VALDOSTA -- The men's game between VSU and West Florida won't decide any championships. Yet, even more might be at stake than the women's winner-take-all battle for the Gulf South East Division title. Because for the Blazers, without a win at 2 p.m. today, they face a very uncertain future.
A loss opens the door for Alabama-Huntsville to break the tie for third place between the two teams. Should VSU (18-7, 8-5 in the Gulf South East) end up as the fourth seed, the Blazers will open up the conference tournament on Wednesday in a play-in game. Finish third and the reward is two extra days of rest.
"Probably No. 1 thing we've been pressing all week is a sense of urgency and getting better," senior Ben Mallett said.
"We're trying to build some momentum going into the conference tournament," senior point guard Jerrod Jones said. "I know it's Senior Night and all that and the guys are pulling for the seniors, but for the whole team, we really need this game for a little momentum."
With four losses in the past six games, it's certainly something that's been hard to come by. VSU coach Jim Yarbrough compared himself to a mad scientist this week, trying to find the formula to make this team go. West Florida (11-15, 3-10) shouldn't provide much of a test, especially since the Argonauts have been eliminated from postseason contention. However, all Yarbrough is concerned with is the end result.
"Now, when are we going to be a little more results oriented?" Yarbrough said. "When does it become our team now and not try to let any adversity become an excuse? One thing I think we've developed around here over the years is the idea when we step on the floor, we expect to win."
Even with a win, the team will need a stellar showing at the GSC Tournament in Tupelo, Miss., to warrant a return to the NCAA Regionals. The Blazers are presently holding the eighth and final spot in the South, but no South Atlantic Intercollegiate Conference teams are in the Top 10, even though the conference tournament champion receives an automatic berth. Anything short of an undefeated run from here on might leave last year's top seed and region host at home again.
"That might be the hard offseason lesson for us, for the young guys in particular - you can't misstep when you have the opportunity not to because it will come back tenfold to hurt you," Yarbrough said.
For Mallett, Jones and fellow seniors Tony Baker and Mindaugas Boruta that doesn't have to be the case. The direction can start to change today.
"Tomorrow is never granted," Mallett said. "Take this game and use it to the fullest. And enjoy it."