If a tree falls in the forest, but nobody is there to hear it, does it make any noise?
There are players around the country knocking the bottom out of the net. But their games aren't on television, and they are making plenty of noise.
As we inch toward March and our annual debate over "who's in and who's out," and as we wring our hands over which major college big shot will be national player of the year, some great college players are toiling away and playing great basketball outside of the spotlight.
And we can hear it.
Here is the Sweet 16 of relative unknowns who deserve to be center ring with their names up in lights:
Alex Franklin, Siena:
With teammate Edwin Ubiles limited by injury this season, Franklin has established himself as the best player in the MAAC, and he is having a great senior season for the Saints. Franklin is a versatile player and powerful athlete who can drive it and finish, and he has really improved his handling and perimeter shooting. Best of all, he competes on every play. He is averaging 16.3 points, 7.9 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game, while shooting 58 percent from the floor. And he averages more than seven free throw attempts per game.
Ryan Wittman, Cornell: Wittman is an assassin, and a senior shooter who plays with no fear. He is smart, crafty and tough, and he gets shots off against just about anyone with his great shot preparation, form and range. Wittman averages 17 points per game and has hit 76 3-pointers on the season. Over his career at Cornell, Wittman has never averaged less than 15 or more than 18.5 points per game and has hit 344 3s. He has never shot less than 40 percent on 3s over the course of a season. Wittman is the kind of player who can hit eight or nine 3s in an NCAA tournament game, and he just might.
Omar Samhan, Saint Mary's: Samhan has an amazing old-school feel for the game and is a very instinctive player. While he may not fit the suit, he can play. Samhan makes great decisions in the post, has every move in the book and can drop step, dribble drop, up and under, step through and go over either shoulder with a soft touch and unusual feel with his back to the basket. He averages 21.5 points, 11.2 rebounds and 2.9 blocks per game, and he is tougher than nails. Samhan loves the challenge and has a swagger to his game. He brings it every game, and I love watching him play.
Damian Saunders, Duquesne: At just 6-foot-7, with a thin, lanky frame, Saunders doesn't look like a power forward. But he puts up numbers in every category and is one of the most productive players in the nation. He can step away, put the ball on the deck and has a good shooting touch. He very rarely makes mistakes. But he is most valuable on the glass and on the defensive end. Saunders has more assists, blocks and steals in his career than he has turnovers. He is a walking plus sign and leads the Atlantic 10 in rebounds, offensive rebounds, blocked shots and minutes played. Saunders averages 14.8 points, 11.9 rebounds, 4.8 offensive rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game and shoots 50 percent from the field. He is a bear to play against, because he will embarrass you if you don't match his intensity.
Malcolm Delaney, Virginia Tech:
Delaney is a thin combo guard with a great first step and a hunger to score. He is good off the bounce and in transition and can shoot off the catch or the dribble. Delaney leads the ACC in scoring, and has the ability to use ball screens to blow by defenders and take on secondary defenders. He has to take a lot of tough shots, and Seth Greenberg has run more motion to get him shots coming off of screens so he doesn't have to manufacture so many shots. He is averaging 20.2 points, 3.9 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game and is shooting 84 percent from the line.
Randy Culpepper, UTEP: A great athlete, Culpepper is quick, strong and explosive. At 6-feet, he can rise up and dunk it over people, and he has the body control of a circus high-wire performer. Culpepper can shoot it deep, and he is a great penetrator. He has really improved his shooting, and as a senior, he's taking better shots and working much harder in advance of pulling the trigger. Culpepper is averaging 18 points, two assists and 1.8 steals per game, and put up 39 points on Central Florida and 45 points on East Carolina.
Sylven Landesberg, Virginia: Landesberg is a driver, and he has a knack for getting into the lane and drawing fouls and getting to the free throw line. He is always looking to take his defender off the dribble, and he seeks out contact with excellent body balance. Landesberg is an improved perimeter shooter, an alert help defender and a very good passer. He is averaging 17.2 points, 5 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game, and he shoots 82 percent from the free throw line.
