Regular-season highlights: Florida
MINNEAPOLIS – There were two Providence College alumni coaching at the Division I level this season.
They will be facing each other in the Final Four.
Florida coach Billy Donovan (1984-87) arrived 13 years after George Mason's Jim Larranaga (1968-71) played at Providence. Their teams meet Saturday, thanks to Florida's 75-62 victory over Villanova and George Mason's stunning 86-84 overtime victory over Connecticut.
"I have known him for a while," Donovan said of Larranaga, "and I'm happy for him and his program."
Donovan sat for most of his first two seasons, before the arrival of coach Rick Pitino and the three-point shot helped turn him into an All-American. Larranaga, who played during Dave Gavitt's first two seasons at Providence, led the Friars in scoring for two seasons, before the arrival of All-American point guard Ernie DiGregorio.
What are the odds that they would be meeting in the Final Four? What are the odds that one of them would be arriving there as the coach of George Mason?
"We are entering a stage in college basketball," Donovan said. "Fifteen years ago, it would have been totally no way that a team like George Mason could go to the Final Four."
Speaking of strange occurrences, Donovan's other Final Four appearance also came at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis, where the Gators and a 34-year-old Donovan lost in the 2000 championship game to Michigan State.
"I am just disappointed that maybe it hasn't been in Indianapolis every year," Donovan said. "It ended disappointingly for us in Indianapolis six years ago. It was a great experience, but it doesn't take away the hurt of being that close and to have an opportunity to play for it all and be on the winning side.
"To me, I view it differently. I look at North Carolina, Duke, Kentucky, Kansas, Arizona. The trick is you have to get in on a consistent basis. That's the whole trick because if you don't get in, you can't do anything. So, to me, I am just as happy that for the last eight years, we have been in every year. I am much, much more interested in getting in and giving yourself a chance to do something."
The Gators went 3-5 in the NCAA tournament between Final Four appearances, but this should ease some of the critics of his first- and second-round losses.
"I would much, much rather have gotten knocked out in the first or second round five, six straight years and have an opportunity to go back and win it all," Donovan said. "To me, it's not a lot of difference. When you lose, you lose."
Florida sophomores Taurean Green and Corey Brewer were just 7-year-olds in 1993, when Michigan's Fab Five reached the NCAA championship game as second-year players. Joakim Noah was living in Paris. Al Horford was living outside the United States, wherever his father was playing professionally at the time.
Their memories of the Fab Five go like this:
"I went to high school in Michigan, so I have heard of the Fab Five," Horford said.
Noah: "I don't know anything about them. I just know that Chris [Webber] was on that team, and Jalen Rose, but whatever. The Gators boys are hot right now, so no comparisons."
Green: "Chris Webber called a timeout. That's about all I remember."
Brewer: "Me, too. They called a timeout on TV. I saw it. The Fab Five started baggy shorts. That's all I know."
Noah: "They had nice kicks, too."
NOAH SAYS NO
It's fairly obvious that Villanova picked a bad week to produce its two worst efforts from beyond the three-point line. The Wildcats were 4-for-19 against Boston College and 4-for-23 against Florida.
But against the Gators, they had the driving lanes taken away from them, too, by the gangly, 6-foot-11 Noah. The Wildcats took 73 shots, their second-most this season, but made only 18, tied for their fourth-fewest.
Needless to say, their 24.7-percent shooting was a season-low.
"Noah only had three blocked shots at halftime, but I think he might have changed maybe five or six shots," Villanova coach Jay Wright said.
"You can tell that when guys miss shots above the block [on the backboard], that means they are trying to get a shot over a [player].
"There are not many like him. I don't remember anybody that good offensively and defensively in the perimeter and the post."
John Akers, the editor of Basketball Times, is covering the Minneapolis regional exclusively for Yahoo! Sports.