Nothing has rattled Kentucky to this point. Unbeaten and unblemished, the Wildcats have handled every challenge this season.
That's due, in part, to likely future NBA lottery picks freshman Karl-Anthony Towns and junior Willie Cauley-Stein, two players Sixers fans will be keeping an eye on during the tournament.
Towns is an athletic 6-foot-11, 250-pound center who is averaging 10 points and 6.8 rebounds in 21 minutes a game. Cauley-Stein, a 7-foot, 244-pound forward, is averaging 9.3 points and 6.4 rebounds.
The Wildcats are 36 for 36 in their run at hoops immortality. An interesting test awaits against the fifth-seeded Mountaineers in the Midwest Regional Thursday night in Cleveland, especially after West Virginia guard Daxter Miles Jr. said Wednesday, "I give them their props, salute them going to 36-0, but [Thursday] they are going to be 36-1."
The top-seeded Wildcats are about to face something they haven't seen - the relentless, choking West Virginia press that has buckled teams. The Mountaineers are in your face for 40 minutes.
Kentucky coach John Calipari has warned his players what's coming.
Kentucky will have its ballhandling skills and composure tested like never before.
Kentucky hasn't shown any flaws in easy wins over Hampton and Cincinnati, but neither of those squads plays defense quite like the Mountaineers, who can turn games into a 94-foot street fight. West Virginia, which leads the nation in steals, forced 40 turnovers in its tournament wins over Buffalo and Maryland.
One thing in West Virginia's favor is that coach Bob Huggins is 8-2 in career matchups with Calipari.
Notre Dame vs. Wichita State.
The third-seeded Irish (31-5) will try to reach the Elite Eight for the first time since 1979 when they face the seventh-seeded Shockers (30-4) in the regional's other semifinal.
It's a dizzying precipice for a program that lost 17 games a year ago. Part of the reason for the turnaround is Steve Vasturia, a St. Joseph's Prep graduate from Medford, who is averaging just under 10 points a game in 32 minutes for the Irish. The 6-5 guard adds stability on the floor.
"Coaches are the greatest compartmentalizers in the history of the world and have to be to survive this thing," said Irish coach Mike Brey, who has been dealing with the death of his mother Saturday. "There is such a good vibe and positive energy coming off this team, it's really good for me to be around it this week and get back and be busy and teach."
There are plenty of lessons to impart. The biggest might be to not get lost in the moment. This is rarefied air for a program that has spent decades in the shadow of the football team. That's not the way it is at Wichita State. Listen to coach Gregg Marshall rattle off the teams the Shockers have faced in the tournament over the last three years is akin to listening to a financial adviser rattle off blue-chip stocks in their portfolio.
Ohio State. Louisville. Kentucky. Indiana. Kansas. That last one, by the way, may have been the most important. Spoiling for a fight wtih their unwilling in-state rivals for more than 20 years, Wichita State blew Kansas off the floor in the round of 32.