LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) -Kentucky has long trumpeted itself as the program with ``the greatest tradition in college basketball.\'\' Now the Wildcats are closing in on another piece of history: the first program with 2,000 victories.
The fifth-ranked Wildcats are five wins shy in their 107th season heading into Saturday\'s game against No. 10 North Carolina, which ranks second in victories with 1,991.
``It\'s a big deal for the Commonwealth,\'\' said coach John Calipari of reaching the plateau first. However, Calipari is more focused with getting his young team ready for what is also important to Wildcats fans - championships.
``The reality of it is we\'re playing for March,\'\' Calipari said. ``That\'s how I\'ve always coached. We\'re playing for March.\'\'
\'s march to become the first with 2,000 wins has seemed as much of a foregone conclusion as the band playing ``My Old Kentucky Home\'\' at the end of each game.
But the Tar Heels (7-1) have rapidly closed the gap during a three-season stretch that ranks among the most successful in their history. After winning 30 games in three straight seasons for the first time - not to mention last year\'s national championship - North Carolina has reduced the gap from 43 victories entering the 2006-07 season to just four heading into Saturday.
Not that Kentucky freshman star John Wall is counting.
``Whoever gets there first, gets there first,\'\' Wall said. ``But everything is going to tell at the end, whoever wins the championship.\'\'
Forgive Wall for lacking a sense of place. He\'s been a Wildcat for all of seven - or 0.003 percent - of Kentucky\'s all-time victories. While Wall might not understand the significance of the number, he\'s very conscious of the legacy he\'s hoping to create during what could be a brief stay on campus.
Though he knows hitting the milestone before the Tar Heels will be something remembered by Big Blue faithful long after his career is over, so would winning an NCAA championship.
``That\'s what our team is looking forward to doing,\'\' Wall said. ``We\'re looking forward to keep adding banners to that wall.\'\'
y to end a five-game losing streak to the Tar Heels.
Saturday\'s game marks the beginning of the first truly difficult stretch of the season for Kentucky. Matchups against No. 14 Connecticut and traditional rival Indiana loom in the next 10 days.
Though Calipari is off to the best start by a Kentucky coach in his inaugural season since the Wildcats went 10-0 under Adolph Rupp in 1931, he hasn\'t exactly been impressed with his roster full of highly touted freshmen.
``I told them \'Let\'s not get arrogant or stretched out, because we aren\'t very good right now,\'\'\' Calipari said. ``We have to really settle in and get better.\'\'
Calipari has told his team to practice like it\'s 4-3 instead of 7-0 because he figures his team was only a handful of plays away from losing to Miami (Ohio), Sam Houston State and Stanford.
The result has been grueling three-hour sessions, the kind that the taskmaster in Rupp would have loved.
``It\'s been brutal,\'\' said center DeMarcus Cousins.
But not because the Wildcats are chasing history. Calipari is aiming to have this team ready for a run at an eighth national championship, which would be second only to UCLA and three more than the Tar Heels.
For players like senior forward Ramon Harris - who suffered through Billy Gillispie\'s tumultuous tenure before Calipari\'s arrival - getting to 2,000 first isn\'t something to be taken for granted.
``It\'s a blessing that me and Perry (Stevenson) and (Mark) Krebs, guys that have been here for awhile, have an opportunity to be a part of something like that,\'\' he said. ``Not many people get that chance.\'\'

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