The Back Nine comes at you after watching a lot of ball — baseball, softball and basketball. And a bunch of guys running in shorts.
10. One of the players who did himself a lot of good at the NFL Combine was Florida defensive back CJ Henderson, who ran 4.39 in the 40 and excelled at everything he did. So you can’t help but think this sends a signal to next year’s juniors that you are better off skipping your bowl game. But every case is different. Last year, Chauncey Gardner-Johnson improved his status with a great Peach Bowl. This year Jabari Zuniga showed he was healthy by playing in the Orange Bowl and had a great Combine as well. It just depends on the situation for each individual. It’s kind of like players declaring early for the draft. You have to live your own life and do what you feel is best for you. OK, that’s enough preaching. Just don’t get angry when young men make decisions they feel are the right ones for them.
11. Besides, you all have enough anger directed at basketball to consume a small city. At least according to my emails and Tweets. Saturday was another one of those uneven performances with the Gators getting destroyed early and then rallying to have a chance. I really don’t know what to say. It’s the same story over and over. Gator fans fall in love with their team only to be disappointed. And, of course, it’s always the coach’s fault. Florida is probably going to make the tournament and I think a win at Georgia on Wednesday night clinches it. But who knows how this team will play in that game? Here’s one theory — Mike White has never coached a team like this with so many expectations and so many elite players with so much high maintenance. And it has been a struggle. There are some of you out there who won’t like this, but I believe it is something he will grow into. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again — wait until the season is completely over before you judge this team.
12. There was a lot of Twitter talk about how Tennessee had the coaching edge in the game. I guess that’s why Tennessee’s John Fulkerson’s desperation 3 went in and Tre Mann’s open 3 rimmed out. By the way, Rick Barnes came to Tennessee at the same time White went to Florida. White has more wins, 13 more SEC wins and more NCAA Tournament wins during that time. I’m just pointing that out. I’m not trying to defend White here as much as to simply point out some facts. Florida never plays well at Tennessee. On the other hand, there is no explaining how a team with this much talent (although I believe that talent is overrated) can be down by 17 points at different times of six SEC games this season. That’s embarrassing.
13. So here is where Florida sits with two regular-season games left and the SEC Tournament. Florida (10-6) is basically in a battle with Mississippi State (10-6) and South Carolina (9-7) for the fourth bye at the SEC Tournament, which means you don’t play until Friday. The latter two teams play tonight so one of them will win (it’s in the rules). MSU closes with Ole Miss and South Carolina with Vandy. It’s important to get the bye as far as trying to win the tournament goes, but where you finish in the SEC standings is irrelevant to the committee. Got all that? Despite the loss at Tennessee, the Gators dropped only one spot in the NET Rankings to 33. Let me repeat, the Georgia game is crucial. Florida is still projected to be a nine seed by ESPN’s Joe Lunardi. Is it me or does this seem like a long basketball season?
14. Out of curiosity, I checked the Quad One and Quad Two records of every Power Five team and the worst is Nebraska at 2-16. The Cornhuskers have also not had a winning football season in the last three years. So, you see? Things could be worse.
15. It certainly was a mixed bag for Gator fans this weekend. On the one hand, gymnastics clinched its first unbeaten season. On the other hand, the softball team blew a pair of four-run leads to lose the series at home to Louisiana. Coach Tim Walton was more upbeat than I expected him to be on Sunday and I think that was because he knows if this team can pitch at all it can still be really good. His goal is to only give up two runs a game (Florida gave up 14 in its last two) and that’s not changing. Here’s the thing — Florida rode Kelly Barnhill last year instead of getting more experience for the young pitchers. But when you are trying to win championships, you want your best in the circle.
16. Before the season, I thought Jud Fabian was going to have a great one. So when he came off the field Saturday night with a towel draped over his right hand, I thought the worse. And I’m sure a lot of you did. “It looked nasty,” said Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan. “I was surprised he played Sunday. But he’s a tough nut.” The next day, he hits a tape-measure home run. The kid is really something special and I can call him a kid because he should be a freshman in college, instead starting at UF a year early. So far this year, he is hitting .320 and leads the team with five homers and 13 RBI. And he is certainly in the discussion of best center fielders in Florida history. The 11-0 Gators have to understand one thing — every time you take the field as the No. 1 team, the other team is going to play like it’s Omaha.
17. The Tweet of the Week goes to Stats by STATS, which uncovered this gem this week — “With a 71-60 loss to Illinois State today, Evansville finishes 0-18 in Missouri Valley play. On November 12, the Purple Aces beat No. 1 Kentucky, 67-64. They are the first team in NCAA history to beat the AP No. 1 team and lose all of their conference games in a single season.” It didn’t help that the coach got fired in the middle of the season.
18. Went to see my doctor Monday for a knee check-up. All is good. Even played golf twice last week. Thanks to The Gloria golf tournament for having us out on a beautiful day at the UF golf course. The course is in PGA Tour shape and I’m not exaggerating. Here’s your playlist (maybe music would have helped my swing.)
• “Garden Song” by Phoebe Bridgers.
• “Losing Battles” by Josh Ritter.
• “Allen With a Sleep Mask On” by the Ratboys.
• “90 Proof” by Matt Lovell.
• And for an old one, “Thirteen Women,” a cover of the old Bill Haley and the Comets song by The Renegades.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.