When Tarleton knocked off Incarnate Word in the 2007-08 regular season opener last week, the TexAnns also picked up a win in its first game against a South Central region opponent.

Playing in-region opponents before conference play begins can only help the regional rankings formula that ultimately determines which teams get invited to participate in the national playoffs come March.

While the season is still young, it's never to early to begin earning respect around the South Central.

Tarleton used a big second half performance to edge Incarnate Word 53-45 in the opener, and visits St. Edward's in Austin tonight.

Like UIW, St. Ed's is a member of the Heartland Conference.

The Hilltoppers are just 2-3 this fall, but their wins have been over Lone Star Conference South members Angelo State and Abilene Christian.

Tarleton returns home at 6 p.m. Thursday for the start of LSC crossover play against Cameron.

Brad Keith is the sports editor at the Empire-Tribune. He can be reached at (254) 965-3124, ext. 241 or by e-mail at brad.keith@empiretribune.com.