The Back Nine comes at you after a wild weekend in Gainesville where I hope you were entertained. Now, let’s see if I can sum up a million things with nine items.
- I have to start by pointing out that I was wrong about the Florida basketball team when I said the Gators had no chance to beat Auburn. I knew it would be a huge Auburn ciontingent in the O-Dome (it was loud when they chanted “DE-FENSE” when Florida had the ball) and I knew that Florida had no answer for Jabari Smith if he decided to take the game over. And he did. And they did have an answer, which was defense at the end. It was a huge win for the Gators and for Mike White. That’s another bone of contention for the anti-Whiters – every special moment seems to be countered by a mustard stain on a white pullover. But for a day, it was nice for most Gator fans to feel good about something for a change. For the rest of you, I have no hope.
- So, lets’ get to the storming of the court or, as my friend Dave Salter called it “more of a sprinkling.” Maybe I should disqualify myself because my daughter was right in the middle of it. But I also have seen a billion Florida athletic events and seen a bunch of people storm courts and fields but nobody does it at Florida (although some have memories of an NIT storming after Joe Lawrence hit that shot to go to the Final Four). Most of that is because Florida does not want it. Some of it is safety and covering your butt and some of it is that Florida wants its fans to act like they have been there before. But these students don’t care. They see other people doing it on almost every SportsCenter. They just were a part of history. So, I get it. And I’ll let you have this one. But don’t let it happen again. And get off my lawn.
- We are so late in the season that even a win over a top 10 team doesn’t get you a huge bump in the NET. On Sunday, Florida went from No. 53 to No. 47 and was still outside the bubble on Joe Lunardi’s deal. I think the recipe is simple. You have two games at home against really good teams. Win one and both road games (Vandy and Georgia). The SEC Tournament would be gravy. Otherwise, the tournament will make it break it and a lot will depend on the draw.
- Heck of an effort by the women’s basketball team in a very hostile environment in Baton Rouge. They just couldn’t catch a break at the end. Still, to be where they are is amazing and they need a strong finish. Florida will start the interview process this week with Kelly Rae Finley and don’t think other people haven’t paid attention to what is going on in Gainesville. Let’s put it this way – she will be a head coach somewhere next year and I hope it is here. But Florida can’t get her on the cheap anymore.
- Different year, more of the same for Gator baseball. They had 31 strikeouts in the three-game series loss to Liberty. Too many walks and hit batters. They did play great defense. I will say that Liberty had SEC-type pitching, but the bats looked slow for Florida (other than Sterling Thompson’s). Of course, it is the first weekend of a lot of weekends so we don’t want to freak out.
- Meanwhile, softball is taking no prisoners in the early going 10-0 and knocking off two ranked teams in the process. I’ve said it before that every coach should go to a seminar conducted by Tim Walton on how to start the season. This is the eighth time under Walton that Florida has started a season 10-0. That’s getting out of the gate.
- Special 10-carat congratulations go out to the men’s swimming and diving team which won its 10th straight SEC Championship at a school where SEC titles mean a lot. Maybe this is a men’s swimming school.
- And that doesn’t cover it all. Weekends like this make it special to live in Gainesville as a sports fan. The weather could not have been more perfect and most of the results were interesting. It certainly was a good weekend for the economy of Gainesville.
- Here’s a new playlist and I always wonder if anyone is actually clicking on any of these songs. Let me know.
* “Blood And Roses” by The Smithereens.
* ”Wait A Million Years” by the Grass Roots.
* ”Virginia (Show Me Shows)” by The Head and the Heart.