Rebounding machine Noah finds his groove

664780.png

Rebounding machine Noah finds his groove

After snaring a season-high in rebounds Sunday night at Philadelphia, then following up the performance by corralling 17 boards in a grudge match against Indiana, one might expect Joakim Noah to be exuberant. Not likely.

Im feeling good, feeling healthy, said Noah. Winning makes me happy. Its not about double-doubles. Its about winning.

Noah rarely talks about his personal accomplishments, unless hes being critical, but when it comes to his teammates and victories, hell fill up a whole tape recorder with delicious quotes. Earlier in the season, when he wasnt playing at what he considered to be a high level, it was obvious in both his body language and his comments to the media.

Now, despite his modesty, its clear that hes feeling good about himselfif that wasnt evident from his increasing frequent Tornado jumper attempts from the elbow and subsequent finger guns celebration after a makehis words might not reflect it, but the bounce in his step gives him away. But perhaps there was a reason for his slow start, as the lockout allowed him to get in excellent physical conditioning, though not find his rhythm, as he hadnt seen significant court time since his stint for runner-up France in the FIBA EuroBasket event.

At the start of the season, we had the heavy schedule and game conditions are a lot different. We had 14 games in 20 days and he was getting to a lot of balls, but he was bobbling. Now, hes snatching his rebounds with two hands in traffic, hes range rebounding, explained Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau. His conditioning is great and I think the start of the season was more of a challenge for the big guys than it was for the perimeter players because its physical. Youre not going to get that type of contact other than in an NBA game. You can do all the conditioning you want, running and stuff like that, but its different.

Added teammate Derrick Rose: Jo, hes putting the effort in. Hes coming in, putting in his work, conditioning. It takes a lot of conditioning to go up there, for a big to chase down all the balls. Hes doing it and his confidencethats all I could say; in this league, all you need is confidenceand thats what he definitely has.

Hawkeyes going to Outback Bowl for fifth time, taking on Florida

kirk-ferentz-1204.jpg
USA TODAY

Hawkeyes going to Outback Bowl for fifth time, taking on Florida

Iowa is going back to the Outback Bowl.

Yes, for the fifth time in the last 13 seasons, the Hawkeyes will wrap their campaign with a trip to Tampa and an appearance in the Outback Bowl. And for the third time, their opponent there will be the Florida Gators. That game kicks at noon on Jan. 2.

Iowa and Florida met in the Outback Bowl to conclude the 2003 and 2005 seasons, splitting those two matchups.

This time around, the Hawkeyes are coming off an 8-4 regular season, a disappointing follow up to their 12-2 campaign a season ago that started off a perfect 12-0 before postseason losses in the Big Ten title game and the Rose Bowl.

Kirk Ferentz has led his team to a bowl appearance in 14 of his 18 seasons, though Iowa has lost the last four of those games, without a bowl win since taking down Missouri in the 2010 Insight Bowl.

Iowa is 2-2 in its four previous Outback Bowl appearances, beating Florida, losing to Florida, beating South Carolina and losing to LSU.

As for the Gators, they own an 8-4 record, as well, after falling to Alabama in Saturday’s SEC Championship Game. Florida is known for its sluggish offense, one of the lowest-scoring teams in the country.

Start spreadin' the news: Northwestern to face Pitt in Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium

pat-fitzgerald-1204.jpg
USA TODAY

Start spreadin' the news: Northwestern to face Pitt in Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium

Start spreadin' the news.

Northwestern is heading to New York for its bowl game this season, specifically the Bronx, where it will battle Pittsburgh in the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium.

Though it isn't your typically warm bowl destination, the baseball-stadium setting should be pretty fantastic. The game will be played at 1 p.m. on Dec. 28.

The Wildcats reached bowl eligibility with their sixth win in the regular-season finale against Illinois. Northwestern is heading to back-to-back bowl games after missing out on the postseason in back-to-back seasons in 2013 and 2014.

This is just the 13th-ever bowl trip for the Cats, though it's their seventh in 11 seasons under Pat Fitzgerald. Northwestern has a 1-5 record under Fitzgerald in the previous six bowl games, though that win is one of just two all-time bowl victories by the program.

This season started slowly for the Cats, who lost upsetting home games to Illinois State and Western Michigan and started 1-3. But Northwestern turned things around with back-to-back road wins over Iowa and Michigan State and finished 6-6. The Cats' offense has been particularly effective this season compared to seasons past. Wide receiver Austin Carr took home Big Ten Receiver of the Year honors and is a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award after leading the conference in receptions, receiving yards and touchdown catches. Running back Justin Jackson was the league's leading rusher until getting surpassed by just a couple yards by both Wisconsin's Corey Clement and Penn State's Saquon Barkley, who both competed in Saturday night's Big Ten Championship Game, adding to their respective rushing totals.

Pitt has had a pretty noteworthy season. Despite having four losses, it beat two teams that finished ranked in the top five of the College Football Playoff rankings: No. 2 Clemson and No. 5 Penn State. The Panthers are coached by former Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi.