M bball: Salukis 13th in NCAA

By Gus Bode

The SIU men’s basketball team is now ranked higher than it ever has been.

The Salukis were tabbed No. 13 in the Associated Press Top 25 and No. 14 in the ESPN/USA Today Poll in the Top 25 polls released Monday. SIU achieved the No. 13 ranking on the strength of its Saturday win at then 13th ranked Butler. The 68-64 victory was the Salukis’ ninth straight win.

Saluki coach Chris Lowery said the new rankings are both good and bad as SIU wraps up a three-game road trip Wednesday at Indiana State (10-5, 5-11).

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“Obviously it’s a great accomplishment and we’re obviously excited about it, but I think we still got to play some games,” Lowery said. “Really, it comes at a bad time – you go on the road and when you’re at the highest you’ve ever been ranked and we just got to step up and play and make sure that we don’t take it for granted.”

However, Lowery said he doesn’t see the ranking becoming a problem with the Salukis, as SIU (23-5, 13-3) has been in the Top 25 for three weeks in a row but have won four games since.

“We could’ve let down after we did get ranked and fortunately we had very good composure and the right type of poise that we needed for back-to-back road games,” Lowery said. “I hope it’s not a problem and we don’t foresee it as a problem, but human nature does, can take over at times.”

The previous high ranking for the Salukis came in March 2004 at No. 15 during a six-week stay in the Top 25, and Lowery said he doesn’t want the Salukis to get ahead of themselves, as a national ranking doesn’t always convert into a Missouri Valley Conference championship.

Week 16 AP Top 25 1. Wisconsin (35) 26-2 1,747 2. Ohio State (31) 24-3 1,728 3. Florida (4) 24-3 1,647 4. UCLA (2) 23-3 1,611 5. North Carolina 23-4 1,474 6. Kansas 23-4 1,403 7. Memphis 23-3 1,378 8. Texas A’M 22-4 1,283 9. Washington State 22-4 1,172 10. Pittsburgh 23-4 1,161 11. Nevada 24-2 1,146 12. Georgetown 20-5 1,009 13. Southern Illinois 23-5 962 14. Air Force 23-4 831 15. Butler 24-4 695 16. Marquette 21-7 510 17. Vanderbilt 18-8 413 18. Duke 20-7 410 19. Texas 19-7 332 20. Louisville 19-8 286 21. Brigham Young 20-6 264 22. West Virginia 20-6 240 23. Oregon 20-7 218 24. Virginia 18-7 185 25. Alabama 19-7 177

Week 16 ESPN/USA Today Poll 1. Ohio State (17) 24-3 757 2. Wisconsin (10) 26-2 741 3. Florida (1) 24-3 710 4. UCLA (2) 23-3 682 5. North Carolina (1) 23-4 625 6. Kansas 23-4 604 7. Memphis 23-3 570 8. Pittsburgh 23-4 560 9. Texas A’M 22-4 542 10. Nevada 24-2 516 11. Washington State 22-4 483 12. Georgetown 20-5 409 13. Air Force 23-4 395 14. Southern Illinois 23-5 390 15. Butler 24-4 323 16. Marquette 21-7 184 17. Duke 20-7 157 18. West Virginia 20-6 152 19. Virginia 18-7 141 20. Texas 19-7 122 21. Vanderbilt 18-8 118 22. Brigham Young 20-6 97 23. Notre Dame 20-6 96 24. Oregon 20-7 89 25. Alabama 19-7 75

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Creighton finished the 2003 season in the Top 25 but lost March 1 at SIU. That season the Salukis finished with a 16-2 conference record and an MVC championship while the Bluejays finished second in the Valley.

However, Creighton was a six seed in the NCAA Tournament that season, while SIU was seeded at 11, but Lowery said he isn’t worried about what seed the Salukis might receive.

“You just got to play whatever games they put in front of you. As for now, we’re not even worried about that,” Lowery said. “Obviously we’re worried about Indiana State and when you get ahead of yourself, that’s when you stumble.”

The benefit of being No. 13 in the nation, Lowery said, lies in recruiting prospective Salukis.

From a recruiting perspective, Lowery said he loves the national ranking and media attention.

“That’s the number one thing as a program, you want to be able to send stuff everyday to somebody’s house saying where we’re ranked and saying how we’re doing and being able to clip out everything that the national media is saying about you,” Lowery said. “Those things are great and that’s what we look at as coaches, not as the product that you put on the floor but the future and the type of kids that you can get in on.”

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