Pat Dooley’s Front Nine: March 19

The Front 9 comes at you as we get ready for the Big Dance and all of the other stuff we are preparing to watch either in person or on the telly. My wife has been watching so many of those British shows it’s rubbing off.

1. Obviously, I am getting this online before the start of the first game, especially since the first game involves your Florida Gators. I said this on the Tailgate and again on my podcast, but it’s my belief that this team has already won by making the field as a seven seed. With what these guys have been through, come on. Duke didn’t make it, Kentucky didn’t make it. They didn’t have to deal with as much as Mike White. You listen to other coaches talk and they have high praise for White getting his team to the tournament.

2. That said, there is nothing more depressing than being the first team out of the tournament. Not one of those First Four teams, although some brackets were crumpled up after everyone’s darling Michigan State went down in overtime. I remember when Manhattan stunned Florida in Raleigh in 2004. The Gators were the first team eliminated on that Thursday and I’m back in my room trying to book a flight with Delta. The tournament was over for me and it’s 3:30 p.m. I was not happy that day. The other close call was the 2010 tourney when Florida lost the first game to BYU, but the game went OT so Florida wasn’t the first team out. Anyway, being the first team eliminated is no fun.

3. Nice win for the baseball boys Thursday night to kick off SEC play. That was the team I expect to see every night, but baseball is a fickle sport. You hit the ball, you throw the ball, you catch the ball. But drama is always lurking. Kevin O’Sullivan knows what he is now that the conference season has begun. In a year where college baseball is the best its ever been and the SEC is ridiculously-stacked, we’ll see if it’s enough.

4. Softball’s first road trip in the SEC is in Stark Vegas where both teams will honor the memory of former Bulldog softball player Alex Wilcox, who passed away from ovarian cancer four years ago. That makes me sad. Miss. State was swept in its first series in SEC play by Ole Miss and is one of only three SEC teams not ranked in the Top 25. What the SEC has done on softball over the last decade-plus has been truly amazing.

5. And then we have volleyball taking on undefeated Kentucky over at Exactech Arena Friday and Saturday. And the NCAA women’s swimming and diving championships are taking place and the gymnastics team gets back in action Saturday at the SEC Championships. The gymnastics team could go light and save everything for the NCAAs, but that’s not the way this team does things.

6. The #NotNCAAProperty movement started by several players at the NCAA Tournament was an embarrassment to the NCAA and the people in charge of this bubbled event. These players are basically on lockdown to the NCAA and member-institutions can make a ton of money (yes, some of it does go to putting on other championships). So, they should be doing everything they can NOT to make these student-athletes feel like property. You can still keep them in isolation between practices and games, but at least be creative in doing things for them to make them feel special. Talk about tone deaf.

7. Look, the Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) stuff is coming whether anyone likes it or not. It’s going to make it even more difficult to manage the personalities on a team. But you can either accept it and evolve or grouse about how in your day you fixed a broken leg with chewing gum and you liked it.
8. It’s Trivial Trivia Time and we’ll stick with basketball for this one. Florida has played in five Final Fours. Four coached by Billy Donovan and one by Lon Kruger. Add the five seeds of those teams together and what do you get? Answer to follow.

9. I think my two-television set up in the office is just not going to cut it this weekend with everything that is going on. Movies and TV series will be put on hold until we survive and advance through this weekend. So, my only recommendation is to watch a lot of sports this weekend. The problem with unscripted sports is that you are left unsatisfied sometimes. Maybe you should join my negative rooters club. Anyway, the answer to the Trivial Trivia is 15.

Florida was a No. 3 seed in 1994.
Florida was a No. 5 seed in 2000.
Florida was a No. 5 seed in 2006.
Florida was a No. 1 seed in 2007.
Florida was a No. 1 seed in 2014.

And that adds up to 15. Have a great weekend.

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