Pat Dooley’s Back Nine (March 7th)

The Back Nine comes at you after I actually sat on press row and worked the game Saturday (and two we had to chase cheering Kentucky fans out of media seats), played golf twice and filmed a part in a new documentary. So, I was busy.

 

  1. Walking into the game Saturday, there was a real sense of nervous optimism among the Gator fans I ran into. I kept throwing water on it with two words – Oscar Tshiebwe. He’s the best college player in basketball right now. And I knew that just from watching him on TV. Seeing him in person made me realize that he is more like Moses Malone than Wes Unseld. The guy plays so smart and is twice as strong as anyone on the court. He should be the national player of the year. I give Florida a ton of credit the way they kept trying to dig out of the holes it created. But the bottom line is that when this team is 3-for-20 from three, it has no chance against good teams or even mediocre teams. This team is what it is.
  2. And it sets up for the SEC Tournament where Florida won’t have any real home advantage even though the games are being played in the state of Florida. The Gators face Texas A&M at noon on Thursday in what is a loser leaves town game. The winner doesn’t get in, but the loser is definitely out. Florida and AS&M are this close going into the tourney. If you take the NET Rankings (Aggies 56, Florida 54) and add up the Quads for wins and losses in terms of what each is awarded, Texas A&M’s score would be 23 and Florida’s 22. So, the loser is heading to the NIT and the winner gets a chance to get in with a game against SEC champ Auburn. We will see. You can look at it this way – Florida got a very difficult draw or you could say Florida has one last opportunity.
  3. Certainly, what Florida did for Keyontae Johnson before the game and letting him start was spectacular. Do I think it contributed to Florida’s bad start to the game? Absolutely. You could tell the players were thinking about other things. But you still had to do it for the seniors and especially Keyontae. I asked him after the game about his future and he said he was just taking everything one day at a time.
  4. That’s the thing and we saw it at Cameron Indoor. You want to see an emotional day end with a celebration, but the game is unscripted. You could see the mixed emotions all over san emotional Mike White after the game because of his feeling for Johnson and the rest of those seniors coupled with a loss that the Gators could not afford. Same with Duke in Coach K’s final home game. That game was also more evidence that Duke-North Carolina is as good as any rivalry in sports.
  5. But the Gator baseball team salvaged the weekend after losing the opener to Miami by coming back and throttling the Hurricanes in the next two games. One thing I really like about this Florida team is that this year’s group is not afraid to lay down bunts and hit the other way, something it struggled to do last year. And the pitching looks like it may be good enough to compete for an SEC title.
  6. The women’s basketball team fought hard, but losing Kiki Smith for the rest of the season was a blow the Gators could not overcome twice. It will be interesting to see how much not having her will affect the seeding when it is announced Sunday. I will say this – Kelly Rae Finley showing so much emotion after the win over Vanderbilt because she won but lost Smith is something that should matter to recruits considering Florida. You want to play for someone who cares that much.
  7. Are they playing baseball yet? Let me know when it starts.
  8. This is one of my favorite weekends of the year with The Players taking place and all of these basketball tournaments going on. My man Billy Horschel had a putt to get into a playoff at Bay Hill but left it high. That course was a bear over the weekend.
  9. I took my daughter to the golf course Sunday and I was listening to the game. Then, I came to the cart and Kelsey had the game on her phone TV. I raised her right. Here’s today’s playlist:

* “Fantasy” by Jodie Comer.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0WoEW6sRHXo

* “Hard Sun” by Eddie Vedder.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ez8b2VHjVB0

* This one is a strange one because when the Beatles came out with their Anthology album and took a couple of unfinished John Lennon songs and recorded them, I was not impressed because they were not that good because of production. But I heard Brian Kennedy’s version of ”Free As A Bird” and I was very happy.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gm9d1jFRDOs

 

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