The Back Nine returns after an unscheduled Monday off because of an evil stomach virus, but everybody is OK now and our pipes are new and we keep doing a heck of a job dealing with adversity. Good times are coming.
10. Just when you think the Florida gymnastics team may have peaked too early, the women peak again. This time it was at the regional finals in Auburn where Florida blew away the other finalists with the third best score ever recorded in college gymnastics. There must be something about that arena in Auburn (or perhaps the judges at events there), but the Gators are now headed to the national finals in 10 days. Trinity Thomas, it’s like she is on a mission since last year’s sour taste of competing with two sprained ankles in the biggest meets at the end of the year. I can tell you after covering an NCAA finals there several years ago that Fort Worth is a pretty cool place to take a few days and cheer on the Gators. It may be one of the cleanest towns I have ever fallen down in. Just kidding, but it is clean.
11. I thought the quotes after getting swept by Georgia were very telling from Kevin O’Sullivan. “We have no choice at this point but to stay together,” he said. “Obviously, there’s going to be a lot of negativity about what’s going on, but we have to band together. We have a long way to go in this season. We have to get better.” Well said, but I don’t know that there are any answers considering the stretch Florida is about to face (No. 2 Arkansas in this week starting Thursday, then Vanderbilt on the road and No. 1 Tennessee at home). I know that Sully is the pitcher whisperer, but I can say it as loudly as I want that this team has to start throwing strikes early in counts. Of course, when Blake Purnell did on Thursday night, the only two pitches he threw were laced for hits that cost Florida the game.
12. Sometimes, it feels like this team is wasting the year that Jud Fabian is having, leading the league with 12 home runs. There are some really good players on this team. But there seems to be a killer instinct that does not permeate the team. I don’t know what the problem is for sure. I do know that the Thursday night loss after leading 6-4 going to the bottom of the ninth may be one this team looks back on as a killer.
13. On the other hand, the other sport where bats and balls are involved had a good weekend, bouncing back from an opening loss to take a road series at Auburn with the gymnasts cheering them on Friday night. Florida softball has a huge week ahead with a Wednesday game against FSU and a Saturday-through-Monday series with Alabama. All four games are at home and are huge.
14. Goodbye coach K and goodbye to all of us who started thinking that this was a moment of destiny that he would go out with a championship. That game was played at a ridiculously high level (the other Final Four game was kind of blah) and what a ride for North Carolina and Hubert Davis. As we know, you start with 68 which means you eventually have 67 losing teams. Billy Donovan used to say that it is bever easy to lose in the tournament no matter when you lose. Here is what I know about tonight – one of the coaches who succeeded Roy Williams will win and the other who succeeded Roy Williams will lose.
15. Watching those games was kind of a wake-up call for SEC fans who thought they were watching the best league (and I was leading that charge). There are great players all over college basketball (regardless of how they were procured for those teams) and we sometimes get provincial watching the SEC studs and forget that every good team has them and most have several. You watch the Final Four and a Florida game this season and the talent discrepancy is as big as the Paynes Prairie.
16. This is the month for the two majors – The Masters and the Bob Dooley. All of the talk has been about Tiger playing (the Masters, not the Bob; we are out of room). I can only imagine what the ratings will be if Tiger Woods plays, and if he contends on Sunday records for viewership will be broken. No matter what happens, it is my favorite week of the year and not only because I have played Augusta National, but because I covered the tournament for nine straight years and fell in love with that piece of property. The stories I could tell and had told and will tell again.
17. Oh, I have to pick a winner. I don’t think it will be Tiger with his “game-time decision” and I never get this right. But I have a feeling about Rory McIlroy this week.
18. Hello, friends. My daughter is always telling me how lucky I am to have done what I loved all my life and to cover so many incredible teams and players. Imagine being Jim Nantz. Every year, you go from the Final Four and national title game to the Masters. And there is a Super Bowl involved in a lot of those years. This has nothing to do with my playlist, but I think about it all the time.
* “Heads Gonna Roll” by Jenny Lewis.
* “Between The Bars” by the underrated Elliott Smith.
* And for an old one, “Near Wild Heaven” by R.E.M.