CLEVELAND — The dirty little secret about cheering for the prohibitive favorite to win the NCAA Tournament is the unrelenting worry that comes with it. If that is your situation, Kentucky Wildcats backer, buckle up.
For reasons both current and historic, the hours leading up to the matchup between Kentucky (37-0) and Notre Dame (32-5) in the Midwest Region finals at 8:49 p.m. Saturday in the Quicken Loans Arena is the place where UK fan anxiety could reach a boiling point.
You might fret about how much stronger Notre Dame's schedule turned out to be than Kentucky's.
The Fighting Irish are 8-1 against the teams that made the NCAA Tournament round of 16. UK is 4-0.
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Is it possible that playing in the ACC has the Fighting Irish more "tested" for a high-level showdown with the Final Four at stake than Kentucky is after toiling in the mediocre SEC?
"I think we are, there's no question about it," Notre Dame Coach Mike Brey said Friday. "You know, given what we went through in that league, and especially what we did in our league tournament, to go through Duke and North Carolina on Friday and Saturday night (to win the championship), ... I think it really has helped us."
You might fret about how much emotional energy Kentucky's players seemed to invest in making mouthy West Virginia eat its words after UK's 78-39 round-of-16 beat-down late Thursday night.
From putting together a special tweet mocking West Virginia freshman Daxter Miles Jr.'s prediction that UK would end the game 36-1 to tweeting out pictures of WVU players looking shellshocked on the bench, some of the Cats seemed uncharacteristically devoted to sticking it to the Mountaineers.
Is UK ripe for an emotional letdown Saturday against a far more formidable foe?
"No, not at all," Kentucky center Dakari Johnson said. "It's the Elite Eight. Every game now is really big. We have to come out strong."
Says UK point guard Tyler Ulis: "We know there's a lot at stake and a lot to lose. We know we've got to come out ready."
Longtime Cats backers won't need a reminder to fret about any round-of-eight game.
From the Dan Issel-Vaughn Wedeking game in 1970 through "the fourth-time is LSU's charm" contest of 1986 to the John Wall-Joe Mazzulla game in 2010, the final eight has long been Kentucky's "heartbreak" round.
All-time, Kentucky is 35-10 in round-of-16 games. The Cats are 12-4 in Final Four contests. In the national championship game, UK is 8-4.
However, in the Elite Eight, Kentucky is "only" 16-18.
There's also Notre Dame tradition to fret over. The Irish have a rich basketball heritage as a giant killer.
Ten different times, the Fighting Irish have knocked off the top-ranked team in either the Associated Press (media) or coaches' polls. In December 1980, the Irish upset a top-rated Kentucky. As recently as 2012, they took down No. 1 Syracuse.
Most famously, Notre Dame snapped the 88-game winning streak of John Wooden and UCLA in January 1974.
The Irish say they will draw strength Saturday from what their program has done in past David-Goliath scenarios.
"Yeah, I mean you look back in history, we've been able to do it," Notre Dame forward Pat Connaughton said. "I know Jerian (Grant) and myself were first-year players when we were able to knock off Syracuse when they were undefeated and ranked No. 1."
The Wildcats say history will have no impact, good or bad, on the present.
"We can't really worry about the past," Kentucky guard Andrew Harrison said. "We have to worry about the game tomorrow."
If you need one more item to fret over, Notre Dame's Brey once played a role in beating an undefeated team in the NCAA Tournament. He was a Duke assistant in 1991 when Christian Laettner, Bobby Hurley, Grant Hill and Co. stunned previously unbeaten UNLV in the Final Four.
"My memory of that game is Duke, we got off to a great start and then you believed (we could do it)," Brey said. "And it's similar to tomorrow. ... You get off to a good start against Kentucky in here tomorrow night, (you think) 'OK, we've got a shot at this.'"
Notre Dame, with its offensive efficiency and three-point prowess, could be the toughest game Kentucky will face in the 2015 NCAA Tournament.
With so much to fret over, the Irish do not figure to be any picnic for UK fans, either.