DALLAS – This is starting to get serious.

Two weeks ago in Washington, DC, NC State was a curiosity item after winning 5 games in as many days to earn its first ACC Tournament championship in 37 years and steal a surprise NCAA Tournament bid.

A week later in Pittsburgh, the Wolfpack became a warm-and-fuzzy feel-good story that captured the nation’s imagination while winning twice and evoking memories of Jimmy V and his 1983 Cardiac Pack.

But now, after Friday’s 67-58 South Region semifinal upset of 2nd-seeded Marquette, the team State beat to win its first national title in 1974, it’s time to stop treating Kevin Keatts’ 11th-seeded team as a darling of destiny riding a wave of emotion, nostalgia and good fortune.

With their 8th consecutive victory over the past 2 1/2 weeks, the Wolfpack are just 1 win from a Final Four appearance that would make that national championship run of 41 years ago look downright routine.

“People still don’t think we’re supposed to be here. That we’re (not) going further,” center DJ Burns said after his team’s surgical takedown of the Big East runners-up. “We’re going to keep trying to crash the party.”

While it’s true that Burns and his teammates weren’t exactly invited to this shindig, they continue to show the world that they absolutely belong.

Things have been going so well, a foul that was originally called on Burns late in the 1st half was actually reversed on review because Marquette’s defender was in Burns’ space. So instead of heading to the bench with his 2nd foul, the Wolfpack retained possession.

As if there was any further proof necessary of #NCStateStuff being dead and buried, this was it.

And yet, the Wolfpack’s run in general and this game in particular, have been anything but a fluke.

After trailing for about a minute and a half early, State led the Golden Eagles for the game’s final 35 minutes. They did it with Burns scoring only 4 points and Mohamed Diarra fasting until midway through the 2nd half while committing an uncharacteristically high 14 turnovers.

And it was still never really close.

This latest performance was a testament to the Wolfpack’s newly acquired talent for finding different ways to win virtually every time out.

On this occasion, it was all about their defense.

Keatts put a heavy emphasis on limiting Marquette’s 3-point looks and his team delivered by holding the Golden Eagles to a frigid 4-of-31 performance from beyond the arc.

Another goal was to try and force 2nd-team All-American Tyler Kolek into being either a scorer or a distributor, but not both – a diverse skill set that has been the key to his team’s offensive success.

While he got his 17 points on 6-of-13 shooting, primary defenders Casey Morsell and Jayden Taylor made things difficult for the Marquette star to create opportunities for his teammates. He finished with only 3 assists. One of which came with just 1:20 remaining and the game all but out of reach.

“They need him to get going in order to be very successful,” Morsell said. “He had a pretty good scoring night, but trying to hold him below his assist average was something I at least try to prioritize.”

Kolek came in averaging 7.8 assists per game, with 11 helpers in each of his 2 previous NCAA games.

Mission accomplished.

As hard as the Wolfpack worked at taking their opponent’s greatest strength away, Marquette set out to do the same to them by not allowing Burns to use his super-sized body to back in on his defender and score from close range.

In that, the Golden Eagles also succeeded. But while their double-teams only gave Burns the opportunity to get off 4 shots, their strategy ended up backfiring because of the State center’s passing ability.

Burns finished the game with a career-high 7 assists, many of them leading to open 3-pointers by DJ Horne, Taylor and Michael O’Connell.

“There’s no ‘I’ in team,” said Horne, who hit 4 3-pointers and finished with 19 points, along with a few kisses blown toward the Marquette fan section. “Everybody is doing their part to get us here.”

Now that they are here, in the Elite 8 for the first time since 1986, people – even the national media naysayers looking for any reason to downplay the ACC’s tournament success – are starting to take notice.

While their view of the Wolfpack may have changed, the Wolfpack’s outlook is the same as it was when they took on Louisville in the opening game of the ACC Tournament.

“We’ve always had that chip on our shoulders that we could beat great teams,” O’Connell said. “It’s never been something we’ve been surprised we could do. This is what we felt like we should have been doing all year.”

The question of why they haven’t was asked of Keatts at his pregame press conference Thursday.

He gave a detailed answer. But he could have summed it up in just one thought. It’s because the competition in the ACC was much better than anyone outside the league wanted to admit.

“I think that the ACC is one of the best conferences if not the best conference,” Burns said. “I feel like we’re not the only team that took it with a level of disrespect. That’s why we’re all fighting now.”

Not only did it help toughen the Wolfpack up for their amazing run, it also prepared Clemson for an equally surprising date in the Elite 8, where they’ll face rival Duke or No. 1 seed Houston.

Who could have imagined when the regular season ended on March 9 that the league’s 5th- and 10-seeds would still be playing and No. 1 North Carolina would already have been sent home?

But here we are.

And it’s not a fluke.