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Ashley Scoby: An historic 26-0 start still secondary to winning the national title


Kentucky knocked off Tennessee Tuesday to improve its record to 26-0, the best start to a season in program history (UK Athletics Photo)

Kentucky knocked off Tennessee Tuesday to improve its record to 26-0, the best start to a season in program history (UK Athletics Photo)

 

Ever.
 

It’s a loaded word. “Ever” signifies something indelible, enduring, unique. It’s the genesis of even stronger words – forever, everlasting, evermore. “Ever” makes an accomplishment, or a phrase, or even a word mean more.
 

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So when Kentucky put together its best start to a basketball season – ever – on Tuesday night, it gave some greater context to what has already been an historical season. With a 66-48 win at Tennessee to move to 26-0 on the season, the Wildcats changed the wording of the season’s narrative. Instead of “one of the best starts to a season,” it now is the best start to a UK men’s basketball season. Ever.
 

At 26-0, the Wildcats are still perfect. And in some ways, they still haven’t accomplished anything meaningful. Every player and every paid staff member of this team would say that perfection doesn’t mean anything unless it comes alongside a trophy.
 

And they’re right: History remembers champions. History normally doesn’t remember the almost champions, or the teams who started off hot and faded down the stretch.
 

There’s no way anyone can predict what sports fans will still have filed away in their memories 50 years from now. A 26-0 start to a season could very well be broken by another team eventually.
 

But for now, this Kentucky team has started better than any UK team in history. And as long as there’s still an “ever” attached to that accomplishment, this team will go down as one to remember.
 

Somehow, the 2014-15 Kentucky team has started the season off on an explosion of unwavering accomplishment unmatched by Rupp’s Runts, the Unforgettables, the Fiddlin’ Five, the 1996 championship team and all the other storied conglomerations of talent that have filed through Lexington.
 

Regardless of what happens in the next month and a half, that accomplishment is still one to be lauded. And it could be one to continue to build on.
 

After Kentucky tied the record for best start in program history (at 25-0) against South Carolina this weekend, junior Willie Cauley-Stein said that this team had the chance to go further than previous records.
 

“We can do something bigger,” he said. “We have the chance to do something way bigger than just tying it.”
 

Technically, they already have, at 26-0. But he meant bigger, and they certainly can do bigger. Twenty-six games into the season, and Kentucky is still not showing any glaring weaknesses.
 

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Its freshmen have stopped playing like freshmen. In fact, Devin Booker led the way in Kentucky’s record-breaking game against Tennessee. He scored 18 points and pulled down seven rebounds (most on the team, alongside Cauley-Stein). Tyler Ulis also dished out six assists to mesh with his zero turnovers.
 

John Calipari might be doing things differently than they’ve – well, ever – been done, taking advantage of the system that allows for one-and-dones (Succeed and Proceed). Much of Calipari’s time at Kentucky has been a spin cycle of high-ranked recruits unpacking their bags in Lexington for a year, then jumping to the NBA. And that’s certainly been different from the way Kentucky has ever done it.
 

But combine that cycle of freshman talent with some veterans, as Calipari has done this year, and you get the best beginning to a Kentucky basketball season.
 

Ever.
 

Ashley Scoby is a senior journalism major at the University of Kentucky and a KyForward sports writer. She has reported on the Wildcats for wildcathoops.com, vaughtsviews.com andkysportsreport.com as well as for newspapers in Danville and Glasgow. She will begin a summer internship with Sports Illustrated magazine in New York this June.


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