Montrezl Harrell had 22 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks to lead the fifth-ranked Cardinals past No. 21 Connecticut 71-61 Saturday for the inaugural American title in their lone season in the league.
The defending national champions, headed for the ACC next season, clinched their 40th NCAA Tournament berth. Coach Rick Pitino lobbied for a No. 1 seed, though he knows his Cardinals, who won their third straight conference tournament (including their final two in the Big East), likely won't get one.
"What they've done to win a regular season, conference tournament the way we have done it, in the fashion we have done it, fits the eye test," Pitino said. "I can't talk about the strength of the league. If you want to blame anybody, blame football. Don't blame us."