Evansville Basketball's D.J. Balentine Robbed Of Larry Bird Trophy

By Demario Phipps-Smith
Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

It is hard to outshine an undefeated team in college basketball. As a team, an undefeated regular season is one of the most elusive and respected feats in the sport. A team who completes this task will incur a wild media storm that will encompass it. This storm is so honed onto that team that others are almost completely devoid of attention even if they are screaming for it.

Evansville’s D.J. Balentine has nine efforts of 25 points or more, and his overall brilliant season were yelling for some type of consideration. The sophomore scoring dynamo was the MVC‘s leading scorer at 21.6 points per game. He was the only player in the conference to average at least 20 points. He is also the only player in the MVC to score 30 or more on three separate occasions.

None of Wichita State’s big three — Cleanthony Early, Fred Van Vleet and Ron Baker — scored 30 once this season.

No player in the conference has meant more to his team than Balentine. The Purple Aces are only as good as he is on any particular day. The rest of the team feeds off, him but there is no present compliment for him. The UE big men aren’t polished enough to be reliable and there isn’t a point guard available to allow Balentine to focus on his talent — scoring.

Although Balentine’s critics say he is limited to just his scoring prowess, his numbers suggests otherwise. Usually he is a score-first guard but when teams key on to him, Balentine is unselfish with the ball as he averages 4.2 assists on the year. He matches his scoring ability with his ability to shoot. Balentine averages 85 percent from the free throw line and 40 percent from 3-point range.

Player of the Year isn’t a team award (or is it?). Wichita State had the best team in the conference by far, but Evansville has the best player this year. Balentine has been the most exciting and most consistent in times when his team needed him most.

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