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Tuesday, March 25, 2003
Tournament a home for shooting stars

By Andy Katz
ESPN.com

Freddie Owens had a few classes Monday he had to attend. Journalism. Math. Communication arts.

Freddie Owens
Freddie Owens celebrated his last-second shot that saved Wisconsin's tourney hopes.

Just a regular day for the University of Wisconsin junior guard, right?

Are you serious?

This was the first day of school after he hit a game-winning 3-pointer to beat Tulsa 61-60 on Saturday in the second round of the NCAAs. How do you just go about your business in school as if it was no big deal?

You don't. Owens couldn't.

"It was pretty weird,'' Owens said. "Everyone just kept coming up to me and saying 'great shot.' It was very hard to concentrate. I was reading all the newspaper stories in between taking notes. I don't even know how many people came up to me. I couldn't count.''

Owens wasn't alone feeling a bit like the Big Man on Campus on this post-first-weekend Monday, even if he wouldn't admit that he felt at least a bit special.

Try being Darnell Archey at Butler on Monday after scoring 26 points and converting eight 3s to beat Louisville 79-71 in the second round Sunday and get the Bulldogs into the Sweet 16.

"Good thing the only class I had (Monday) was a one-credit golf class,'' Archey said. "I've got the real business classes on campus (Tuesday). It would have been real hard to be in one of those (Monday). I was up all night. I couldn't sleep. I just kept thinking about the win and all the plays. I kept rolling over. The last time it was 4 a.m. when I saw the clock. I would have definitely been out of it in one of those (business classes).''

My adrenaline was still going. It was hard to focus on schoolwork. There is so much excitement going around on campus
Marquette's Travis Diener

How about walking in Drew Nicholas' shoes after the Maryland senior guard sank a fadeaway, 3-pointer in the corner, at the buzzer, to beat UNC-Wilmington 75-73?

"Good thing we're on spring break,'' Nicholas said. "There is definitely a buzz about the shot. I keep getting congratulations from everyone on the shot. I even had two pregnant women come up to me and say, 'great shot, you made our husbands' weekend.' Can you believe that?''

Need still more 15 minutes of fame? Try hanging with Marquette's Travis Diener for the day. The soft-spoken local boy hung up 29 on Holy Cross (in a 72-68 win), followed by 26 to beat Missouri (101-92 in overtime) and send the delirious Eagles into the Sweet 16.

"Yeah, we had class (Monday) and I had to go to an English fiction and communications public relations class,'' Diener said. "But it was real hard. My adrenaline was still going. It was hard to focus on schoolwork. There is so much excitement going around on campus.''

The NCAA makes stars, albeit for a day, a weekend, or even a few weeks after the tournament ends. Some of these names might end up having a continuing legacy beyond this tournament. Others will just drift away. But they will all stay in the 2003 video archive and have locked themselves into the vault of great moments in NCAA Tournament history.

There is definitely a buzz about the shot. I keep getting congratulations from everyone on the shot. I even had two pregnant women come up to me and say, 'great shot, you made our husbands' weekend.' Can you believe that?
Maryland's Drew Nicholas

Making one shot, putting up loads of points for a Cinderella or in a classic overtime game, or connecting on a boatload of 3s can create a mystique that most players dream about when they sign on to play college ball. Stepping back into the normalcy of college life within 24 or 48 hours of having thrilled thousands of fans (not to mention entire campus communities) has to be a bit surreal.

"When (Butler's) Brandon (Miller) was at Southwest Missouri State and they went to the Sweet 16 (in 1999), he told me their team was treated like kings,'' said Archey, who didn't get nearly the recognition on campus when he set the national free-throw record this season by making 85 straight. "He wasn't lying. Everywhere we go we're congratulated and wished best of luck in Albany. I'm not getting a big head. It's just a great feeling. Everybody loves the attention but this is my senior year and I love all of this.''

Archey really is living out a dream. He said he remembers sitting and watching taped versions of the "One Shining Moment'' montage on CBS and saying to his family: "One day I want to be on there."

"Hopefully, I got my chance to do that,'' Archey said of his barrage of 3s against Louisville.

He -- along with Nicholas, Owens and Diener -- can probably set the VCR for April 7 when CBS rolls out its annual end-of-tournament feel-good close.

Owens said he had a "weird feeling'' he was going to get the ball from Wisconsin point guard Devin Harris.

"I didn't feel rushed at all,'' Owens said. "I know this will be one of those shots. I hope it gets remembered for years and I can tell my kids about it.''

Everywhere we go we're congratulated and wished best of luck in Albany. I'm not getting a big head. It's just a great feeling.
Butler's Darnell Archey

Nicholas said he'll take the memory with him as well.

"I hit a game winner,'' said Nicholas, almost pausing to reflect on how that sounds. "That's what March Madness is all about. I'm sure it will have a bigger impact a year or five years from now.''

Nicholas promised himself he wouldn't take a game-winning shot again. How can he top what he did?

"I was fading away with a guy in my face,'' Nicholas said. "I had five seconds to get it down court. I'm one-for-one. I'm never taking it again. The guys were joking around in practice Saturday that I should shoot it again. Never.''

Nicholas kept running after he made the shot, although he admits: "I didn't know where I was going. I got 20 feet behind the basket until my teammates found me and hugged me. I knew that we could get a good shot off. Often, players shoot that shot too quickly, not thinking they have two more dribbles.''

Nicholas said he never looked at the clock and released the ball "on feel,'' before the buzzer.

"It was just one of those things where you go on instinct,'' Nicholas said. "That's all.''

And now he has entered Maryland folklore -- and NCAA history -- for converting one of the best buzzer beaters in the tournament.

Nicholas. Owens, Archey. Diener. They are this week's stars, NCAA Tournament-made and forever linked together whenever the 2003 Dance is revisited.

Now, Owens and Wisconsin face Kentucky. Archey and Butler face Oklahoma. Diener and Marquette meet Pittsburgh. Nicholas and Maryland play Michigan State.

What will they do for an encore?

Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.



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