Pat Dooley’s Front Nine: March 12

The Front Nine comes at you with the best weekends of the year on the horizon. Let’s just home the only Madness of March takes place on the courts and not in the labs.

1. Even though Florida won its opening game in the SEC Tournament on Thursday, this team did not come off well on the broadcast, especially early. And I agree with the announcers that it seems mind-boggling that you would have two players oversleep and be late for a walk-through in the hotel at this time of year! Look, I get how this team has been emotionally fragile and I think we all certainly sympathize with everything they had to go through. But either be all in or step away and we’ll understand. It was funny to see Mike White go about as ballistic as Mike White can go when he called a time out to chew out Colin Castleton. There were some words there that you’d best not repeat in mixed company.

2. It really is a big game when Ole Miss and LSU play tonight late because that could be a make or break for the Rebels. And if they won, perhaps they become the seventh team from the SEC to make it. The ramifications of getting as many teams as possible into the tournament is all about the money for the conferences, who eventually distribute that money to the schools. It’s a complicated formula and the NCAA takes its cut mostly to run all of the championships other than football in the other sports. But the more teams the SEC gets in the better and the longer they remain in the tournament even better. Cha-ching. I thought this conference was just as difficult as the two getting the most love this season – the Big 10 and the Big 12 – and it will be really interesting to see how many conference teams advance and how far they go. The problem for the SEC is that some teams – and I include Florida in this – struggled with consistency.

3. Kind of under the radar is that Florida is playing host to Kentucky in softball this weekend and the two teams have one loss between them. Although it is important to note that Florida is the only one to have played a ranked team (two against FSU). Kentucky has fed off a soft schedule (that has included four games against Florida teams), but still, when you have nine-run rule wins, that’s raking it. And when you are hitting .397 as a team with 35 homers, that would be good against batting practice pitching. Might be a good weekend to saunter out to the stadium and then walk across the street to the baseball stadium for Florida’s last baseball tune-up before things get serious next week.

4. This whole Les Miles-Jeff Long thing at Kansas tells me two things: the media can still make a difference by using the tools that are provided for the men and women who are plugging away. And some people just think they can get away with anything. Maybe I am finally understanding why athletic directors hire search firms. So they can keep from just hiring old friends with baggage.

5. It has been quiet at spring football practice and that’s the way you want it. There has been a lot of talk about what the defense will do to improve on last year’s disaster, but until the season starts (and especially until Florida plays Alabama in the third game), it’s all just talk. One thing to remember – we are all saying Florida’s defense will be better because of having a spring. Well, everyone Florida plays is having a spring and the advantage Florida had on offense last year was being an older team. Hey, I don’t want to watch a bunch of 10-9 games, but I promise you that scoring will go down drastically all around the country so you darn well better be good on defense.

6. It goes without saying that this has been a week of reflection about the anniversary of everything shutting down. It made us realize there were other things to do, but we missed sports for the weeks we had none. It’s still pretty amazing to look back not only as how bizarre it has been, but that we got so many sporting events to watch. I just know I don’t want to go through another year like the past one. Nobody does.

7. Remember how I said that Rory McIlroy was going to win The Players Championship? It was a typo. I meant someone else. I’ll tell you who on Sunday. Sheesh, Rory, a snowman on the 18th hole? I know there is a lot of water down that left side, but that’s wild. The course looks wonderful and the weekend will be a big part of the Dooley Dome viewing once I chop up the tree limbs the trash guys chose to ignore.

8. It’s time for Trivial Trivia and since Becky Burleigh coached her last home match this week we thought we would ask a question about the start of her career more than 400 victories ago. Burleigh was hired in 1994 and given a full year’s head start. By the time the Gators played their first match, it was the fall of 1995. Who did Florida play in the first match in school history and who won?

9. OK, so here we go with something to watch for those of you still sheltering in place or tired of watching bouncing balls. And I am recommending it to myself because I still haven’t watched it. But my daughter Kelsey, who is pretty smart about these things, tells me that “WandaVision” is the best thing that Marvel has done and I’m a big fan of the Marvel library. So, it certainly should be worth the effort. Our Trivial Trivia answer is that Florida’s first soccer game was against Florida State and the Gators won 4-0 on Sept. 2, 1995. That first team also went 14-4-2. Not too shabby for beginners.

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