The world's most famous arena? Friday's regional semifinal against No. 1 seed Virginia? Final Four expectations?
None of the trappings should faze Tom Izzo's players. They're too old, well-traveled and accustomed to success.
Intangible edge? Immaterial narrative?
We're about to find out, because there's no questioning that the Cavaliers, in their first Sweet 16 since 1995, can not match the Spartans' seasoning.
"Make no mistake about it," Virginia associate head coach Ritchie McKay said outside the New York Knicks' locker room prior to Thursday's practice at the Garden, "their NCAA tournament experience and ability make them prepared for this assignment."
As postseason beckoned, I wondered more about Virginia's pedigree than ability. None of the Cavaliers had won an ACC tournament game, let alone an NCAA tournament game, and while such experience is not essential to success, it sure does help.
Virginia (30-6) dismissed most of that doubt by winning three times in as many days at the ACC clambake, and beating Coastal Carolina and Memphis last weekend to reach the East semis.
But one thought lingers: None of the teams the Cavaliers defeated the last two weeks was as postseason-tested as this Michigan State bunch.
Duke in the ACC championship game? The Blue Devils were in the Elite Eight last year, but their best players this season were newcomers Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood, and that youth was glaring in Duke's NCAA meltdown against Mercer.
Conversely, Spartans starters Keith Appling, Gary Harris, Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson played similar roles last season, when Michigan State fell to Duke in a Midwest Regional semifinal. Moreover, Appling, Payne and Dawson were regulars on the 2012 squad that lost to Louisville in the Sweet 16, though Dawson missed the NCAA tournament after injuring his knee in the regular-season finale.
That core has won six NCAA tournament games in three seasons, which is as many as the Cavaliers have won in the last 20 years. During the last three regular seasons, the Spartans have played at the Garden, Barclays Center in Brooklyn, Ramstein Air Base in Germany and aboard the USS Carl Vinson in San Diego.
Izzo said those games should "refresh your memory. … I think when you play the best over a period of a couple years, it gives you at least a comforting feeling that you've been there, done that before."
"We are more equipped," Dawson said, "and there's no doubt about our focus."
Michigan State (28-8) was ranked No. 2 nationally in preseason behind Kentucky and won 18 of its first 19 games. But injuries to Dawson (hand) and Appling (wrist) contributed to a 5-7 stretch that dropped the Spartans off many radars.
President Obama, Dick Vitale, Jay Bilas and scores of others have made the Spartans a trendy national-title pick. But first they must avoid losing a third consecutive Sweet 16 game.
"When it comes time to lace them up and … the ball is tipped, it's go time," said Virginia sixth man Justin Anderson, dismissing any "star-struck" notions. "It doesn't really matter. You get in a zone. You forget your parents are there. You forget all the people that are there. You just get ready to lock in and play your type of basketball.
"Michigan State, hats off to their team for what they've been able to accomplish — happy that they got their game back, and they got their team back together, so it's just going to be another great game."
The contest's central conflict: Virginia ranks fifth nationally in defensive efficiency, Michigan State ninth in offensive efficiency.
Both teams are deep, physical and impeccably coached.
"I think we've tightened our screws up a little bit in postseason play and actually gotten better," Cavaliers guard Malcolm Brogdon said.
"I think we got the jitters out against Coastal," McKay said, "being the one seed, a one never having lost to a 16. Because we were funky at the beginning of that game. But we found our stride against Memphis, and because we have so much respect for (Michigan State), I would anticipate us being who we are. …
"We just have to go into it and not change what we do. … One of our pillars is humility, to know who we are, and if we remain in the mode of Virginia basketball, then we'll be really competitive."