The Back Nine: Eyes on SEC this tournament


The Back Nine comes at you after a long week in St. Louis that included a snowstorm, a lot of Uber rides and did I mention it freaking snowed? Like really hard.

10. It’s always interesting to listen to all of the Monday and Tuesday complaining about the brackets and this year the naysayers gave the complainers plenty of ammunition. But the truth is that there is no perfect bracket, no field of 68 that makes every college basketball pundit happy. Brackets are like block/charge calls in that they are some that are no-brainers and a lot that are simply opinions. The committee put a record five teams in with sub-.500 conference records and that’s where a lot of the outcry has taken place. The power conferences have an advantage, especially in the tournament where, for example, Kentucky got a chance to play a couple of NCAA Tournament teams in St. Louis and pad their resume up to a fifth seed. That’s a chance the Middle Tennessees of the world don’t get. Is it fair? Of course not. It never is. So many of the mid-majors can’t get the Power Five teams to play them that their spreadsheets don’t look very good after they get knocked out in their conference tournaments. I wouldn’t have had Oklahoma or Syracuse in. Or Notre Dame, which was the last team to get bumped.

11. But what would a Selection Sunday be without John Calipari complaining about Kentucky’s bracket and then going on and on about how young his team is? I think Calipari feels like the more he complains, the better his teams play because it sure has worked in the SEC Tournament. I don’t know how the Wildcats will fare in Boise, but I do know that there will be a lot of eyes on the SEC after it broke the record with eight teams in. Now we see how well they can do not only for the image of the league, but for the finances because each win for the conference is worth a lot of moola. And we all know how strapped the SEC is for cash.

12. The SEC Tournament may be one-and-done in St.Louis just because there are better places for it, like its home for the next three years in Nashville. Once you were inside the Scottrade Center, it felt a lot like Nashville in terms of the arena, but did I mention it was snowing? The Music City couldn’t host this year because there was a huge convention in town. So the league thanked Missouri for joining the league with a tournament that was well-attended and pretty loud. By the way, the combined distance from every SEC school to St. Louis is a hair under 7,000 miles, but when you have a league as spread out as this one is now there are going to be a lot of teams traveling a long way if they want to go.

13. Well, it’s time for me to pick my bracket and I know you have been waiting breathlessly for it. I have Florida winning Thursday and losing Saturday. I have the SEC doing well, but not Kentucky. I have a Final Four of Arizona, Xavier, Duke and Arkansas. Yes, Arkansas. America is about to find out that the SEC was no a fluke this season and the SEC teams are going to be thrilled to get away from playing conference teams.

14. It may not have been a great weekend for Florida’s basketball team, Saturday was pretty special in some other sports. Within minutes you had baseball and softball both win on walk-offs and indoor men’s track win another national title. And hats off to the fans who made UF’s gymnastics attendance a record this year.

15. We were all witnesses to the power of Tiger Woods and his appeal this weekend as the crowds at the Valspar Championship were ridiculous. But here’s just how big a deal Woods is. On Saturday afternoon, Tennessee was playing Arkansas. The bar at the Marriott Grand was packed with Kentucky fans right after their semifinal win. The winner of Arky and Tennessee would play Kentucky. But these basketball-crazy fans demanded that all of the TVs be turned to golf. And they enjoyed it, too. Woods came within a shot and this is where your buddy who has never picked up a golf club or your grandmother has to watch.

16. And finally this weekend, we get to see some football, as the Gators hit the practice field. And because the first two are open, be prepared for reports about who is leading the race at quarterback. I took a poll on Twitter and the fans who participated think it will be Feleipe Franks on opening day. Whoever it is will only be as good as the playmakers around him and that, more than anything, is what you should be looking at this weekend.

17. The Tweet of the Week — and the Twitter universe survived Tiger leading a tournament on a weekend — comes from Brian Hamilton, the excellent hoops writer from The Fieldhouse — “The Big 12 could disband, the other nine teams could form their own conference while banning Kansas permanently, and Kansas would just put on fake glasses and fake mustaches and win that league too.” I kind of get the same feeling about Kentucky at the SEC Tournament.

18. One thing about the hotel where I stayed in St. Louis was that it had a really nice workout room so I enjoyed this playlist while on the Stairmaster:

• “Infected” by Bad Religion.

• “New Normal” by Robby Hecht.

• William Fitzsimmons’ understated but beautiful version of Tom Petty’s “Learning to Fly.”

• “Making It Up” by Bob Schneider.

• And for an oldie but a goodie, “Jump Into the Fire” by Harry Nilsson.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at And follow at


  1. Who starts at qb is less important to me than who is blocking for them. The o-line has been a huge drag on this team for a LONG time. So much so that I will continue to opine that I STILL don’t know if any of our qbs (going back to Jeff Driskel) can play or not. All these guys everybody say “suck” – hard to say when they spend so much time running for their lives or on their backs. And how about a scheme that gets some of the (alleged) playmakers open? Our guys have been throwing to covered receivers for years (the Kentucky game being a notable exception). Also, why can FSU roll out a brand new STUD running back basically every year and the Mighty Gators haven’t had one since Fred Taylor graduated (honorable mention only to Ciatrick Faison)?

    With regard to the basketball team, I agree with you, Pat. The Gators go 1-1. It’s easy to say this talented team just flunked chemistry this year. But I can’t shake the feeling that things would be a lot different (better) if John Egbunu had been healthy and available. His absence is a pretty big hole in the doughnut.