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Louisville’s surprising run through the tournament positioned the Cardinals to win dual before Connecticut squashed that dream with a 93-60 rout Tuesday night in New Orleans, Fans didn’t soon forget the fifth-seeded Cardinals’ memorable charge, highlighted by a monumental 82-81 upset of defending champion and top-seeded Baylor in the regional semifinal.

Junior guard Shoni Schimmel led that run with shooting, penetration and confidence, all of which were shown on the video screen. One of many players wearing T-shirts saying `Party Crashers’ on the back in reference to their unexpected presence in the Final Four, she hinted that a Final Four return was possible.

“Thank you for everything and we’ll be back next year, don’t worry,” Schimmel said.

Pitino brought the official celebration to an emotional close by expressing his gratitude for the opportunity to work in a program that allowed him to achieve some personal milestones. Besides the Hall of Fame selection and becoming the first coach to lead two schools to national titles, last week saw his son, Richard, hired as Minnesota’s coach and a thoroughbred he co-owns qualified for the Kentucky Derby.

None of that compared to what he felt upon watching a replay of Louisville’s victory in New Orleans while attending the women’s final. Seeing Chane Behanan’s rebounding performance in the men’s final made the 60-year-old cry in a Bourbon Street bar, but he was all smiles in the arena that has fueled his success.

And he made sure fans remembered how the Cardinals’ run has made them feel.

“Back to back Big East championships, back to back Final Fours, with a national championship,” Pitino said. “It’s time to celebrate.”


AP Freelance Writer Josh Abner contributed to this report.