Gator News and World Report (3/28/2006)

The Gator News and World Report for Tuesday, March 28, 2006. Cinderella lives; Gator fans whoop it up; UF boasts Final Four-sight; Oddsmakers bet on Florida to win national title; Final Four Bonus For Donovan; Father and son embrace the moment; Donovan mixing, matching masterfully; March Madness hits Heat locker room; Florida excels in PHD qualities: poor, hungry, driven; Florida (31-6) — No. 3 seed in the Minneapolis Regional... and more...

Florida Gator Basketball

Cinderella lives
Florida sophomore forward Joakim Noah wanted Connecticut. Instead, the Gators got the story.In facing George Mason on Saturday in Indianapolis, Florida will play against the first 11-seed to reach the Final Four since LSU in 1986. The Patriots, an at-large bid from the Colonial Athletic Association, have captured the curiosity of the nation as the first true mid-major program to reach the Final Four since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985.

Gator fans whoop it up
At 4 a.m. Friday, Dan Raben will get in his car without having slept, a 13-hour journey ahead of him. He and six friends then will drive approximately 850 miles -- all for Florida Gators basketball.

UF boasts Final Four-sight
They knew. Nobody else did, but Florida's basketball players -- especially the four sophomores -- knew.

Oddsmakers bet on Florida to win national title
UCLA is the tradition-rich program: John Wooden, Bill Walton and 11 national titles. LSU is the shining light of a devastated region, a sports distraction from the ravages of Hurricane Katrina.

Getting Their Attention
Moments before the Florida Gators began Sunday's regional final game against Villanova, a roar cascaded through the upper reaches of the Metrodome. Florida players looked around, puzzled.

Final Four Bonus For Donovan
On top of professional satisfaction and the pride that comes from leading his team to the Final Four, University of Florida men's basketball coach Billy Donovan earned himself a cool $100,000 on Sunday.

Father and son embrace the moment
The two men towered over everyone near them, a sight to see as the father and son embraced. Florida had just beaten top-seeded Villanova 75-62 to earn a trip to the Final Four, and the celebration was in full revelry on the Metrodome court.

Donovan mixing, matching masterfully
By halftime of Sunday's NCAA regional final, Corey Brewer had played six minutes, and still Florida led Villanova 35-30.

March Madness hits Heat locker room
et ready for a big week of trash talking among the Miami Heat. With Florida Gators Udonis Haslem and Jason Williams along with Shaquille O'Neal (LSU) and Jason Kapono (UCLA) having a rooting interest in the Final Four, the players are reminding their teammates who are not represented this weekend and starting to challenge each other.

Young Gators get job done
Maybe the Florida Gators were too young to know any better. Or maybe they were the wise ones all along.

Florida excels in PHD qualities: poor, hungry, driven
Joakim Noah stands in the middle of the floor, pumping his fist and pounding his chest and screaming like a lion standing over a fallen wildebeest.

Florida (31-6) — No. 3 seed in the Minneapolis Regional...
Florida (31-6) — No. 3 seed in the Minneapolis Regional beat No. 14 South Alabama, No. 10 Wisconsin-Milwaukee, No. 7 Georgetown and No. 1 Villanova. … Top scorers all are sophomores: Corey Brewer (12.1 points, 4.5 rebounds), Taurean Green (13.7 points, 4.6 assists), Al Horford (11.6 points, 7.6 rebounds) and Joakim Noah (14.3 points, 7.1 rebounds). … This is the Gators' third Final Four appearance, first since 2000, when they lost to Michigan State in the title game. … 5½-point favorite over George Mason in Saturday's semifinals.

Villanova has only the memories
Late Sunday night, after the shock of their loss had worn off, the Villanova Wildcats gathered at their hotel for one final meeting. "I have one more chance to teach them, one more meeting," coach Jay Wright had said earlier, while his players were still inside their locker room at the Metrodome. "I'm holding onto that."

This Final Four celebrates underdog coaches and teams
Let's hope you've not coming to the RCA Dome looking for the ACC or the Big Ten or the Big East. They're off the menu. But here are nine reasons to love this Final Four, even with TV timeouts long enough to do your tax form.

Noah leads the Gator Boys
Long before Joakim Noah hit the national spotlight with his exemplary play in the NCAA Tournament, Bill McNally knew that one day his former player at Poly Prep HS in Brooklyn would be the next big thing to hit the college game.

George Mason rides the roller coaster
While the buzz surrounding George Mason's stunning trip to the Final Four could be heard around campus, coach Jim Larranaga's office inside the Patriot Center was relatively quiet.

Sports Gospel: Why Florida Must Win It All
Everyone enjoys a good love fest, so make sure you check out another 3-4 articles today on how special the run by George Mason is and about just how great Glen "Big Baby" Davis is. There is plenty of love to go around for all four of the final teams as they have already won their National Championship.

'Nova seniors proud of achievements
Allan Ray and Randy Foye led Villanova to a Big East co-championship and a return to national prominence, bringing Philly's basketball epicenter back to the Main Line.

Donovan's hard look at himself paid off
The date was March 7, 2004. Rupp Arena's media room was the site. For the eighth time in nine meetings with Kentucky, Billy Donovan had watched his Gators get spanked by Tubby Smith's Wildcats.

Top 9 reasons to love this Final Four
Let's hope you've not come here looking for the ACC or the Big Ten or the Big East. They're off the menu. But here are nine reasons to love this Final Four, even with TV timeouts long enough to do your tax form.

Time to ditch the Metrodome as host for NCAA regionals
The setup wasn't at all conducive for a basketball game. At the NCAA men's basketball Regional at the Metrodome, the court was built lengthwise from the end of one end zone to the 30-yard line.

Before facing the Timberwolves, Knicks rookie David Lee spent Saturday with his former Gators teammates in a Minneapolis hotel, as they prepared for an Elite 8 showdown vs. Villanova.

Noah not too comfortable in spotlight
He wears his hair in a pony tail, thumps his chest after big baskets and likes to say funny things that catch the attention of media and opponents.

Gators unleash 1-2 punch
There's a reason you don't hear a whole lot about veteran big men dominating college basketball anymore.

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