And the funny thing about that headline is that it's true. SIU basketball is better than Duke basketball at this point. SIU (#15 in ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll, #16 in the Associated Press Poll) is better than Duke (unranked in both polls) and that's the end of the story.
Actually, that's just the beginning.
SIU (21-5, 12-3 in MVC) has a better record than Duke (18-7, 5-6 in ACC) and there is no one prouder than I am. Not only am I an avid SIU student and supporter of the basketball team, I am a major Duke detractor. I know, hating something is so wrong but when they epitomize everything evil and everything wrong in college basketball, they deserve it. And it's not like they're the worst program (see any team run by Jim Harrick) but it's Duke. It's like seeing the Yankees lose. Better yet, it's like seeing the Cardinals lose.
I think that Duke is in danger of missing the NCAA tourney. ESPN analysts disagree with me. But think about this. In 2001, UNC (a team with as much talent and tradition as Duke) went about .500 in conference play with 18-20 wins and went to the NIT. That team had more talent than this Duke team currently has....and proved it by winning the 2004 National Championship under Roy Willaims. The core of that team of course was Raymond Felton, Sean May and Rashad McCants. Duke doesn't have that "go-to guy" that Carolina does or that the '01 team had.
So what does this all mean? Who knows? I don't expect the fall of Duke to be prolonged, though I'd absolutely love it if that was to be the case. But Duke will continue to get the benefit of the doubt from a majority of ESPN and media giants of that sort. They'll continue to get All-American athlete's just because it's the tradition of Duke. While SIU continues it's grass-root type climb towards the top of the basketball world, starting with the recruiting dominance of the basketball rich St. Louis-area and Illinois for starters.
I never thought I'd see the day that SIU would be ranked higher than Duke, let alone Duke be unranked. What's next? A top-tier recruit coming to SIU? That'd be nice, but SIU's doing a great job of being a "system team." A team without stars, dedicated to a system that puts team ahead of self.
So I'm just going to enjoy this now while I still can. Thinking about how it can get so much worse for Duke with trips to Clemson, Boston College and North Carolina to close out the year.