- Eamonn Brennan, ESPN Staff Writer
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Florida might be the best team in the country. In any case, the Gators are quite obviously better than the 2011-12 edition, which went to the Elite Eight, featured top-five pick Bradley Beal, and had four-year starter Erving Walker at the point guard spot. How does that work? Alligator Army's Andy Hutchins broke it down this weekend: "Florida's been able to replace Beal and Walker with a combination of Rosario and Wilbekin on offense and defense, and while neither Rosario nor Wilbekin is as good or as talented as Beal alone (and they may be less talented than Beal and Walker together), they have combined to be more efficient on offense and stingier on defense. Rosario being essentially as good as Beal has helped, but Wilbekin being better than Walker has helped immensely. Florida's not better without Bradley Beal because he was a problem, or because he was a turnover machine, or even because he wasn't as great a shooter as advertised, and Florida might have been even better in 2012-13 with Beal than Florida is right now without him. But Florida's better, undeniably, and has improved without Beal and without Walker."
Marshall Henderson's "controversial" exploits -- I use scarequotes because I am not the type to consider hilarious on-court taunting and various other crimes against curmudgeonly sportswriters everywhere to be controversial -- have earned him nearly as much attention as his SEC-leading scoring. What makes him tick? The Clarion-Ledger's Hugh Kellenberger explained as much recently: "Ole Miss’ junior guard is not crazy. He’s not really angry, and his intent is not malicious. But his father told him he had to be different, because 6-foot-2 players with limited athleticism do not stand out. The way Henderson chose to manifest that life lesson has influenced everything that has since been said about him -- good and bad. 'Everyone has a little white dude that can shoot 3s,' Henderson said."
The Indianapolis Star's Bob Kravitz came away from Saturday's win over Michigan State with an ode to Indiana's best and most important player, Victor Oladipo. (I agree.)
Speaking of which, who's been the Big Ten's best defensive player to date? The Big Ten Geeks make an analytical argument for a few players you might not be considering.
Oregon's program is on the rise in Dana Altman's third year. Given the remaining schedule, you might call the Ducks the Pac-12 regular-season title favorite the rest of the way. But as difficult as it's been to get the talent back, it's been just as hard get fans to buy in; just 7,000 showed up to Oregon's game last week against Washington. But the tides are turning. According to the Oregonian, Saturday was just Oregon's first sellout in Matthew Knight Arena's two-year lifespan.
What on Earth got into Adreian Payne? The Adreian Payne I have in my head is a hyper-athletic but mostly awkward big man, a guy who rebounded and dunked and blocked a few shots, and not much else. But the Payne we saw Saturday at Indiana -- where he went 3-for-3 from beyond the arc, flashing touch and skill along with all of that physical ability -- is an entirely remade player. From MLive.com's Diamond Leung.
USA Today's Mike Lopresti caught up with former Butler star and current high school coach Ronald Nored, and unearthed a shattering fact: Nored's rec league basketball team is called The Real Gordon Haywards. Amazing.
Afternoon Links are pretty self-explanatory. Want to share? Email or tweet me @eamonnbrennan. Florida might be the best team in the country. In any case, the Gators are quite obviously better than the 2011-12 edition, which went to the Elite Eight, featured top-five pick Bradley Beal, and had four-year starter Erving Walker at the point guard spot.