This year’s Kentucky basketball season will have a large number of subplots that will lead it through the season. From year one under Coach Cal, to Patrick Patterson’s chase of the National Player of the Year to the potential for John Wall to be the Best Freshman ever at UK, there will be much to follow this year. But one story that should not be overlooked is the race to become the first college basketball program to 2000 wins. Because of North Carolina’s great last two seasons and Kentucky’s “Billy Clyde” experiment, the movement towards this milestone has actually become a race. Towards the end of last season, it became a bit depressing to me to think about the fact that the Heels were sure to pass the Cats and that UNC would use the opportunity to celebrate on a national scale. But then two things happened. UK got two CRUCIAL wins in the NIT, leaving the gap at 4 between the Cats and the Heels, and Calipari was hired. And now, unless UNC stacks its schedule early (their schedule isnt out yet), the Cats should take the race.
But the question becomes, what game will be the one in which the milestone will be hit? It takes 12 wins to hit 2000 and the schedule looks like this:
Game 12: Drexel
Game 13: Long Beach State
Game 14: Hartford
Game 15: Louisville
Thus if the Cats go undefeated early, the monumental game will be against Drexel and former Calipari assistant Bruiser Flint. One loss gives us Long Beach State and so forth. All of these games are around the Christmas holiday and all would be a good scene for a celebration. While beating the Cards for 2000 would be the greatest treat, doing that might put into play UNC actually getting their first (especially since one game is against the Heels), so that is too dangerous. Because I believe the Cats will win all but one preseason game (with a slip up due to a young team either against UConn, UNC or in Cancun), my bet for the must-have ticket would be Long Beach State, where I think the record falls.
However if one looks at the television coverage, the national networks may have their own view of the record. ESPNU is covering the Drexel game, which would be a nice national audience for the achievement. Long Beach State is on the BBN (which means more Rob Bromley for your party) and to me is the likely moment of victory. However interesting (at least to me) is the fact that ESPN 2 is showing the Hartford game live from Rupp Arena. That strikes me as an odd selection for ESPN 2 and might represent a gamble on their part that this is the game when the monument is reached. Putting UK-Hartford on the Deuce strikes me as strange unless one has other reasons….and the fall of the 2000 barrier could be that reason.
Although we wont know for sure until UNC releases their schedule, the Cats are heavy favorites to hit 2000 first. By winning 2 of the UCONN, UNC and Indiana trifecta, victory could be virtually assured and a holiday celebration in Lexington could be forthcoming. But watch when the UNC schedule is released…the setting of dates for games could make the battle in Rupp against the Heels somewhat crucial. I already believe that is THE game of the year in non-conference college basketball, which will be attended by every national college basketball writer in America. Make it the pivotal moment for the Race to 2000 and it could be monumental.