Pat Dooley’s Back Nine: March 22nd

The Back Nine comes at you after a weekend where I literally had too much to watch and starting to feel a little anxiety about what I was missing. I need a fourth TV.

10. There are no easy losses in the NCAA Tournament. There are some that are just more painful. I watched Billy Donovan lose back-to-back Elite 8s with 11-point second-half leads. It happens. But it’s going to be difficult to stomach how Florida got a huge break in the bracket, played really well for most of the game and then offered a warm basket of turnovers to Oral Roberts in Sunday night’s loss. That’s why the food doesn’t taste as good today and you snapped at the first person who was too loud in the office. This team’s inability to handle the basketball was something that never got any better this season. As much as I want to praise the way Tre Mann played and as much as I admired Tyree Appleby for playing through the head injury, it is ridiculous to lose a game because you commit 20 turnovers. Actually, it is not surprising that you lose a game with 20 turnovers, especially when you also allow the other team’s two best players to combine for 54 points.

11. Despite the Florida loss, this has been a great tournament so far. I wondered if we would see the upsets, but it feels like all we have seen are upsets. That’s the thing about the tournament – the wins feel different and the losses are brutal. The upsets are great unless it’s your favorite team getting upset. Those are not fun. The Fire Mike White crowd is having a reunion and there is no doubt that White’s insistence on slowing down the game with a big lead is going to make some people second-guess a coach they aren’t that fond of anyway. I understand his thinking there, slowing it down to save your energy for defense and settle down the ball handlers. But when you make a decision like that and it doesn’t work, you are going to have to deal with the consequences. Not that any of the pitchforks and torches crowd is going to get its way. But White needs to reexamine some things like every coach should and for gosh sakes, he needs to find a point guard in the portal. Who would have thought everyone would miss Andrew Nembhard so much?

12. There are two kinds of upset Florida fans today – the rational and the irrational. The irrational point to where Florida’s program is in White’s sixth year, forgetting about what this team had to deal with and conveniently forgetting that in Donovan’s sixth year he went out in the first round with a loss to Creighton and his eighth Florida team lost to Manhattan. OK, he never lost to a 15 seed, but that 15 seed wasn’t like the ones you usually see. But look. I’m not defending what I saw last night. And nobody better understands that when you get that taste of ultimate success you want it again and again. It’s difficult to win games in the Big Dance. But when you lose the way Florida did and it ends the season abruptly, the pain is multiplied.

13. We did have one forfeit in the first round and it seemed weird to see the score on my phone, especially because it first said 1-0, and the 2-0. I just can’t help but wonder if we are going to see anymore. And, by the way, I have watched the tournament with the sound up during Florida games because the announcers have been really good.

14. Florida’s baseball team is going to see a lot of teams in the SEC better than Texas A&M, but it was important to get the sweep and get some positive juice going after that loss to FSU. That win apparently got the Semis going. They outscored Miami 34-2 this weekend in three games. Up next for the Gators is the first road series in the SEC at South Carolina. And don’t forget that baseball is a daily game.
15. Of course, Florida’s softball team will also see better conference opponents than Mississippi State was this weekend, but again, getting the sweep and seeing the bats explode in was important. I have to say that I didn’t see Elizabeth Hightower being this good (0.71 ERA) but she is a perfect example of hard work and understanding why you throw certain pitches.

16. Florida’s gymnastics team finally had its bad meet and, in a way, you want to have it at the SECs. Especially when you have already won the regular season championship. Florida was fighting uphill the whole night and had to count some breaks and falls. The difference in winner Alabama’s bars routine and Florida’s was .80 points, and Florida fell .90 short so that tells you where the issue was. Trinity Thomas is still nursing the ankle injury and Florida finds out today where it will go for regionals. “I know this is going to sting for them,” said UF coach Jenny Rowland, “but it’s going to give them that little fuel.”

17. Boy, a lot was made of LeBron James’ high ankle sprain over the weekend. It was like that scene in “Airplane!” when the stewardess asks if anybody knows how to fly the plane and everybody freaks out. He’ll be fine. They will be fine. The regular season is just an instrument to get to the playoffs. Everybody calm down and watch the NCAA Tournament where young men are crying when they lose.

18. For this week’s “Florida Four”, we take in the Gators basketball team’s history as a No. 7 seed because Friday’s victory was the fourth as that seed. Florida has been a seven seed three times – this year, in 2012 and in 1989. And they got there in different ways. Remember that the 1989 team won Florida’s first ever SEC championship (it seems like a low seed for a Power Five conference champion, but the Gators were 5-7 early in the season).

The 2012 team went into the tournament with six losses in its last 10 games and not going far on anyone’s bracket. In fact, when it started to look like Norfolk State was going to upset No. 2 seed Missouri after Florida beat Virginia, we started scrambling to find out where the next round was being played.
That Florida team hammered an over-partied Norfolk State8 4-50, then beat Buzz Williams’ Marquette team 68-58 before blowing a double-digit second half lead in a loss to Louisville.

Still, that was one of my most favorite trips going to Omaha and Phoenix. So, I have those memories.
So, the records as a No 7 are 0-1, 3-1, and 1-1. And remember that all but one team finishes the NCAA Tournament with a one at the end of its postseason record.

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