Pat Dooley’s Back Nine: February 1

The Back Nine comes at you after a weekend of watching balls bouncing all over the place … and that was just during my golf round. Thanks to the Haile’s Angels for inviting me out.

10. When LSU tight end Arik Gilbert announced he was entering the transfer portal, many of us thought Florida would be the perfect fit after the season Kyle Pitts had. But we were dissuaded from that belief because Gilbert was homesick and he is from Marietta, Ga. Of course, Dan Mullen is the king of the portal and Gilbert will be a Gator. Look, Pitts was a unicorn and Gilbert won’t have Kyle Trask throwing him the ball. But he knew that Georgia has a tight end it loves and that Mullen does special things with that position. That was a huge get and I wonder what Florida’s recruiting ranking would be from two years ago if you added two five-stars (Gilbert and DeMarcus Bowman) to the mix.

11. I’m not saying recruiting rankings are irrelevant or ever will be, but with this transfer portal the two Signing Days are just to start the class. The big thing is that the guys Mullen has brought in have all been good players, from Tre Grimes to Van Jefferson to Jon Greenard. That doesn’t work unless the new players buy in at the same level as the players who were signed by Florida.

12. Raise your hand if you thought Florida would go to West Virginia and match the Mountaineers physicality. Or if you thought the Gators could give up 28 points and 12 rebounds to WVU big man Derek Culver and still win. And win despite losing the turnover battle. And Tre Mann scoring only nine points. Florida won because the ball went in the basket. That’s the end game of any basketball encounter. And they won because they played hard and have been playing hard for the last four games (hence, a four-game winning streak). Mike White talked about this team being emotionally done after what happened with Keyontae Johnson in Tallahassee. You don’t just come back from that right away. Now, it seems as if this team has realized that playing for “Key” means you have to play hard on every possession. These guys are figuring out things offensively, too. Next up is a struggling South Carolina team Wednesday at Exactech Arena. Still a lot of basketball to be played but the last two weeks have been impressive and those wins over Tennessee and West Virginia will go a long way with the selection committee.

13. For those us keeping track, the SEC won the SEC-Big 12 Challenge 5-4 thanks to the last two games of the night, which were blowouts. Other than those games, it was an exciting, intense Saturday of basketball with some great games. Florida-WVU felt like an NCAA Elite Eight game. It also felt like one of the biggest regular-season wins for White.

14. So, I know you think I am obsessed over the NET Rankings and maybe I am. They are the key to the NCAA Tournament and sometimes I forget that I don’t work for the newspaper anymore and I shan’t be attending. But I still want to see Florida get in there with as high a seed as possible. The SEC is not looking all that good because there are only five teams with NET rankings of better than 75. As a result, the league really needs a conference tournament with the powers sitting out so it can sneak one more team in there. Currently, Tennessee is 10th, Alabama 11th, Florida 18th (huge jump with the win at West Virginia).  Missouri 30 and Arkansas 32. Those teams have 28 of the Quad 1 and Quad 2 wins for the conference (am I losing you?) One important thing to thing to note is that only one team in the top seven has a (hold your nose) Quad 3 loss and that is Alabama and there are no Quad 4 losses. (That loss was to Western Kentucky at home). Also, the Big 10 has 11 teams in the Top 50. And, as I said earlier, it’s a long way to the end of the season. And no more math.

15. It’s time for my Super Bowl pick and I’m sure you are waiting with bated breath after I whiffed on both picks in the championship games. How can I bet against Tom Brady? The Bucs have homefield advantage but the real benefit there is being at home for the week more than the crowd. However, I love watching the Chiefs play because they run almost a college-type offense with tons of weapons. So, I am taking Kansas City, 38-34. Lay your bets (just not with me because I don’t gamble).

16. Becky Burleigh’s retirement as Florida’s soccer coach at the end of this split season was something of a surprise but as someone who is retired (kind of) I certainly get it. She is a very special person who has been so good to me throughout my career. I will miss her. I have so many memories but the one that stays with me was the Mother’s Day column I did when she invited me over to talk to mother and daughter.

17. Golf is an honorable game, which is special to me because I love a sport where players call penalties on themselves. Can you imagine a baseball player drawing a walk and telling the ump the last pitch was a strike? Or a basketball player blocking a shot and raising his hand to call a foul on himself. Well, golf has a villain, and his name is Patrick Reed, who keeps getting involved in rules controversies. The guy has a short circuit in his brain. Bro, you don’t have to cheat to win. Then again, Reed doesn’t care what anyone thinks about him, least of all the other Tour players.

18. It’s Super Bowl Week so we will put a “Gators in the big game “tidbit out there for our weekly “Florida Four”. So many Gators have played in Super Bowls, some of them twice. But only four players have been a part of three trips to the Super Bowl – offensive tackle Burton Lawless with Dallas, running back Emmitt Smith with Dallas, linebacker Godfrey Myles with Dallas and offensive tackle Max Starks with Pittsburgh. Starks was injured and did not play in Super Bowl XLV but was on the roster.

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