Jerome Randle, California: Randle is an ultra-quick penetrator who drives it hard in transition and can really shoot it from deep. He will kick his leg out when he shoots and can pick up fouls that way. Randle has a great handle and likes to cross over right to left, and he is really tough to corral in the open floor. With his range, you have to pick him up early. He's averaging 19.8 points, 2.1 rebounds and almost five assists per game and shoots more than 41 percent from 3-point range.
John Shurna, Northwestern: Shurna looks like he should be delivering newspapers on his bike, but he is an outstanding college player. At 6-foot-7, he can pull opposing bigs away from the rim, and he can really shoot it. With an odd release that is almost eye-level, Shurna makes great reads and gets his shot off quickly. He averages 17.8 points and 6.2 rebounds per game and has hit 61 3s on the season. He put up 60 points in two games against Michigan State, 25 against Notre Dame and 27 at Illinois.
Elijah Millsap. UAB: At 6-foot-5 with great strength, determination and a long wingspan, Millsap can go get the ball. The brother of Utah Jazz forward Paul Millsap, the younger Millsap has the same genetic disposition to pursue the ball on the glass wherever it is. Millsap is not a great shooter or handler, and he does not bang down his free throws, but he is relentless, and you cannot teach that. He guards people, gets steals and deflections, and averages 15.9 points, 9.2 rebounds, two assists and 1.8 steals per game. Millsap is a great glue guy and plays his tail off.
Dominique Jones, South Florida:
Jones is a great college player. He is strong and long-armed and can really attack off the bounce. Jones has a knack for making shots, finding the body of a defender and getting to the free throw line. No player in America is more involved in his team's offense than Jones, and few players carry their teams like he carries the Bulls. At 6-foot-4, Jones is a good guard, a solid rebounder and an active defender. He averages 21.8 points, 6.2 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 1.8 steals per game and shoots 47 percent from the floor.
Lazar Hayward, Marquette: How does this guy get overlooked? Nobody in the Big East plays any harder than Hayward does, and he is a bear to match up with. Only 6-foot-6, he runs, rebounds, posts and can hit a perimeter shot to 3-point range. Hayward is tough-minded and aggressive on both ends, and he is much improved in his versatility and efficiency. He's also a hard-nosed defender and averages 18.6 points, 8.1 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game and shoots 82 percent from the line.
Landry Fields, Stanford: Fields is the best all-around player in the Pac-10. The 6-foot-5 senior from Long Beach, Calif., has never been the best player on his team until this season. Fields is tough, strong and long-armed and can hit shots in pressure situations. He can post, face up, drive and finish plays, and he never changes his demeanor. Through working with Johnny Dawkins, Fields has taken on a scorer's mentality, and he is unafraid to take important shots. He's averaging 22.5 points and almost nine rebounds, three assists and two steals per game, while shooting 48 percent from the field and 71 percent from the line.
James Anderson, Oklahoma State: Anderson was always known as a shooter, but he is now a more complete player. Far more than a "catch-and-shoot" guy, he has improved his dribble game and his midrange pull-up, and he has gotten tougher in completing plays. His free throw rate is up significantly, and he is a topflight prospect for the next level. One of the most efficient scorers in the country, Anderson averages almost 23 points, six rebounds and 1.4 steals per game, and he hits 47 percent of his shots and 81 percent of his free throws.
Jimmer Fredette, BYU: An automatic free throw shooter who can create things off the bounce, shoot it deep and finish at the rim through contact, Fredette is as tough as they come. He can change his pace and has a really effective crossover. He scored 49 points against Arizona, 36 against Utah and 33 against Nevada. As an offensive player, Fredette is NBA-good. He is averaging 21.5 points, 3.2 rebounds, five assists, and 1.4 steals per game, while shooting 49 percent from 3 and 90 percent from the free throw line.
Darington Hobson, New Mexico: The long, lanky lefty is a versatile player who creates matchup problems for most opponents. A highly rated recruit, Hobson bounced around several high schools and a junior college before settling at New Mexico, and he has made the most of the opportunity. At 6-foot-7, Hobson can handle, pass and create for others. He can also create his own shot, and he is a good rebounder. Hobson still needs to improve his shooting efficiency, but he is so valuable on defense and the glass and is the best defensive rebounder in the Mountain West. He averages 15.5 points, 8.8 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game, while shooting 43 percent from the floor.