GLENDALE, Ariz. – Signage posted around State Farm Stadium and its surrounding area this week proclaims that “The Road Ends Here.”

It’s a reference to the proverbial Road to the Final Four, a month-long, 68-team roller-coaster ride that will crown a national champion on Monday night.

But for NC State, the road literally did end Saturday night with a 63-50 national semifinal loss to Purdue on a basketball court plopped onto a football field in the middle of the Arizona desert.

Instead of taking on UConn for what would have been a title every bit as improbable as the one earned by the 1983 Cardiac Pack, Kevin Keatts and his team are heading home to Raleigh a few days early with only their memories instead of a trophy.

The finality of the NCAA Tournament can be cruel.

Even after an amazing postseason run that produced 9 straight wins, saved a tenure, created a superstar and brought so much joy to so many people, it only took 1 off night in which the ball didn’t go in the basket for it all to be over.

Life is different, though.

Win or lose, there’s always another road to travel. Every offramp is also an acceleration lane for the next journey.

And so, while there will be banners to raise, victories to savor and stories to tell over celebratory ice cream sundaes for years to come, the work of returning State to national prominence is still only just beginning.

You don’t automatically arrive just because you got to a Final Four. Just ask Jim Larrañaga and Miami.

After getting their 40 minutes of fame a year ago by advancing to the national semifinals, just like the Wolfpack, the Hurricanes immediately faded back into obscurity by going 15-17 and missing out on the entire tournament this March.

It’s also easy to forget that this State team was anything but a juggernaut heading into March after finishing the regular season with 14 losses, including the last 4 in a row.

“For some people, this is a once-in-a-lifetime moment,” junior guard Jayden Taylor said. “It’s something that you can’t take for granted and something you’ve definitely got to value. We’re grateful for the opportunity and the task ahead is still waiting for us.”

Taylor and his teammates accomplished so much more than just winning 9 straight elimination games, the ACC Tournament championship and a regional title while saving Keatts’ job during the whirlwind of the past 4 weeks.

They completely changed the trajectory of their school’s entire athletic program.

They did it by ending the self-fulfilling prophecy of #NCStateStuff, proving that their school can in fact have nice things. And that every turn of adversity isn’t the work of some kind of existential force determined to hold them down. Remember, this run included Michael O’Connell’s banked-in 3-pointer to force overtime against Virginia in the ACC Tournament semifinals.

They not only proved that they can compete with and beat the North Carolinas and Dukes of their own neighborhood, but that by doing so they can also gain the kind of universal recognition and respect that has eluded them for so long.

Fans far beyond the Triangle fell in love with this Wolfpack team. Now the work begins to keep all this momentum from becoming a fleeting springtime fling.

“I hope people understand that we have a heck of a basketball program,” Keatts said. “We play a unique style. We’ve got a unique culture.”

The 7th-year coach, who earned a 2-year contract extension and more than $300,000 in bonuses, acknowledged that “this run will help” in recruiting, perception and other ways moving forward. But as much positive exposure as it has brought the program and its school, it’s a foundation upon which to build.

Keatts has already taken steps toward adding some solid bricks and mortar to that base by signing a strong recruiting class, led by 4-star shooting guard Paul McNeil Jr. and bringing in Louisville transfer Brandon Huntley-Hatfield as a replacement for departing big man DJ Burns.

Now that the games have all been played, he and his staff can set their sights on parlaying their success on the court into success in the portal.

“One of the things I told the coaches was to keep going, to build on this,” said wing Casey Morsell, who along with Burns and leading scorer DJ Horne are the only 3 team members with no remaining eligibility. “NC State is in such a great position, much better than when I came in.

“NC State has a bright future so keep going, because this university has all the resources and tools to hang a championship banner.”

The road to that destination has only just begun.