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Noah's pride in school's reign hasn't dried up

ATLANTA -- A year ago, Joakim Noah was the new face of the NCAA Tournament. The 6-foot-11-inch Florida forward had the pedigree (tennis star father and beauty queen mother), a personality described as "offbeat," and, of course, exceptional talent.

He was the MVP of the Minneapolis Regional, and then the Final Four as the Gators won their first national championship in basketball.

A year later, Noah was back. So were the Gators, who last night beat Ohio State, 84-75, to become the first repeat champions since Duke in 1991-92.

But Noah was no longer the main attraction of the Final Four. That role was being shared by Ohio State's freshman combination of guard Mike Conley Jr. and center Greg Oden, and by the rest of the Gators' starting five.

Noah was relishing the opportunity to extend Florida's title reign, especially because the Gators own the football championship, a win that came at the expense of Ohio State.

"It's been unbelievable," said Noah. "Two weeks ago, I couldn't sleep and I was walking around campus. I saw one of the football players, Tony Joiner. We were talking about expectations and there were a lot of common themes. We ended up talking until 6 in the morning. Those are things that I will never forget for the rest of my life."

Streaking along
Florida now has an 1 8-game postseason winning streak, a 2 2-1 postseason record over the past three years, and a 2 4-1 record in March during that span. Ohio State had its 22-game winning streak snapped . . . Florida's Billy Donovan became only the fourth active coach to win multiple national championships. Texas Tech's Bob Knight (3), UConn's Jim Calhoun (2), and Duke's Mike Krzyzewski (2) are the others . . . The Gators improved to 8-0 in the Georgia Dome over the last three seasons.

Hire ground
The coaching carousel keeps spinning. Todd Lickliter, who Sunday was named Division 1 Coach of the Year by the National Association of Basketball Coaches for leading Butler to 29 wins, was hired by Iowa to replace Steve Alford . . . Creighton's Dana Altman filled the vacancy at Arkansas, which fired Stan Heath last week. Heath took the job at South Florida . . . A person close to the Michigan program said the Wolverines are negotiating with West Virginia coach John Beilein . . . Harvard's list is being shortened but still includes former Michigan coach Tommy Amaker and Mike Jarvis, recently of St. John's . . . Rumors have the Memphis Grizzlies ready to offer Donovan a multiyear deal. At 42, Donovan is young enough to take the NBA money and still be a candidate for any major college job if things don't work out . . . Patriots coach Bill Belichick was at the game as Donovan's guest . . . The National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame announced its latest inductees Sunday: coaches Adolph Rupp, Phog Allen, Henry Iba, John McLendon, Lefty Driesell, Guy Lewis, and Norm Stewart; players Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Austin Carr, Dick Groat, and Dick Barnett; and contributor Vic Bubas.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.