KINGSTON, R.I. — It's supposed to be taboo at tournament time.
You just don't talk about the game beyond your next game.
You don't look too far ahead in the NCAA Tournament.
But second-seeded Kentucky, which will face No. 11 seed Gonzaga in the regional semifinal on Sunday, hasn't been afraid to say the dreaded 'D' word.
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That's Denver, home of the Final Four and a chance to do something no UK team has done before.
"We want to go to Denver and we're talking about it," UK Coach Matthew Mitchell said this week.
"For us, we had a big-picture goal of going to the Final Four when the season started. We're at a place like Kentucky and we're trying to build a program that is one of the best in the country. The players need to train with that in mind."
But the players say they've also kept in mind that there are several key obstacles in front of them.
"Denver is definitely in our head and we know we can't make it to Denver unless we take care of what's in front of us right now," said senior guard Keyla Snowden, who has led the team in scoring in post-season play. "Right now it's Gonzaga and that's what we're focusing on."
The Bulldogs definitely have the Cats' attention.
With precision, they already upset two teams that play similar defensive styles as Kentucky in Rutgers and Miami. Against the Hurricanes' vaunted defense, the Zags turned it over only 11 times.
For the season, they are averaging just 14.7 miscues a game. Only two times this season have teams managed to turn it over fewer than 14 times in a game against UK's pressure.
"We had a dress rehearsal to some degree with our first two opponents because they too build their programs on pressure defense, full-court defense," Gonzaga Coach Kelly Graves said on Saturday.
But Graves said UK (27-6), with its Mitchell-coined "40 minutes of dread" defense, is a different kind of beast.
"They score something like 30 points a game off turnovers," Graves said. "If we did that once, I would be ecstatic. They do it as a general rule. We've just got to take care of the basketball.
"If you turn the ball over against Kentucky, you're done. They do the best job of anybody I've seen of converting turnovers into points."
Don't let Graves fool you, Mitchell said. The Bulldogs (28-5) are no underdog. They're a fundamentally sound, strong team led by seniors Kayla Standish (16.1 ppg, 7.7 rpg) and Katelan Redmon (13.5 ppg, 5.7 rpg).
"They're just what you would expect in this round of 16; an excellent basketball team, well-balanced," Mitchell said. "I don't think you can be at this spot without having a little bit of everything. ... It's going to be a real challenge for us."
But it's a challenge his team is willing to take head on and advance to the Elite Eight for the third time in school history and the second time in three years.
A win on Sunday night also would tie the school record for victories in a season at 28.
Mitchell has told his team that the pressure is off.
It's time to just play.
"We're going to tell them, 'You have to turn loose here and play. It's 40 minutes fighting for your life here,'" Mitchell said. "The farther we go, the simpler it gets as far as getting motivated or working your psyche or anything like that."
The players know what's at stake in the next two games.
They aren't afraid to say the word "Denver."
"Every game is precious and you try to survive and advance," junior star A'dia Mathies said. "I'm glad we're still here and we want to go even further."