The Back Nine is sure glad to be back home for awhile after trips to Indianapolis, Nashville and Oklahoma City the last four weeks. Proudly wearing a “Kansas 2010 NCAA Basketball Champs” T-shirt. White-out sold separately.
10. So is this the best or what? The NCAA Tournament has lived up to the hype that it didn’t live up to last year. Any coincidence that there are twice as many mid-majors as last year? Methinks not. Look, you want to expand the tournament, you do what my friend Pete Thamel at the New York Times suggests — let more mid-major teams in instead of the mediocre ones from the power conferences. Yes, I’m talking to you Minnesota and Louisville. Someone, and I would be happy to give credit if I could remember where I saw it, did a bracket if the field had been expanded to 96 teams and all of the first-round games were dogs. At least the dog games the way it’s set up now have the potential for the spectacular. With 96 teams, for example, if Vermont beats Florida in the first round is anyone shocked? Still, everything I hear is we are going to have the bloated bracket by 2012.
11. Oops. I got off point there. Which is that this tournament has been wildly entertaining. The upsets, the near-upsets, buzzer-beaters, bad calls (how many lane violations?) and getting to know players you never would have heard of before play started last week. I now follow Omar Samhan (St. Mary’s) and Jon Jaques (Cornell) on Twitter. It’s a diverse and crazy Sweet 16 that includes just about everything except more than one team from the ACC. And Kansas. It truly is March Madness when a one gets beaten in the second round. My bracket has been trashed, but I fished it out because just about everybody’s is a mess. And I still have Butler in the Final Four. Woo-hoo!
12. So now who do we root for? Our surviving Final Four teams or for more upsets? The SEC? Please, have you ever
been around any Kentucky basketball fans? I’m going to root for underdogs the rest of the way and hope for an all mid-major Final Four. But the Back Nine knows the inevitable truth is that the door has been opened for Kentucky to storm through everyone into a national title. Next question — how long before it’s vacated?
13. Welcome back to Titletown. That’s what I’m talking about. We were Titletown when the football and basketball programs were winning four NCs from April 2006 to January 2009. UF had a little drought there before this month and by drought I mean 13 months without a national championship. But men’s indoor track and women’s swimming changed that. Congrats to all involved. Neither sport gets as much attention as is deserved but that doesn’t take anything away from the accomplishments.
14. And do you think Kevin O’Sullivan had a good week? His Gator baseball team won five games including an avenging win over Florida State and a sweep of Mississippi State in the SEC opening series. One reason the Gators are off to such a good start is defense. Florida leads the SEC in fielding percentage and has committed only 11 errors this season. Although it’s early, UF’s RPI is seventh in the country right now. By the way, 10 of the top 40 in RPI are from the SEC. Where I went to school they taught us that’s a quarter of the best teams in baseball. The only SEC teams not up there are Tennessee and Georgia.
15. After I wrote a column last week on Brigham Young coach Dave Rose it prompted former Florida basketball graduate assistant Mike Weinar, now a special assistant to the head coach of the Dallas Mavericks, to call and let the Back Nine know about an event Rick Carlisle organized for pancreatic cancer research earlier this month. The Purple Ping Pong event raised more than $70,000 and included celebrities such as Dirk Nowtizki, Roger Staubach and Derek Harper. It’s one of the best causes there is because pancreatic cancer is such a lethal disease. Great job, guys.
16. So Tiger Woods, at his controlling best, gives five minutes to two news organizations (CBS turned him down). They had five minutes to get as many questions off and nothing was off limits except he didn’t answer the only questions we wanted answered. It sounds like a game show. “Today on ‘Ask Tiger Woods!’ our panel will offer up questions about his golf game, Perkins waitresses and why he was barefoot driving his car at 2:30 in the morning. The panelist who gets the most questions answered wins a trip on Tiger’s yacht unless he doesn’t want you to go.” Nothing was revealed and I have a feeling nothing ever will be. Let’s face it, he could make a fortune writing a tell-all book but he’s already got a fortune. My question — if the circumstances of the night of the accident are private, doesn’t that allow the speculation to run rampant? Just wondering.
17. Have you ever tried a little Ali Farokhmanesh on a cracker with some hummus? It’s really good.
18. In honor of the time of year it is right now, the Back Nine suggests for you iPodders the following — “March” by Jackopierce, “Our House” by Madness and “Let’s Dance” by David Bowie.
19th hole: Some recommendations if you ever follow the path I’ve taken the last four weeks. In Indianapolis, you can never go wrong with St. Elmo’s if you want a really good steak. In Nashville, Jack’s BBQ is big-league. And in Oklahoma City, dinner at Mantle’s, watching games at Tapwerks and finishing up with the blues at the Biting Sow is a perfect night.