March 26, 2006
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Joakim Noah and the rest of Florida's sophomores were simply too strong for the last No. 1 seed standing.
With a 75-62 win over top-seeded Villanova in the Minneapolis Regional on Sunday, the young Gators are going to the Final Four a lot sooner than anyone would have thought.
Noah had 21 points, 15 rebounds and five blocks to lead the third-seeded Gators. Fellow sophomore Al Horford added 12 points and 15 rebounds and Taurean Green scored 19 points for the young Gators (31-6), who will play No. 11 seed George Mason next Saturday in the national semifinals in Indianapolis.
This marks the first time since the field was expanded to 64 teams in 1985 that no top-seeded team advanced to the Final Four, and the second time in tournament history.
Villanova star Randy Foye fouled out with 28.9 seconds left and walked slowly to the bench to hug his coaches and teammates with tears streaming down his face. He carried the Wildcats (28-5) for the second time in three days, without any help from fellow senior Allan Ray.
Foye had 25 points. Ray scored 11 points, on 5-for-19 shooting.
This was Florida's eighth straight trip to the NCAA tournament under coach Billy Donovan, but so many of his previous teams - minus the national runner-up in 2000 - failed to fulfill their potential in the postseason.
This tight group of sophomores, led by the fiery, ponytailed Noah, vowed to change that, when they bonded during their first few weeks on campus. Despite a second-round loss in the tournament last year to Villanova, the Gators are a nation-best 15-1 in March over the last two years.