3 reasons why Mark Pope's Kentucky could win 2025 NCAA championship title

Joe Cox
BYU's Jaxson Robinson and Mark Pope have teamed back up at Kentucky.

It's been quite a time of turmoil for Kentucky basketball. With John Calipari's Wildcats falling in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament, many were dissatisfied in the Big Blue Nation. Calipari hadn't taken up to the Final Four since 2015 and had a pair of brutal first-round NCAA losses in the last three seasons.

But then Calipari headed for Arkansas and Kentucky found itself scrambling first for a coach and second for a roster of players. UK alum and former BYU head coach Mark Pope filled the first role and set about filling the second. While Pope's team isn't exactly on the talent level of many of Calipari's best, Kentucky is getting a fresh start.

It's hard to gauge expectations for Pope and Kentucky. There's growing pains for most coaches in the Kentucky job. But there's also a high ceiling for the new coach and his new players. Here are three reasons that Kentucky and Pope could shock the world and win the NCAA title.

3 reasons why Mark Pope's Kentucky team could win 2025 NCAA championship

Kentucky shooter Koby Brea (shown here with Dayton) could open up the lanes with his perimeter skills in 2024-25.
Kentucky shooter Koby Brea (shown here with Dayton) could open up the lanes with his perimeter skills in 2024-25.

1. A fresh start will energize everyone.

Perhaps the biggest obstacle that Calipari was beginning to face in Lexington was that people were tired of his system. Bringing in the top freshmen players was great in 2012 or 2014 or 2015. But in the 2020s, it just wasn't moving mountains anymore.

Calipari's failure to adjust-- from being unwilling to coach zone defense to rarely working up late game situations or out of bounds plays-- made Kentucky's seasons seem to have a glass ceiling. Kentucky feasted on bad teams. But give them smart opponents and the Wildcats were hanging on for dear life.

Pope gets a fresh start. Kentucky won't be as athletic as in past years. But his roster will be more experienced and more able to adjust on the fly. It's not dissimilar to Kentucky's 1998 team, which had relatively few stars and a new coach in Tubby Smith. But they took everyone's best punch and bounced back all the way to an NCAA title.

2. The 3 is the key.

The 3-point revolution has forever changed college basketball. While UK shot the trey well in Calipari's final season, it wasn't a consistent part of their arsenal and many players were simply non shooters who defenses could sag off of. Not now.

Pope's lineup consists almost entirely of quality shooters. Jaxson Robinson? 35% at BYU. Lamont Butler? 30% at San Diego State. Koby Brea? 50% at Dayton. Andrew Carr? 37% at Wake Forest. Kerr Kriisa? 42% at West Virginia. Otega Oweh? 38% at Oklahoma. