Bulls' Joakim Noah roots on alma mater Florida from afar

Bulls' Joakim Noah roots on alma mater Florida from afar
March 16, 2014, 2:30 am
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Mark Strotman

It seems as though everything Joakim Noah gets invested in turns to gold.

So it's no surprise that his Florida Gators, ranked No. 1 in the country, are playing some of their best basketball as Selection Sunday rolls around.

Noah said he watched Florida take down Tennessee in the SEC semifinals just hours before he dropped 23 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists in a 94-87 win over the Sacramento Kings.

"I watched the game today and I was really impressed. They played against a tough Tennessee team, came ready to play," he said, "and I think they're a team that's also gone through a lot of adversity early in the year."

Noah referred to point guard Scottie Wilbekin's five-game suspension to begin the season. Wilbekin returned to a Gators team that started 6-2, and he eventually won SEC Player of the Year after averaging 13.0 points, 3.8 assists and 1.9 3-pointers on 40 percent shooting from beyond the arc.

"The defense, Pat Young looks so much more comfortable playing good basketball, (Michael) Frazier's my guy, I love the way he plays. Everybody, proud of those guys. I think they're playing with great poise out there, they're defending and when you defend like that you're going to have a shot to do something special."

[RELATED: Noah adds to MVP resume in win over Kings]

The Gators currently rank fifth in the nation in defensive efficiency, per KenPom.com, and have allowed just two teams to score more than 70 points. Noah, a two-time champion under Billy Donovan, led top-20 defenses in both championship seasons and certainly has carried that over into his NBA career.

Speaking as an alum and sounding like his current head coach, Tom Thibodeau, Noah said he's proud of the way the Gators, who play Kentucky in the SEC Championship Sunday afternoon, play hard each possession -- much like his current Bulls.

"It's exciting as an alum, as a proud Gator to watch a team that's playing like that. That's all you can ask for. That's the only thing that matters," he said. "It's exciting that they're going to have a shot in any game because of how hard they play. So I'm proud of that."