Get inside March Madness with SI.com's Luke Winn in the Tourney Blog, a daily journal of college basketball commentary, on-site reporting and reader-driven discussions.
3/18/2006 07:42:00 PM
Life Of The Party
Joakim Noah has 33 points, 15 rebounds and 14 assists in two games.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Florida's Joakim Noah had just stuffed a shot by Wisconsin-Milwaukee's Boo Davis with 2:57 left in a second-round NCAA tournament game that was already well out of hand -- and would finish as an 82-60 Gators rout -- when a fan stood up in the UF cheering section and yelled, "How did you get so good, Noah?"
And really, who expected at the season's outset that Florida's first run to the Sweet Sixteen since 2000 would be powered by this lanky, 6-foot-11 sophomore with the huge, bushy ponytail -- who played a total of two minutes in the Gators' two-and-done NCAA tourney trip in 2005? Who came to coach Billy Dononvan's hotel room after their first-round escape over Ohio, crying, because he wasn't playing, and didn't feel like he was good enough to contribute? Noah, who averaged 3.5 points and 2.5 rebounds in 2004-05, and 13.9 points and 6.7 boards this season, has exploded into a postseason star, an ultra-athletic blend of talent and raw energy who is leading UF's transformation from a lethargic, tournament underachiever to what's now looking like a passionate Final Four contender.
Noah finished Saturday's win over the Panthers with 17 points, seven rebounds, six assists and four blocks; following up a 16-point, eight-rebound, eight-assist, five-block effort on Thursday against South Alabama. No player in the entire tournament has strung together two more complete stat lines thus far -- and Noah does all that while also playing with the same unrestrained emotion (screaming, and pumping his arms) that his French father, Yannick, did as a pro tennis star, as well as the swagger that earned him the nickname The Noble One this summer in Harlem's Rucker Park. "He brings the positive vibe to our whole team," point guard Taurean Green said of Noah.
Noah also brought moves to the floor that a scrappy, 11th-seeded UWM (22-9) team -- which upset the nation's top rebounding squad, Oklahoma, on Thursday -- could not handle. With 16:57 left in the second half, Noah had 6-7 Panthers forward Adrian Tigert pinned on the left block; Noah faked left and spun right with such velocity that Tigert was helpless as the Gators big man took one step toward the hole and threw down a monster slam. "That was sexy, huh?" Noah explained of the move afterward, which he said was unplanned. "It was just instinct. Have you seen me do that before? I don't think so."
The other part of Noah that fans saw -- that of the team's ex officio cheerleader -- was nothing new. Minutes before the block of Davis, he was leading the Florida crowd in its "Gator Bait" clap, and earlier in the game he blew a kiss to the UWM band, which, he said, was heckling him all afternoon long. "Hey, if I was them, I'd do it too," Noah said. But when the postgame conversation turned to Florida's chances of going beyond the Sweet Sixteen, he was all business. "Those two games were special, but we can do something even more special," he said. "You might think that's greedy, but we want more, man."
For the kid who has injected life into the third-seeded Gators -- a team that didn't make it past the first weekend in 2005 -- it hardly seems like an unreasonable desire.
For a team with four starting sophomores, their chemistry is pretty unbelievable. Being that these guys were not big-time recruits, you have to give a ton of credit to Billy Donovan (not taking anything away from the players). I hope we see Nova/Florida rematch in the Elite Eight...that will be sweet.
I'd call his "enthusiasm" unrestrained arrogance. I'm not denying that the kid has talent. But his in-your-face antics certainly do nothing for his likeability. I know that neither the NCAA tournament nor college basketball, generally, are about likeability, but his attitude is why i root for every team has or will play UF in this tournament.
I think Noah is a great and upcoming talent. I just wish the announcers on CBS would learn how to pronounce his name. What a poor group of sports broadcasters when they don't even look up the correct way to pronounce his name.
Noah is just a baller that has more heart and enthusiasm that any kid in college basketball. If you don't want to see the kid pumping his fists and pounding his heart then flip the channel, no one is forcing you to watch him. And when other players like that 1 guy from kentucky complain about him showboating then here's idea for ya don't let him score and he won't be able to celebrate. Besides his antics get into opposing players heads and they play like crap as a result. And as for the guy that said I'm rooting for every team that UF is going up against, well be prepared my friend to be upset by the end result cuz the Gators are going all the way baby!
FYI, "the guy" is a girl. And a number of other guys - on UF and otherwise - are out there playing their hearts out in the tournament and don't come off in the same way as Noah. So I don't buy the "he just has a big heart for the game" response. And, again, the guy is a great player. I just think that there are more respectful ways to be a good player in terms of sportsmanship.
Well here is another girl with a different opinion from the other female who has posted.
I love watching Joakim play. I don't think that he has "unrestrained arrogance" or has no likeability. I take his actions as full unrestrained emotion and enthusiasm. In articles that I have read about him, he seems to have this enthusiasm in other aspects of his life- not just on the court. I think his actions come more from the joy of playing and are not out there just to rattle the other team. He has admitted that he can be too emotional, but I think such admittance shows that his actions have to do with enthusiasm and not arrogance.