The Back Nine: The art of overrating

Florida forwards Keyontae Johnson (11) and Omar Payne (5) pressure Mississippi State forward Abdul Ado (24) in the first half Tuesday at the O'Connell Center. [Doug Engle/Gainesville Sun]
The Back Nine comes at you after a wonderful weekend that included bike riding in St. Augustine. They say you never forget how to ride a bike. They are wrong.
10. OK, we are going to do a little myth busting here. The first myth — Florida is an inconsistent basketball team. Not true. In their last five games the Gators have scored in the “ones” every time. 61, 71, 61, 81, 51. That’s consistency right? I am kidding of course. They are terribly inconsistent and scoring 51 at Ole Miss is an embarrassment. Myth No. 2 — Florida is overrated. Maybe it’s the people who do the rankings who are overrated (and that includes the ones handing out recruiting stars). There were six teams ranked in the Associated Press Top 15 of the preseason poll who are now unranked, including preseason No. 1 Michigan State. There are three teams currently in the Top 10 in the poll who were unranked before the season. Hey, I know that things happen in college basketball, but when they happen to YOUR team it’s a disaster. It’s the way of the world. We live for upsets … unless our team is the favorite.
11. I guess what I am trying to say here is that I am tired of trying to explain this Florida basketball team, because it’s the same explanation over and over. It’s like a record that keeps skipping (hey, kids, records were these round pieces of vinyl that required a needle to play). You could almost see that loss to Ole Miss coming because Florida had played a tremendous half to rally and beat Georgia. These Gators can’t handle prosperity and they do one of two things when the going gets tough. Either they fight back or cower in the corner. And from game-to-game, we have no idea which it will be. That is the sign of a fragile, immature team. With a NET Ranking of 45, Florida is still within striking distance of reaching the NCAA Tournament, but I know there are a lot of you out there who don’t really want to watch this team anymore than you have to. It’s really sad that a team that provided you with two incredible comebacks for the ages can’t play dead sometimes. A lot of that is on coach Mike White because he hasn’t been able to get his team to play its best on a consistent basis for two straight seasons.
12. That said, this season is still not over. Perhaps the freshmen can suddenly grow up. It looked like Tre Mann had done exactly that and then he regressed. And the Omar Payne situation is baffling a lot of people. He goes for 19 points and 11 rebounds against Auburn and then can’t get on the floor the last couple of games. When Payne is playing, the one thing he really has to do is get rebounds. The first three games after the Auburn game, Payne played 75 minutes and had nine rebounds. That’s why he isn’t playing more.
13. If you weren’t caught up with the Gators miserable showing Saturday, you probably enjoyed an incredible day of college basketball with Auburn beating LSU in OT and the unbelievable ending to the Duke-North Carolina game. It doesn’t seem that long ago that people were saying college basketball was going to be ruined by the FBI wiretaps. Naw, the game is idiot proof. February has been wild and, hopefully, March will be more of the same. There seems to be two schools of thought out there. One, there are no great teams this year and that will mean an unpredictable tournament, and Two, there are some really great teams out there but we still will get a great tournament because of the one-and-done format. I lean toward the latter because Gonzaga, Baylor and Kansas look pretty great to me.
14. If you are so down about basketball that you don’t want to read about it anymore, I leave you with this. The return of Bobby Knight to Bloomington on Saturday was a beautiful thing and it was great that he was finally able to forgive the university for firing him. But let us also not forget that he was a classic, misogynistic bully. I guess if he can forgive, so can I. But you can’t forget.
15. Man, are there a lot of media boys and girls in love with the XFL. You’d think they never saw a league kick off a season before. I watched a little and there were a lot of positives, but the football itself wasn’t anything special, like a lot of start-up leagues. One thing to remember — it’s easy to come up with a lot of innovative ideas when you are making a made-for-TV league and don’t have to deal with owners or the NFLPA to get anything done. We saw it in the USFL and the NFL eventually went to many of the concepts of that league once they saw them in practice (for example, the challenge flag). The bottom line with any new league (and this old man has covered the USFL and the World Football League) is that it starts out with a lot of fanfare but it’s about week six when you find out if it really has a chance to survive.
16. If you were making a list of the best jobs in college football, where would you have put Michigan State last week? OK, where would you put Michigan State now after it seems like everybody was standing in line to turn Sparty down. So, is it because it’s not that great a job or because athletic director Bill Beekman is struggling in his first efforts to hire a head football coach? Probably a little of both, plus the timing isn’t great. Where would I put that job? Probably in the 30-35 range. Meanwhile, you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting an SEC coach heading out the door for a better job. It pays to be in the best league in the country.
17. The Tweet of the Week goes to Whitney Medworth from SB Nation and has less to do with sports than the playlist that will follow — “the Oscar crowd reception for Parasite winning best picture sounded like someone hitting a game winner.” That’s what I heard. Which means I’m going to have to watch a movie with subtitles soon. Dang it.
18. A huge thank you to my friends from Gatorball who had Karen and I out to Ironwood for their Wild Game Feast fundraiser. That came on the heels of a terrific lunch at Casa Maya in St. Augustine. I need to hit the gym hard. I’ll be on the Stairmaster today with this playlist:
• “I Was A Teenage Teenager” from Green Day. Glad to have you back boys.
• “Caught In A Dream by the Pixies.
• “Texas Sun” by Khruangbin and Leon Bridges.
Make It Last” by Darling West.
• And for an old one, I played my wife nothing but 1980s songs as she drove us home from St. Augustine on Saturday and she especially was into “Head Over Heels” by The Go-Go’s.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at And follow at


  1. I’m still seeing passes to Blackshear, near the basket, then four guys watching from afar to see what happens. Hey Basketball experts, shouldn’t the other four at least move toward the basket to help with a rebound?

  2. Bsc1981 is absolutely right. I imagine that it is possible that no matter what Mike White tries to do, these kids are not listening, but a good coach is supposed to get past that. Either his offensive scheme is bad for them or he can’t get through to them, but either way it’s his fault. Physically, these kids have more talent collectively than virtually any Gator team I have watched in the last 15 years (Noah, Horford and Brewer the only ones to the contrary). So, Coach White, how come you can coach defense, but not offense? Maybe you need to do what Billy did and hire a specialist for the area that you are weak in.

  3. I was beginning to think that this was just a poor shooting team by looking at the numbers. However, as poorly as the Gators have shot this year, there are spots on the floor where each player has shot incredibly well. Eric Fawcett broke it down on Twitter and it tells a story that is much more concerning about the coaching of this team. Basically, it shows that White has all the pieces to have an efficient shooting team from anywhere on the floor, but they are all in the wrong spots when they have opportunities for shots.

    For example, Lewis is shooting only 30% from the 3-pnt line for the season. However, he is shooting nearly 45% from 3, when shooting from the foul-line extended and the top of the key. He is also shooting poorly off the dribble but a very high percentage at the rim. The problem is that in this offense, he is receiving the ball on the wing and driving to the middle. The defense cuts him off and he takes a contested shot off the dribble. Or he is receiving the ball on the wing pass below the foul-line extended and shooting a 3 from the area where he is weakest. There are no back door cuts for him for high-low screens to get him coming clean for a wing 3.

    There are situations like this all over the floor!

    It is the coach’s job to put his players in the best position to make plays. I thought White had a roster issue with his poor recruiting in his 2nd and 3rd classes, but I worry there is also a coaching scheme issue too.