By making the decision to stay in the NCAA to defend their newly acquired league title rather than try their luck in the NBA, the Florida team knew they were taking a significant risk for the rest of their careers. Their choice paid off and the Gators became in 2007 the second team to retain their title since the UCLA dynasty in the 1960s and 1970s. A look back at the wonderful career of Joakim Noah and his band…
Before the new millennium, the University of Florida was not strictly speaking a heavyweight in the college basketball championship. Before the arrival of the “Generation Noah”, the Gators had indeed reached the Final Four only twice in their history.
In 2004, coach Billy Donovan signed what will be one of the best freshmen promotions in history, but at the time no one thought this group could lead Florida to back-to-back league titles. The Rivals.com site, a specialist in recruiting high school students, had only ranked Florida’s promotion fifteenth in the entire championship. Among the rookies were winger Corey Brewer, one of the country’s 30 most promising players, Joakim Noah, one of the East Coast’s top hubs, point guard Taurean Green and hub Al Horford, two solid players. but with supposedly limited potential.
2004/05: David Lee in senior; Joakim Noah and Al Horford as freshmen
For their first season in the NCAA, the young players of the Gators had a very good campaign marked by the title of champion of the SEC, twenty victories, and a qualification in the second round of the March Madness. But they only played a minor role in the squad behind senior David Lee and junior Anthony Roberson. Only Corey Brewer really manages to get out of the game with 7.5 points on average in twenty-four minutes of playing time. Joakim Noah, for example, does not even play ten minutes per game for only 3.5 points and 2.5 rebounds. At the end of the season, the end of David Lee’s course and the early departure of Anthony Roberson, however, left the field open to Brewer, Horford and their friends for their sophomore season.
2005/06: Joakim Noah, best player of the Final Four
Unclassified at the start of the 2005-2006 season, the Gators quickly returned to the Top 25 after victories over Wake Forest and Syracuse, two of the best teams in the country. They will not come out for two years. After a strong start to the season with seventeen straight wins, Billy Donovan’s men having some difficulties in a conference game and ended the regular season with a record of 24 wins and 6 losses. Very solid in the SEC tournament, the Gators retained their title of conference champion and arrived at March Madness with full confidence and a seeded number 3. They then took turns eliminating South Alabama, Wisconsin- Milwaukee, Georgetown and Villanova to reach the Final Four. In the semifinals, Florida put an end to George Mason’s formidable journey then triumphed without any difficulty over UCLA in the final, 73 to 57. With 12 points, 8 rebounds and 4 blocks in the semifinals then 16 points, 9 rebounds and 6 cons in the final, Joakim Noah won the title of MOP, best player of the Final Four.
While all the analysts await the departure of the executives of the Gators towards the Draft, all decide to re-stack for an additional season in order to defend the league title.
2006/07: 17 victories in a row!
Back in Gainesville the following fall, the Gators are logically presented as the big favorites to their own succession and start the season in first place in the ranking. The first games of the season against low level opponents go off without a hitch but the Gators will suffer a setback in Las Vegas against Kansas with an 82-80 loss after overtime. This booster shot will be followed by another loss a week later on the Florida State court. Shoved twice in the first month of competition, Billy Donovan’s team then relaunched with seventeen straight wins, including victories against Ohio State and on the Kentucky floor. The end of the regular season, however, is going much less well, with three losses in the last five games.
Even so, the Gators are the big favorites of the SEC tournament, where they are the two-time defending champions. Joakim Noah’s teammates will crush the competition with three big wins against Georgia, Ole Miss and finally Arkansas in the final with an average difference of twenty points per game. Seeded number 1 in March Madness, Florida will never be really hampered in its quest and dominates Jackson State, Purdue, Butler and Oregon in turn before dominating UCLA then the Ohio State team of Greg Oden in the final. The success of the Gators is above all collective but it is Corey Brewer who wins the palm of best player of the Final Four with 19 points in the semi-final and 13 points in the final.
Draft 2007: three Gators in the Top 10
After fulfilling their mission, the executives of the Gators decide to give up their senior season and present themselves to the Draft. All four will be chosen including three in the top nine: Al Horford, 3rd, Corey Brewer, 6th, Joakim Noah, 9th, and Taurean Green, 52nd, not to mention Chris Richard, 41st, who arrived a year earlier.
Today, the top three players named are still in the NBA and Horford and Noah are considered two of the East Coast’s top hubs, and Florida has become one of the championship’s flagship universities and a perennial contender for a place in the Final. Oven. Above all, the Noah gang has accomplished something unique in modern basketball, namely to retain the league title for two consecutive years without being lured by the sirens of the NBA.
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