Gator News and World Report (3/31/2006)

The Gator News and World Report for Friday, April 31, 2006. The '04s plus 1; Overachievers? No, this team is really good; In a twist, close pals face off in Final Four; Billy Donovan's chemistry set; Who wins it? Take a TO to read this, baby; Noah's arc: from part-time player to full-fledged star; Promises To Keep; Gators' coaches enjoy ride; George Mason a fan favorite; Green gets the point for Florida; Just who is Final Four favorite? and more...

Florida Gator Basketball

The '04s plus 1
Through its third Final Four run in school history, the impact of Florida's four starting sophomores has hit the national landscape.

Overachievers? No, this team is really good
They began the season with higher hopes than anyone else had. This was a team that was picked by nobody to be a Final Four contender unless we were talking about the NIT. But they felt something special was on the horizon, something in their hearts and souls that ... blah-blah, blah, blah-blah.

Three teams try to step out of George Mason's shadow
Florida, LSU and UCLA each have one seemingly impossible task this weekend - trying to steal some attention from the darlings of the Final Four.

LSU basketball welcome relief from hurricane woes
At a time when people are still cleaning up from hurricanes and travel trailers serve as luxury housing, the talk has turned from rebuilding to rebounding.

In a twist, close pals face off in Final Four
From onetime competitors in Puerto Rico to inseparable teammates in Jacksonville, they now go to Indianapolis.

Billy Donovan's chemistry set
The right combination of elements has landed the University of Florida basketball team in the Final Four.

Who wins it? Take a TO to read this, baby
Vitale, who has seen the Gators several times this season, has an idea who will take NCAA title.

Hoosier daddy: coach's love for film apparent
Anyone who loves basketball has likely seen the movie Hoosiers, and George Mason coach Jim Larranaga is no exception. Larranaga estimates that he's seen the movie as many as 50 times. That makes him a bit of an expert on the subject.

Noah's arc: from part-time player to full-fledged star
Wearing headphones and hustling to get to his biological anthropology class, Joakim Noah noticed someone following him.

Promises To Keep
He stood atop the ladder Sunday, scissors in hand. Hands steady, he snipped a piece of net. Then, when others would have clutched that precious piece of twine to their chests, tied it to their hat or held it up to the heavens, Larry Shyatt looked into the crowd, raised the scrap of net and pointed at her.

Assistant Coaches Make A Great Team, For Now
This weekend's Final Four might be the last time Florida's current coaching staff works together.

Gators' coaches enjoy ride
This part of the story may end as soon as next week, so maybe now is a good time to remember the beginning.

He's one tough son of a gun
Taurean Green, son of ex-NBA player Sidney Green, has given the Gators the tough, bona fide point guard they lacked in recent years.

UF's 04s blend into the Final Fab 4
Growing up, Corey Brewer worked in a tobacco field in Tennessee while Joakim Noah traveled the world. Al Horford's Caribbean accent was a stark contrast to Taurean Green's South Florida-meets-Brooklyn slang.

George Mason a fan favorite
In a small college gym about five minutes from where he grew up, backup guard Jordan Carter sweated through practice, the next step on the road to a place he never imagined he would reach.

The playground at Braden River Elementary School might be a long way from Indianapolis, site of the Final Four, but not in the hearts and hopes of four friends who go to school there.

Patriots inspire ex-Jayhawk Galindo
George Mason University is representing all the so-called mid-majors at the Final Four this weekend in Indianapolis.

GMU coach keeps it light at workout
In a small college gym about five minutes from where he grew up, backup guard Jordan Carter sweated through practice, the next step on the road to a place he never imagined he would reach.

Florida subs have made key plays
They sit, watch, and wait. They are sometimes the forgotten four on a team whose four sophomore stars calls themselves the 04s.

Not everyone is rooting for George Mason
No matter which order the names are in, the matchup still sounds strange. George Mason and Florida are meeting in the Final Four; Florida and George Mason are meeting in the Final Four.

Green gets the point for Florida
aurean Green spent years waiting for a growth spurt that never came. As a high school junior, he accepted his fate and future - as a point guard. No high-flying dunks. No wi

George Mason, UCLA Try To Prevent All-SEC Championship
Talk about a Final Four that defies logic. Between LSU, Florida, George Mason, and UCLA, think of the perplexing possibilities for Monday night's title game. Did you even think LSU and Florida could playing for a championship ... and not in an SEC football game?

Just who is Final Four favorite?
The favorites, in case you haven't noticed, haven't been invited to this little basketball event this weekend in Indianapolis.

Balance part of Florida keys
For every spotlight-capturing Cinderella team in the NCAA Tournament, there has to be an underachiever. The past five seasons, Florida topped that list.

Michael A. Lough: The Final pick? Florida vs. UCLA
We can take the numbers, put 'em in the blender and pour all that into a computer, and it still doesn't give us a concoction of predictability on the Final Four.

Final Four berths come at a price for teams
George Mason University's men's basketball team may be this year's Cinderella, but even Cinderella needs a checkbook. George Mason has spent more than $1 million in operating expenses on its men's basketball team which reached this year's Final Four. While the school's $1.183 million in total men's basketball operating expenses is the least among the Final Four teams, it is, by comparison, more than any other northwest Louisiana Division I men's basketball program.

Florida gets 3rd shot after two fizzle-outs
Florida was once the darling of the Final Four, an underdog taking on national powers Duke, North Carolina and Michigan State.

Gator mania sweeps area
Jason West and his fiancée, Catherine Bennett, will wake up early Monday to catch a flight to Indianapolis. They want to be at the RCA Dome that night to cheer on the Florida Gators in the NCAA men's basketball championship game.

George Mason gives mid-majors Final Four hope
George Mason wasn't supposed to be here. In fact, the Patriots' Final Four opponent just may have been the reason they even made the NCAA Tournament.

Noah: 'I'm loving this'
On media day for the Final Four today, Florida's Joakim Noah figures to be flooded with questions from national media. Many will undoubtedly center around the possibility of him leaving early for the NBA.

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