VALDOSTA -- So your basketball team has won 15 of its 16 games this year. It has won its first four Gulf South East games. It's being done with the nation's top-ranked defense.
What else could Jim Yarbrough want for his Valdosta State basketball team? Try the two pieces of news he got Tuesday.
The Blazers (15-1 overall, 4-0 in the GSC East) improved three spots to No. 9 in the national Division II poll released during the morning.
And then he found out minutes before his radio show at the Remerton Grille that the NCAA basketball committee had ranked the Blazers No. 1 in its first South Region poll.
"The region poll is what gets you in the postseason," said Yarbrough, who'll coach his 100th game at VSU Saturday night (vs. West Alabama, 7:30 p.m. at The Complex). Yarbrough is 69-30 at VSU in his three-plus years. "We have to win games to continue a high ranking. There are a lot of well-deserving teams right behind us, and they'll be chasing the No. 1 spot."
The first six teams in the poll are from the Gulf South Conference, though four are from the West Division -- No. 2 Christian Brothers, No. 3 Henderson State, No. 5 Ouachita Baptist and No. 6 Harding.
West Georgia, which VSU beat, 52-49, Saturday night at The Complex, is No. 4. Montevallo, which comes to The Complex Monday night, is No. 9.
Three Sunshine State Conference teams round out the poll -- No. 7 Eckerd, No. 8 Florida Southern and No. 10 Tampa. The teams are tied for the SSC lead with 4-1 records.
Three conference champions (including the SIAC) and five at-large teams advance to the NCAA South Region tournament in mid-March.
VSU took its high national statistical rankings out for a spin this past weekend, holding West Georgia to almost 30 points under its season scoring average.
The Blazers are ranked No. 1 nationally in scoring defense (48.9 points) and No. 2 nationally in field-goal percentage defense (35.4 percent). Those numbers were through Sunday's games; include Monday's games, and VSU would be No. 1 in percentage (35.8 percent to Central Arkansas' 35.9).
"You look at the effort against West Georgia and these kids have a heart of a lion," said Yarbrough. "They back down from no one. The defense has played well night in and night out."
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