CLEVELAND - Beware, Kentucky. That little leprechaun looms.
The pristine season, the presumed NCAA championship, the aura of invincibility, and every other plaudit being thrown at the so-good-they're-scary Wildcats are at great risk. There's a proven giant-killer waiting.
Notre Dame, with a long history of slaying basketball behemoths, stands in Kentucky's path to the Final Four and perhaps the first undefeated season in the college game since Bobby Knight's Indiana squad ran the table 39 years ago. On Saturday night, the Fighting Irish get another chance at bringing down this team of teams, one that some believe is invincible - you know, like the 1974 UCLA Bruins, whose 88-game winning streak was stopped by ND.
Double-digit underdogs, the third-seeded Irish (32-5) believe they will take the floor with millions.
"We are America's team tomorrow," coach Mike Brey said Friday. "And we love it; we certainly will take all that support. We've got a monumental challenge."
No doubt. David had only one Goliath to deal with. Kentucky has a half-dozen future NBA first-round draft picks, and the top-seeded Wildcats (37-0) are coming off a jaw-dropping, 78-39 win over West Virginia in the semifinals of the Midwest Regional at Quicken Loans Arena.
Trey Lyles scored 14 points, Andrew Harrison added 13, and the Wildcats, chasing history and a ninth national title, rolled into the Elite Eight.
With stunning ease, the Wildcats built a 26-point lead in the first half over the Mountaineers (25-10), who led the nation in steals and figured their full-court press would at least bother Kentucky into some turnovers.
Juwan Staten scored 14 points to lead West Virginia, which shot only 24.1 percent (13 of 54) - including 2 of 15 from three-point range. The Mountaineers didn't eclipse 20 points until the 11-minute, 41-second mark of the second half.
Still, the Irish believe they can get the job done against Kentucky.
"We have a lot of confidence," guard Jerian Grant said. "We feel they haven't played an offensive team like us. Just go out there and play our game, I think we'll be able to get a win."
Notre Dame has knocked off the AP's No. 1-ranked team eight times, most recently in 2012 against Syracuse. This year, the Fighting Irish have faith it can happen again.
"You look back in history, we've been able to do it," senior forward Pat Connaughton said.
Talking about beating Kentucky is one thing, pulling it off is something else. West Virginia had a plan, but once the Mountaineers were down by 18-2, everything went out the window.
Kentucky doesn't beat itself, and coach John Calipari disagrees that someone will have to play a nearly perfect game to upend the Wildcats.
"My team knows that every team that's left playing can beat us; we know that," he said. "Somebody talked about perfection. We're not perfect; we're undefeated.