For Iowa forward Kevin Boyle, today was the afternoon a lifelong dream came true.
"I always thought about playing in the final four," he said. "All week I've been thinking that this is what I've dreamed of since I was a little kid."
Boyle, 6-foot-5 and 195 pounds, is the quintessential scrappy ballplayer. He proved that again today, creating eight Louisville turnovers and doing the best job of any of the four players assigned to try and stop Darrell Griffith.
But at the offensive end, Kevin Boyle's dream turned into a nightmare. A 53 percent shooter for the season (60 percent in four NCAA games), Boyle was zero for eight from the floor today. He was, to put in simply, terrible.
"I had a couple of good shots early and missed," Boyle said quietly in the Iowa locker room after Louisville's 80-72 victory. "I got kind of psyched, you know? I forced a couple of shots. When they blocked a couple on me early, I guess it bothered me some."
Boyle had been two for six in the first half on the Eastern Regional final against Georgetown a week ago and came back to shoot five for five the second half. Not today. After going zero for seven the first half, he took just one shot in the second, an ugly 20-footer that bruised the back rim and bounded away.
"I've had bad days before," Boyle said, "but you hope you have them when it doesn't matter. Today, it mattered."
Boyle didn't mention that he had a temperature of 101 Friday night. And like his teammates, he refused to use the absence of point guard Ronnie Lester for most of the game as an excuse.
"They're a heckuva good team," he said of Louisville. "I'm glad we hung tough with them, didn't quit. I knew we would come back when we were behind even though we weren't playing all that well. That's the way this team has been all season.'
"They are," said Louisville's Derek Smith, "a tough bunch of dudes. I'm glad we only had to play them once."
The question is boring: How does it feel to replace a legend? Larry Brown's answer was not boring: "I'm not trying to replace a legend. Hey, I'm Larry Brown. They're having trouble replacing a legend at Denver."
The reference is one of those sarcastic remarks Brown makes from time to time about his firing a year ago by the Denver Nuggets of the NBA and his subsequent hiring as the third coach at UCLA in four years since John Wooden retired with his 10 NCAA titles.
"I saw him (Wooden) before the game with his wife and I told him I wished he was sitting next to me on the bench, that I'd feel 100 percent better," Brown said. "He (also) wrote me three letters this week. He even got the Peanuts characters mixed up in one of them."
Brown spent the evening before the game with old friends from the University of North Carolina: Coach Dean Smith, former assistant John Lotz and former teammate Doug Moe, who was fired as coach of the NBA San Antonio Spurs recently.
They ate dinner at an Italian restaurant, then went back to Smith's room at a hotel to talk and to try to erase Brown's pregame jitters. The talk lasted until almost 3 p.m. this morning.
"He wasn't nervous, was he, Doug?" Smith said, deadpan.
"We had to turn him upside down and hit him in the middle of the back a few times to get him breathing," Moe replied.
NBC got shakes of BJ and the Bear into the halftime show of the UCLA game with a performance and an encore by the UCLA Songleaders, who were Songgirls in preliberation days.
"UCLA," Smith said, "should bring their cheerleaders, whether the team gets here or not."