VAUGHT: Cats had no business losing by 26

Maybe the Wildcats don't have the talent to be a Final Four team, but these Cats certainly didn't have any business losing by 26 points to Indiana or being schooled by a young North Carolina team at Rupp Arena.

Something is not right with the University of Kentucky basketball team.

Maybe the Wildcats don't have the talent to be a Final Four team, but these Cats certainly didn't have any business losing by 26 points to Indiana or being schooled by a young North Carolina team at Rupp Arena.

So what's wrong? Why can't this team play better together than it has been?

First, it appears that the team is not playing with the traditional passion and energy of a Tubby Smith team. "We need to play our absolute hardest," senior walk-on Ravi Moss said. "If you guys (in the media) think we are not doing that, then we probably aren't no matter what we think."

Second, team chemistry might be an issue. Sitting behind the UK bench at the RCA Dome Saturday it became obvious that the Cats were not a team all thinking alike. Few players stood during the game to applaud teammates. Players seldom looked at the UK coaches -- or teammates -- when they came out of the game.

"The body language is just not good," said former UK All-American Kenny Walker. "When you get beat like this, you want to see a guy or two at least up in the other players' faces. But no one is talking. Even arguing would show some passion. But they just played like a beat team."

Want more? Point guard Rajon Rondo said after the game that the Cats are the not the same team as last year and had a "couple of ego problems." He wouldn't identify specific players, but just the accusation is an endorsement of team disharmony.

"A guy'll have a good game and everybody's high on him and stuff and they'll stop going to the gym, stop working out. You've got to stay humble," Rondo said.

Considering the way center Shagari Alleyne had played a game earlier against Georgia State and then disappeared again at Indiana, one couldn't help but wonder if Rondo meant him. Or maybe since he went on to say that the team had "no leadership", maybe he was faulting Moss and senior Patrick Sparks.

In fairness to Rondo, he did also admit that he needed to show more leadership. He got frustrated Saturday at times and his emphasis on scoring this year seems to have taken away from his ball-hawking defense. And he did have six of UK's 19 turnovers.

Third, Smith has to decide what kind of team he wants. He needs to either go with his 7-foot centers and be willing to let them make mistakes and keep playing, or he needs to go with a smaller lineup and let Rekalin Sims know that ready or not, he's got to be UK's next Erik Daniels. Going small, then big, then small and then big again just isn't working against quality teams. Remember, if not for a 20-0 run against West Virginia -- and how often will that happen -- the Cats would be 0-4 against quality opponents.

Sure, it's too early to write the season off. But it's not too early to worry that this team has a lot of problems.


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