almost always seem to play just good enough to win. The Back Nine was asked to be part of a panel by The Tennessean to vote on a myriad of hoops subjects, and I will tell you this — I changed my vote for worst SEC ref after the game. I’m not saying who I voted for, I’m just saying.
12. At any rate, here the Gators are in the same position as last year, probably needing two wins in the SEC Tournament to punch their Big Dance card. The difference is that this team is better than last year’s. Although I expect the Auburn game to go down to the wire because, well, almost all of them do. I have no doubt that Florida is good enough to be in the NCAA Tournament especially with the soft bubble that exists this year. But the best 65 don’t get in. As much as the system is better than the BCS, there are still flaws. Expansion on the horizon.
13. Played golf with South Carolina’s ball coach on Monday and I can tell you he’s raring to go and isn’t going to stop coaching anytime soon. “I work out more than I did 20 years ago,” he said. He also made four birdies, three from off the green. Yes, he got into my pocket. He was talking about how he picked up The Gainesville Sun Monday and saw the men’s and women’s tennis team won and baseball won and softball won. Kind of made him nostalgic, I think, for the days when he was part of an all-around excellent program.
14. Congrats to the UF baseball team for going into the lion’s den and coming away with two wins in three games. Kevin O’Sullivan has it going with the baseball program. He has the pitching and depth to make a run at Omaha again this year, and with his freshman class there’s no reason to think it’s not going to keep going into the future.
15. And a tip of the visor to my man Camilo Villegas for running away at the Honda. The knock on Villegas is that he has struggled to finish off tournaments but he certainly finished off this one. Maybe it’s a sign of things to come. The PGA Tour needs its young stars to come through as long as Tiger Woods is absent.
16. With all these free agents and trades and with the draft coming up, you kind of just want to sit back and wait to see what each roster looks like in August in the NFL. It goes back to my experience at the Combine talking to guys who cover the league. It was more evidence that the NFL is a business and college football in fun. It’s just the way it is.
17. In order, here’s how I would rank the importance of spring football for the SEC teams — 1. Georgia; 2. LSU; 3. Florida; 4. Tennessee; 5. Mississippi; 6. Mississippi State; 7. Kentucky; 8. Auburn; 9. Alabama; 10. Arkansas; 11. South Carolina; 12. Vanderbilt. Georgia is No. 1 because of so many new coaches and breaking in a brand new quarterback. Have fun with your own rankings.
18. The iPod will be used and abused in Nashville, and here are my latest downloads — “Here It Goes Again” by OK Go, “Ready to Go” by First Things First and for the old-school rockers “Heat of the Moment” by Asia. Enjoy.