As everyone is paying attention to Wichita State and Northern Iowa in the Missouri Valley, Evansville has set up a nice season over the opening two months.
That didn't come easy: Miami Ohio, Fresno, San Fran, and this week Belmont. Right now, Evansville is four points from being undefeated and looked at as a serious contender in the Valley.
Those four points have added up to two losses, one to Green Bay which owns a win over then No. 15 Miami, and now to Murray State thanks to a big game from Cameron Payne, a contender for this week's award, but yet he fell short.
Why? Because in the loss, and with the win over Belmont on Tuesday, D.J. Balentine separated himself from the pack to take home the Mid-Major Madness Player of the Week honor.
The junior went for 25 points, five rebounds and four assists against the Bruins, and followed that up with 31 points against the Racers. That included a 13-for-15 performance from the free-throw line. He added four steals over the two games, while committing just four turnovers in a combined 76 minutes on the floor.
Impressive? You bet. This is the type of performance that catapults a player into all-conference talk before January.
Also considered this week, which included a number of one-game stellar performances: Jack Gibbs, Davidson; Shawn Long, Louisiana-Lafayette; Payne; Jay Harris, UIC; Kruize Pinkins, San Francisco; Gabas Maldunas, Dartmouth; Juan'ya Green, Hofstra; Dennis Mavin, FIU; Darion Rackley, Jacksonville State; Emmy Andujar, Manhattan; RaShid Gaston, Norfolk State; D'Shon Taylor, Norfolk State; Mark Nwakamma, Hartford; Tyler Larson, South Dakota; Stephen Croone, Furman; Ron Baker, Wichita State.
For Freshman of the Week, this wasn't even a fight, although we had a couple of very good also ran candidates.
The winner stood out from the start.
New Hampshire's Tanner Leissner had 15 points and four boards in a 60-56 loss against the Big Ten's Rutgers Scarlet Knights, and then turned around and scored 21 points with eight rebounds against Colgate on Sunday. He added a combined two assists and three steals in the two games, and committed no fouls in 66 minutes on the floor.
That performance gave Leissner the win for the award.
Also considered for Freshman of the Week: Jontrell Walker, Incarnate Word; Elvar Fridriksson, Long Island.