The Back Nine comes at you after a visit to St. Augustine to see Dad, my first visit to the new ballpark to see a Gator game and a visit mentally to see the revival of blueblood basketball teams.
10. It was a wild weekend around Gainesville and we saw one team act like the No. 1 team in the country and one that did not. Now, before you hit the panic button on baseball’s first weekend, remember that it was baseball’s first weekend! It was strange to watch Florida lose the series to Miami. Strange that they lost a series to Miami and strange the way they did. Kevin O’Sullivan teams don’t walk 25 batters and hit five more in a three-game series. Give Miami credit, but Florida handed the Hurricanes the series. O’Sullivan said after the game that he didn’t see it coming. Who did? But the most important thing to remember is that it’s a long baseball season and if these guys can’t throw strikes, there are more pitchers waiting in the wings. And perhaps, as O’Sullivan said, these guys needed to be brought down a peg after all of the preseason hype. Meanwhile, the No. 1 gymnastics team was without its best gymnast and its coach and several other key members of the team and went out and beat Kentucky Friday night. That was pretty darn impressive.
11. I sometimes am at a loss to understand whether or not what a team did in a prior game affects the next one. I know that I have this commandment – “Every Game Is Its Own Game.” And I think that is true most of the time. But there is no doubt that the top of the ninth Friday affected the rest of the weekend in terms of the pitching staff. On the other hand Georgia’s basketball comeback win over Missouri didn’t help the Bulldogs much Saturday against Florida.
12. Florida’s sloppy victory over Georgia was important in that it was not a loss to a team with a bad NET Ranking. It was frustrating at times and Mike White’s teams continue to have a difficult time closing games out. But you know the famous saying, “Win By One.” At least, that’s my famous saying. It is disturbing that Florida now has 36 turnovers in its last two games, although it feels like turnovers are to basketball what defense was to football during the pandemic. Here’s a stat for you – two of the best teams in the country (FSU and Alabama) rank No. 180 and No. 230 respectively in turnovers per game. Florida is 244th. What was alarming about Saturday’s game was that the Gators started the game with four turnovers in the first nine possessions and then turned over seven times down the stretch.
13. Now, I am sounding like a Gidiot who can’t appreciate when the team wins a game. I received a couple of phone calls from people who were in that mode Saturday. Well, peeps, think about what this team has been through and then think about how this team is alone in fourth place in the SEC. Three games left plus whatever game they stick the Gators with on the final Saturday that has been reserved for make-up games plus the SEC Tournament. So, we will see how Florida finishes. Of course, that is assuming we get to the finish line. I’m not sure Texas A&M will. The Aggies’ Tuesday game has been postponed which means they have had seven straight postponements. As we saw when the Gators were out there for football, there is not a lot of social distancing in College Station.
14. Things got a little more interesting around the college basketball world in two ways over the weekend. First, maybe we should put Michigan right there with Gonzaga and Baylor when it comes to the favorites to win it all. Second, the bluebloods are starting to assert themselves. Michigan State, Duke, North Carolina and (gasp) Kentucky. Let’s face it, if any of those teams are on the bubble, they might as well be inside the bubble because they will be judged differently. Here are their records and NET Rankings as we sit here today:
* North Carolina (14-7) No. 34.
* Duke (10-8) No. 56.
* Mich. St. (11-9) No. 81.
* Kentucky (8-13) No. 64.
So, North Carolina should be fine barring a collapse, but Duke needs a strong finish and at least two ACC Tourney wins. Kentucky cannot finish above .500 in the regular season so one would think the Wildcats would have to win the SEC Tournament to get in. I disagree. I think if Kentucky wins out and gets to the SEC final, the Big Blue will make it because of eye test and pedigree. Michigan State does have to win the Big 10 Tournament. Good luck with that.
15. I presented this question to a few people and will do so again on The Tailgate today with Jeff Cardozo. If FSU and Alabama are playing for the basketball national title – which could happen – who do you root for? Now before you answer, remember that in the history of the world only one school has been able to say it has owned the football and basketball national championship trophies at the same time. Of course, that school is Florida. Alabama would join the Gators if it could pull it off. Curious what your answer would be.
16. The competition has not been SEC caliber, but Florida’s 8-0 softball start has been impressive. So has Carla Echols, who is now hitting .542 with 13 RBI. And congrats to the great Tim Walton for nothing his 800thwin at Florida. That makes ME feel old. Also, a strong effort by the women’s swimming team to finish second at the SECs, losing only to Kentucky. That was the first ever conference crown for the Wildcats.
17. I didn’t mention this when talking about baseball earlier, but I went to Sunday’s game and the shiny new stadium lived up to everything I hoped it would be. When you can go to a stadium and not be THAT disappointed that the home team lost, it says a lot about what Scott Stricklin was trying to accomplish and what he hopes to eventually accomplish with football – making the fan experience special. A little expensive, but special.
18. In today’s “Florida Four” we’re going to talk about the best three-point shooters in terms of volume as Noah Locke became the ninth Gator to pass the 200 mark. He is at 201 now but isn’t going to come close – even with another season of catching the record. Here are the top four in makes:
Kenny Boynton 333.
Lee Humphrey 288.
Erving Walker 285.
Brett Nelson 274.
Game on the line, we know we’d want Lee for Three taking that shot.