Gator News and World Report (4/1/2006)

The Gator News and World Report for Saturday, April 1, 2006. Heroes? Villains? Underdogs; Noah embodies Gators' love for this moment; George Mason University shoots namesake to fame; Time to tip off; It's March Madness in April for UF fans; Where are they now?; No regrets for former Gator; Humphrey Dines With Boyhood Favorite; Gators chomping for bite of Pats and more...

Florida Gator Basketball

Heroes? Villains? Underdogs
Every story needs a hero and a villain. Florida's first Final Four appearance since 2000, today against George Mason, will pit the polar extremes, which at least should make for good ratings.

Noah embodies Gators' love for this moment
Matt McCall picked the wrong seat.In the locker room assigned to Florida in the RCA Dome, the UF basketball team manager was minding his business when Joakim Noah plopped down next to McCall rather than return to the seat in front of Noah's locker.

George Mason University shoots namesake to fame
George Mason is often referred to as a forgotten Founding Father. But one basketball team's success is giving him - and his modern-day counterpart - a chance at fame.

Larranaga, George Mason relishing improbable moment in the spotlight
The coach of perhaps the most improbable Final Four team in NCAA history was running on pure adrenaline. George Mason's Jim Larranaga had slept for only two hours, and his extremely hoarse voice didn't deter him from what essentially became a day of nonstop talking.

George Mason hopes to capitalize on hoops success
After a George Mason University professor shared the 2002 Nobel Prize in economics, the school's admissions dean drafted a memo for how to take advantage of another media event that one day could draw even more attention.

George Mason has a chance to join an elite group of underdog winners
Add it to the list because George Mason's improbable run to the Final Four is one of those feel-good, David versus Goliath kind of stories that don't come along frequently enough in sports.

Ignoring a little, accomplishing a lot
This time of year used to be reserved for the big guys, with their tournament pedigrees, supersized budgets and ever-lengthening roster of NBA alums.

Time to tip off
And Gators will turn to Green, who runs offense 'like a champion'

It's March Madness in April for UF fans
University of Florida graduate Nick Pagnotta is getting married May 6, and his friend, Jeremy Nowack, was planning to throw him a bachelor party in Key West.

Humphrey meets hero Manning
Lee Humphrey is a Florida Gator now, but he grew up idolizing Tennessee quarterback Peyton Manning. One of his elementary school classmates in Maryville, Tenn., was Brittany Fulmer, the daughter of Volunteers football coach Phil Fulmer, and Humphrey convinced her to have Manning autograph a UT jersey for him.

Where are they now?
Two other University of Florida basketball teams made it to the Final Four. The 1994 team lost to Duke in the semifinals. In 2000, the Gators advanced to the championship game before losing to Michigan State.

No regrets for former Gator
He could be running Florida's offense at the Final Four, enjoying the spotlight as ringleader on a team favored to win college basketball's national championship.

Patriots program finally is noticed
Can George Mason -- the mid-major that has captured the nation's imagination -- cap its shocking run to the Final Four by winning a national championship Monday night in Indianapolis?

Only A National Title Will Suffice
Somehow, he must have known. Standing against the wall at the University of Florida's basketball facility March 3, forward Joakim Noah essentially predicted all of this. He said the Gators hadn't played their best basketball yet. He said they could beat any team in the country. Then, he offered his "big picture" theory and proved himself wiser than any 21-year-old should be.

Humphrey Dines With Boyhood Favorite
Florida G Lee Humphrey could have gotten Peyton Manning's autograph on his own Thursday night, but he settled for a handshake.

Joakim Noah
Her eyes were teary, but she couldn't keep from smiling. ''Watching him play in these games is like having a heart attack,'' she said. ``My heart just swells so much it feels like it will explode out of my chest. I love to watch him play. He has that spirit, that passion.''

Gators chomping for bite of Pats
The whole thing has a real April Fool's feel to it, this Final Four without a single No. 1 seed, this heartland hoops party with George Mason, unranked all season long, on the special invite list.

Donovan era might last for a few decades
Billy Donovan might never pull a Steve Spurrier on the Florida Gators. He might never leave.

George Mason finds inspiration from Texas Western
A longtime movie buff, George Mason coach Jim Larranaga turned the silver screen into reality to inspire his underdog team.

Florida Gators
Coach: Billy Donovan 2005-06 record: 31-6, 10-6 in Southeastern Conference, ranked No. 11 by AP Road to Indy: No. 3 seed. Beat South Alabama (76-50), Wisconsin-Milwaukee (82-60), Georgetown (57-53), Villanova (75-62).

Gators a surprise, but they're no George Mason
It's difficult to imagine the son of tennis star Yannick Noah and a former Miss Sweden being cast as an ugly stepsister. But Joakim Noah doesn't need a mirror to know who's the fairest one of all.

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