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Tuesday, April 4

   by Larry Ness - 04/04/2006

UCLA was going for its 12th national tile last night but while the Bruins came up woefully short (Florida dominated throughout in a 73-57 win), the number 12 still holds some significance this morning.

Florida ended UCLA's winning streak at 12, denying them that 12th title. Also, Florida head coach Billy Donovan becomes the 12th active head coach to own a national title (and at just 40 years-old he's the only one under 50!), claiming his championship in just his 12th year as a head coach (10th year at Florida).

My free play for Tuesday is the Was Wizards over the NY Knicks at 7:05 ET. Speaking of the NBA, Im featuring just my second three-game report since the All-Star break! I won my Triple Play of the Year on Mar 10 and then on Mar 29, cashed with my first-ever Triple 15* NBA Report. Tonight, I'm releasing my second-ever Triple 15* Report! In MLB, I'm following my 15* Best of the Best winner on Opening Day (Padres 6-1 over the Giants!) with another MLB 15* Best of the Best Play for Tuesday.

There was little suspense last night, as the Gators got out to an early lead against UCLA and the Bruins never threatened. The Gators' 16-point win was the largest in a championship game since 1992, when Duke won its second of back-to-back titles by beating Michigan 71-51. Neither semifinal game was close either (Fla beat GMU by 15 and UCLA beat LSU by 14), making this year's Final Four devoid of any suspense. However, it was not devoid of outstanding play or a great storyline.

The Gators began the year unranked and expected to be no better than a middle-of-the-pack team in the SEC. The team's three leading scorers were all gone (Roberson at 17.5, Walsh at 14.6 and Lee at 13.6, who was also the team's leading rebounder at 9.0) and Donovan decided on a starting lineup that featured four sophomores and a junior.

Of the four sophs (Brewer, Green, Horford and Noah), Brewer had the besting scoring average at 7.5 PPG and Horford the best rebounding stats (6.5 RPG). Humphrey, the lone junior, was off seasons in which he had averaged 3.8 PPG (frosh) and 4.8 PPG (soph). Green averaged just 3.9 PPG as a freshman and some guy named Noah averaged 3.5 PPG and 2.5 PPG.

The Gators surprised everyone by getting out to a 17-0 start this year but then went into a slump, losing six of 11 games. However, Monday night's championship game win marked Florida's 11th straight win (9-2 ATS). While there many great storylines to the Florida season and the Gators were clearly this year's most dominant team throughout the tournament at 6-0 SU and ATS (joining Duke in 1991 as the only title-winner to go 6-0 ATS in the last 16 years), Joakim Noah deserves to be singled out.

Look how far Noah has come in one season. He averaged just 3.5 PPG and 2.5 RPG in limited action last year and opened this year by averaging 9.9 PPG, 5.0 RPG and 1.8 BPG in his first six games. Over his final six games of this season (you may know them as the NCAA tournament!), Noah averaged 16.2 PPG, 9.5 RPG and 5.8 BPG!

Noah was named the Final Four's MOP with good reason, as he followed his 12-8-4 effort vs GMU with 16 points, nine rebounds and six blocks against UCLA. His six blocks set a championship game record, as did his 10 blocks in the Final Four and his 29 blocks for the entire tournament.

All-in-all, it was a pretty good postseason for the SEC. Its six teams went 5-1 in the first round and both LSU and Florida made the Final Four. In the NIT, South Carolina became just the second school in that tournament's history to win back-to-back titles, joining St John's in 1943-44.

Billy Packer noted during last night's telecast that Florida and South Carolina were the only two teams in the entire nation which featured starting-fives where each player had more assists than turnovers this year! That seems to be a pretty good combo. For the record, Florida had 21 assists last night, while turning the ball over just six times. As for UCLA, the Bruins had 11 assists and 12 turnovers.

I could add that Afflalo didn't score his first point until there was just 11:28 to go in the game with UCLA trailing by 18 or that Mbah a Moute's first points came with 10:07 remaining. I could also choose to mention that the Bruins shot 22-of-61 from the floor (36.1 percent), including 3-of-17 from the 3-point arc (17.6) but that would be just "piling on!"

With the college basketball season complete, the NBA takes center stage and tonight's busy 13-game schedule begins its final 'push' towards the playoffs, as there are just 16 days left in the regular season. Playoff scenarios abound tonight and I'll keep you posted daily over these final two-plus weeks. New Jersey puts its league-high 12-game winning streak (9-2-1 ATS) on the line tonight in the Meadowlands against Atlanta at 7:35 ET. The Nets, who have won 22 of their last 25 in the Meadowlands, are favored by 12 points (186).

MLB's Opening Day (including Sunday night's Indians/White Sox game) saw plenty of high-scoring games. Six teams scored 10 runs or more, with the Cubs (16) and the Yankees (15) leading the way. The 14 games averaged 11.1 RPG, with the Braves' 11-10 win over the Dodgers being the highest scoring contest. Favorites went 12-0, counting the Arizona/Colorado and Boston/Texas games as 'pick-ems'! Hey, this looks easy!

There were 36 HRs hit (although none by Barry Bonds) and Jimmy Rollins kept his hitting streak alive (now at 37, so watch out Joe!) by ripping a double down the right-field line, just inside of first base in the eighth inning. Rollins had been 0-for-3 with a sacrifice prior to his hit, which came on a 3-0 pitch!

Ness Notes is available by 1:00 ET Monday through Friday.

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