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Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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Monday / August 8.
  • Calipari Chasing 26-0 Start for Third Time in Career

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    NCAA Basketball: Vanderbilt at KentuckyBy JOSH NEWMAN

    John Calipari will start a season 26-0 for the third time in his career if the University of Kentucky defeats Tennessee on Tuesday evening in Knoxville.

    Nineteen years after Calipari did it for the first time at the University of Massachusetts, the Wildcats’ head coach has grown wiser in terms of how to handle things once he finds himself with an undefeated team in the middle of February.

    “The reality of it is the kids have to manage those things, not me because I’m not out there on the court,” Calipari said on the SEC media teleconference Monday morning. “I’ve got one job and my first time when we did this at UMass, I knew we were slipping, but we kept winning, so I put my head in the sand and I was just like, ‘Let these guys go do their thing.'”

    “I was a little bit of the same, but got better at Memphis. I’m trying really hard not to do that here, but to do my job and to correct them, be tough on them, to not worry about scoring and coach them. It’s hard.”

    Led by Marcus Camby and a host of memorable players, Calipari’s 1996 Minutemen, opened 26-0, lost the 27th game at George Washington and wound up advancing to the program’s first and only Final Four where it fell to Kentucky.

    In 2008, Calipari’s Memphis squad opened 26-0, lost the 27th game to Tennessee and went all the way to the national-championship game where it lost in overtime to Kansas in overtime.

    Officially, those accomplishments no longer exist. The 1996 Final Four was vacated after Camby was ruled ineligible due to contact with an agent, while the entire 38-2 Memphis season was wiped from the books due to academic fraud.

    In any case, at the time of both campaigns, expectations were heightened and not always met. Now, Calipari has an opportunity to do things differently and its coming in a day and age where every move he and his players make is scrutinized to the umpteenth degree.

    “If I allow it now, then I have to allow it in March. If in March I allow it and it costs us a game, that’s on me, not on these kids. I’m trying really hard to just stay focused on what’s at hand and not put my head in the sand. If there’s issues, I bring them out.”

    Kentucky is 15 victories away from registering only the eighth perfect season in the history of Division I college basketball and the first since Indiana in 1976. Of the previous seven, none went 40-0.

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