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UNIVERSITY PARK For the SMU Mustangs, it's been a season that's given fans every reason to cheer... and every reason to believe that for the first time since 1994, they'd get a bid to the NCAA Tournament.

'Oh, it's wonderful,' said Mustangs fan Craig Laird. 'I didn't think we'd be at this point at all.'

The mood in Moody Coliseum this season has been nothing short of exhilarating for fans.

SMU upset four ranked opponents.

The Ponies made it into the AP Top 25 twice.

Tickets to home games were sold out, attracting Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and former President George W. Bush.

But on Sunday, the magic of a whirlwind season seemed to fade once fans realized the NCAA selection committee had snubbed SMU and their Cinderella team would not be going to the ball.

'The moment that we found out that we were not in there, it was like heartbreaking,' said SMU senior Ramon Trespalacios, best known to fans as that guy who attends games dressed as a lobster.

'We are looking forward to learning from this season,' he said. 'It was an amazing season.'

Disappointment aside, the mother of one of the team's leaders, senior Shawn Wiliams, said what the team achieved this season is far more lasting than tournament play.

'The NCAA Championship is what everyone looks at as the final product, but I can tell you the blending and the gelling of the kids... the excitement around this city behind SMU basketball... the mobs... the Moody magic... we got the goal! We got the goal!' she said.

SMU's snub is making national headlines, and drawing hundreds of comments on our Facebook page.

Susan Davis said the Mustangs were 'robbed,' adding blaming NCAA politics.

David Hayden was blunt in his assessment: 'I guess the Death Penalty never goes away,' referring to the NCAA's shutdown of the SMU football program in 1987 for repeatedly violating rules regarding booster payments to athletes.

And Earnest Ivey said the Mustangs 'didn't earn it down the stretch. But they had a good year.'

E-mail cwade@wfaa.com

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