Loss of big names take no thrill from Madness

March is two weeks away, and, for the first time in ages, the college basketball polls are missing some regular names.The Associated Press Top 25 does not include the Duke Blue Devils, U-Conn Huskies, Syracuse Orangemen or Texas Longhorns.

Last March, the nation watched in awe of Adam Morrison – and his moustache – as he helped lead the Gonzaga Bulldogs to the Sweet 16. This year, college basketball fans will sit and ponder how the Air Force Falcons have ended up with a No. 17 rank, and TCU fans can relish in the fact that they get to say the Horned Frogs got beat by a national contender. Moreover, the Mountain West Conference has a chance to send three teams into college basketball’s upper echelon. March Madness, try insanity.

The Falcons are guaranteed a bid to the tournament, the Brigham Young University Cougars are the conference frontrunner on the shoulders of Keena Young and Lee Cummard and the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels have been picking up votes in the polls.

The last time my interest was sparked by the March bracket was when the Lamar University Cardinals weaseled their way into the tournament in 2000 only to be defeated by the Blue Devils.

This could be the year of the dark horse in college basketball, just as was the 2006 Heisman Trophy in football for grabs by an unlikely candidate as well. That is, until Troy Smith grabbed national headlines and brought the Ohio State Buckeyes to the National Championship game.

Perhaps the Texas A&M Aggies will have their glory days in the Georgia Dome during the Final Four. They have the talent with Josh Carter, Acie Law and Antana Kavaliauskas as they ride a 21-3 record into their Saturday contest with the Oklahoma Sooners.

A handful of the big-name schools are out of the ranks, leaving fans of the underdog a reason to celebrate. The upsets are part of the college basketball magic where, any given night, in any given house, miracles can and do happen. In 1984, the NCAA finals went down in infamy for Georgetown fans as the Villanova Wildcats stunned the Hoyas in what is regarded as one of the greatest upsets in college basketball history.

Perhaps it is my Southland Conference bias that keeps hopes alive for laughable teams, but the Northwestern Louisiana Demons have a half-game lead in the conference standings, and, in 2006, this underdog proved it can advance in the tournament after beating the Iowa Hawkeyes in the 2006 tournament as the No. 14 seed.

A month of heartbreak, excitement and outright madness will undoubtedly take place starting March 13 from the UD Arena in Dayton, Ohio.

Considering the season began with a perennial unknown, such as the Clemson Tigers, who could have expected the remainder of this college basketball season to be anything but ordinary.