Pat Dooley’s Front Nine March 5th

The Front Nine comes at you after a bad Wednesday and what we all hope will be a good weekend.

1.We also hope that everything continues going well in spring football practice. It seems to be fine despite this strange story that keeps being recirculated that there is friction between the administration and the football coach. I’ve said this before – you don’t give a coach an extension right after you announce that he got into some NCAA hot water, no matter how minor the violations committed by his assistants (both are gone now). Don’t be surprised if that extension for Dan Mullen comes in the summer. I was over at the UF offices this week for another story and asked Scott Stricklin why there is this belief that there is something there and he doesn’t understand it either. Yeah, I get that Florida fired a coach who had been to two SEC title games in three years. But there was so much more to the story of Jim McElwain. This coach has had his hiccups, but he is doing the really important things with his players the right way.

2. There are billboards around the state that say, “The Future of College Football” and they are referring to UCF and the Gus Bus of Gus Malzahn. First if all, I thought all UCF wanted to talk about was its faux national title in 2017. That’s the past, not the future. I like to kid around with my UCF friends (my wife is a graduate), but I do have great respect for the program and think Gus Malzahn was a great hire. But the schedule this year is all Group of Five teams and – while it may not be fair – that’s not getting you near the playoffs even if you go unbeaten. The future of college football is Alabama and Ohio State and Clemson. It’s something we all have to deal with. And wait until Malzahn has one of those inexplicable losses that haunted his Auburn career. They won’t be bouncing at the Bounce House.

3. You should be over that tough basketball loss to Missouri now and are ready for Sunday’s regular season finale at Tennessee. All that is on the line is the double bye in the SEC Tournament, which is a big deal and at the same time is not that big a deal. It’s very difficult to win four games in four days and only four teams have done it (although technically the 2008 Georgia team won four games in three days because of the tornado that moved the games to Georgia Tech, but I could go on and on about that year.) If Florida falls to the fifth or sixth seed, it won’t be about winning the tournament as much as it will be about adding to the resume with a win or two and getting home to be rested for the bubble in Indianapolis. If Florida beats Tennessee, then it’s three games in three days and you have a shot. Either way, the Gator boys are in the Big Dance, but three straight losses could knock them into the dreaded 8-9 games which means you would be playing a No. 1 seed with a win and this year, nobody wants that.

4. Boy, Kevin O’Sullivan was angry after the Wednesday loss to Florida Atlantic because of errors and bad approaches at the plate. Again, these guys have to realize that all of the preseason publicity doesn’t win you one game but it does fire up every team you play. And eight of the next nine games are against in-state teams before they start SEC play March 19 against Texas A&M. Oh, and the SEC may be the best it has ever been. So, youngsters, it’s time to get yourselves together. Starting tonight.

5. Also tonight is a big gymnastics meet in Alabama where the Tuscaloosa. I never get tired of that old Groucho Marx joke but that is ir-relephant. Anyway, Florida has clinched a tie for the SEC title and the trophy will be the same size whether the Gators win tonight or not. But you’d rather win it outright and it has seemed – home or away – that this team elevates its performances as the stakes become greater. At the very least, out should be fun to watch on the SEC Network starting at 8:30 p.m.

6. And, of course, in a few hours (3:30), there is the Florida-FSU softball game and then another one Saturday over in Tallahassee. This will be a good indication of just how good this unbeaten Florida team is. The schedule hasn’t been the usually tough one for the Gators because of COVID-19 restrictions, but the weekend should be really interesting.

7. There is not enough room to list all of the things going on with Gator sports. I just know we are going to miss this craziness in the summer.

8. It is Trivial Trivia Time and this week we will hit you with something from the SEC Tournament, which this year comes to you from the land of country music and bachelorette parties. The Gators have had five players named tournament MVP. Who is the only Florida player to be named MVP of the SEC Tournament when the event was held in Nashville, Tenn.?

9. My recommendation for something to watch for those of you still spending a lot of time at home is going to be a cartoon, but don’t panic. “Soul” won a Golden Globe this week (even though Tracy Morgan pronounced it “Sal”) and my whole family enjoyed it. It’s really good. And the answer to the Trivial Trivia is Taurean Green in 2006. (Although I reminded him after the game he was the first MVP to throw up an air ball in the title game. I’m such a kidder).

The other MVP’s:
1989 – Livingston Chatman (Knoxville, Tenn).
2005 – Matt Walsh (Atlanta).
2007 – Al Horford (Atlanta).
2014 – Scottie Wilbekin (Atlanta).

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