UF's gymnastics assistant coach Adrian Burde congratulates Anya Pilgrim after her performance on the uneven bars during the NCAA Gainesville Regional Championship at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center on Sunday. [Azhalia Pottinger/WRUF]

Pat Dooley’s Back Nine: Florida Gymnastics Produces Results

The Back Nine comes at you after an eventful weekend where I got some sun and Kentucky fans got burned.

10. Or did they? So many of them were sick of coach John Calipari in Big Blue Country. They gave him everything and he gave them back a 1-4 record in the last four NCAA Tournaments. Still, it’s a stunning move and can you imagine the boos when he brings Arkansas to Rupp for the first time? To wake up to the news this morning has left me shell-shocked. Can you imagine how Arkansas fans feel? I certainly didn’t think there would be this much movement in the SEC after this season. And do I still buy T-shirts of the opposing team when Kentucky loses in the tournament? I’m perplexed.

11. Thanks to the gymnastics team for saving Sunday. It was a downer until they took the floor and cruised into the NCAA finals. Give Jenny Rowland credit for taking a team that was missing so many athletes because of the Olympics and getting them to the Elie Eight in Fort Worth. “It really felt like an intrasquad for us,” Rowland said after her team put up its best score of the season. “Nothing more, nothing less. Everyone was extremely present, calm and collected. Really proud that we get to keep dancing.”

12. Of course, things didn’t go as well in Columbia. Mo., where the Gators lost all three games to a team that had won a single SEC game entering the baseball series. All three games were decided by one run and in all three games Florida simply did not execute. The worst was Sunday when they rallied from a 7-1 deficit and had a 10-8 lead in the ninth. But with the bases loaded and nobody out, Florida sent three of its best hitters to the plate and all three struck out. And then, of course, they walk the first two batters in the bottom of the inning to set up a three-run ninth and lose the game. This is a strange team in that it is all risk and reward. A lot of homers, a lot of bad at-bats.

13. And the softball team was one strike away from winning the series against LSU and instead ended up losing. That was on one TV and the women’s basketball championship on the other. What a start by Iowa, but what a finish by South Carolina. Dawn Staley is really something.

14. Well, we got what we wanted on the men’s side. I imagine the ratings for the men’s final with the combination of East Coast and Midwest might be pretty good although starting it at 9:20 is less than ideal. But the matchup between UConn and Purdue should be awesome. It has everything – two big men who are the best in the country, 3-pointers flying in from everywhere, one team that is working on a dynasty vs. another that (let’s be honest) has underachieved in the tournament over the last couple of decades. And no shots of Mark Sears’ mom faux shooting free throws. I’ll take UConn and give the 6.5 points.

15. For all of the people who want to expand the basketball tournament, you just don’t understand how TV works. It’s set up perfectly for CBS to go right from the last game and right into the Masters. The only way to expand the field would be to start the season earlier. CBS isn’t giving up that lead-in.

16. And, speaking of the Masters, the obvious choice would be to take Scottie Scheffler. Although a lot of money will be wagered on Jon Rahm. You remember him? Used to be a big deal, haven’t heard from him for a while because he’s playing on the other tour. But I am taking Viktor Hovland in a bold move.

17. My Saturday was pretty special, and the best part was the Stop Children’s Cancer Gala Saturday night. Food was terrific, a great live band, terrific people. Gets me fired up for the cause. And now we’re inside of five weeks until the Bob Dooley Invitational. I’m getting a nervous twitch.

18. And I really had a blast playing in the Willie Jackson/Leonard George tournament at UF (the course was in impeccable shape). We had dueling music coming from our carts — Kyle Cohan with his country leanings and me all over the place. These were on that playlist:

WRUF.com sports columnist Pat Dooley can be heard on “The Tailgate” along with Jeff Cardozo from 4-6 p.m. Monday-Friday on 98.1-FM/AM-850 WRUF.

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