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Kentucky must unify to fulfill potential

11/14/2013

In 1975, former boxing champion George Foreman fought five men in Toronto on the same night. It was a futile attempt to regain his confidence following his knockout loss to Muhammad Ali in Zaire the previous year.

Unexpected losses can sap the machismo of any individual or team, especially those that seem untouchable. And Kentucky’s roster of future NBA standouts had that allure entering Tuesday night’s matchup with Michigan State.

The Wildcats were outplayed, outworked and outhustled. The good news, however, is that they were only playing their third game of the season. And if they excel over the course of the next four months, the blemish will mean little.

That recovery begins on Sunday (7 p.m. ET, ESPN2/WatchESPN) with a matchup against a Robert Morris squad that defeated them in that embarrassing opening round matchup in last season’s NIT.

I want to see how Kentucky responds to everything it has experienced over the last week. We all know that the Wildcats will be the most talented team on the floor.

This is not the same Robert Morris squad -- three starters from last season are gone. And this is definitely not the same Kentucky squad.

But the Wildcats are now on a path to rebuild their mojo after the Spartans roughed them up in Chicago earlier this week. They’re not shattered. It was just one game.

They do, however, have some things to correct.

Youth wasn’t their only obstacle. Their lack of chemistry and communication was a problem, too.

I’d like to see if this group can use this weekend’s matchup against Robert Morris to play together. To talk to each other. To jell.

There was talk of Julius Randle and Co. going undefeated. And that wasn’t a crazy thought, considering the fact that the program lost just two games on its way to the 2012 national title. And coach John Calipari has more talent than he had then.

But that’s obviously no longer a possibility. Kentucky, however, can still be a great team that ends the season with the ultimate prize. That pursuit will demand a short memory and more cohesiveness for this program.

The Wildcats will be the overwhelming favorite against Robert Morris.

Let’s see if they’re more of a unit on Sunday.