Kentucky is the first team since Duke in 1991-92 to be voted No. 1 every week in The Associated Press poll. Willie Cauley-Stein became the program's 25th consensus All-American. For the third time, the National Association of Basketball Coaches named John Calipari its National Coach of the Year. Only John Wooden has won the award more times (five).
Of this heaping pile of tribute, the Cats seem to say: We get no respect, or at least not enough respect.
More precisely, UK perhaps doesn't want to concede that the other teams in the Final Four are more motivated, especially Wisconsin, which lost to the Cats in the national semifinals last year.
"When you get this close to the Final Four, everyone's motivated," Aaron Harrison said Tuesday. "But I think that we do have a chip on our shoulder. We have a lot to prove."
Never miss a local story.
The first 38-0 record in Division I history brings acclaim. But Harrison suggested he and his teammates are sensitive to the fact that Kentucky's historic season has not engendered universal acclaim.
"Obviously, we still have people who don't believe in us," he said, "and don't believe we can do things we know we can (do)."
Wisconsin players acknowledged Kentucky's worthiness.
"A bunch of pros," Sam Dekker said in complimenting the Cats. "You can go nine, 10 deep and not skip a beat."
The 68-66 victory over Notre Dame on Saturday followed regular-season thrillers against Ole Miss, Texas A&M, Florida, LSU and Georgia. The close games are no cause for alarm, Harrison said.
"I think every great team has been in close games," he said. "No one has run through the whole tournament. ... You have to prove you know how to win tough games to be a great team. Close calls we have had this season helped us win (against Notre Dame).
"I think it made us a stronger team going through tough games like this. Not weaker."
Students and athletes
Harrison shrugged when asked about the perception that so-called one-and-done players mock the notion of student-athletes.
"It didn't bother us because we knew it wasn't the truth," he said when asked about that opinion resurfacing this season. "We know a lot of people say things about us and make up their own theories about us. But most of it is not true. We're student-athletes just like everybody else. We're required to go to class. We're required to get the grades. We're just like every other program in that sense."
Coincidentally, that point got showcased on ESPN Tuesday when Shannon Spake walked to class with a few players.
Harrison noted how playing for Kentucky can be a challenge.
"Everything is under a microscope ... everything is blown up," he said. "You're just overly criticized, and it's just tough being a young man here."
When asked if it's fun playing for UK, Harrison said, "Oh, yeah. Of course. We have a great amount of fun. But you've just got to be careful. There's a lot of criticism."
Two different teams
UK players have talked about how the loss to Connecticut in last year's championship game motivated players this season. Harrison did not welcome the notion of validation in this year's Final Four.
"I wouldn't say validation," he said. "It's two different teams."
Likewise, Wisconsin Coach Bo Ryan noted how the Kentucky team on Saturday will differ from last year's Cats.
When asked if he looked at the video of UK's 74-73 victory over the Badgers in last year's Final Four, Ryan said, "Of course, I looked at it."
But, he added, "They're a different team."
By contrast, four of Wisconsin's starters against Arizona last weekend played against UK in the 2014 Final Four. So did three other Badgers who played against Arizona. So Wisconsin will have much more of a familiar look than Kentucky.
"I think it's easier for them to look at us than us to look at them," Ryan said.
Travel and tickets
Wisconsin players welcomed how the NCAA helps defray the costs for families to travel to the Final Four.
"I think they should do that for every round," Josh Gasser said.
Dekker noted that the Badgers played in the West Regional in Los Angeles. "Not cheap flying to L.A.," he said. "(Families are) willing to do it, but it puts a hole in the pocket."
Gasser and Dekker lamented that players only get six tickets.
"Football stadium, six tickets," Dekker said. "But whatever."
When asked about Wisconsin's players seeming light-hearted, Ryan joined in.
"I was the No. 1 pinball player in Pennsylvania," he said. "I could freeze flippers better than anybody. I could take a dime and play for two hours."
If that didn't drive home the point, Ryan added, "You think The Who had somebody in mind when they did that song (Pinball Wizard)?"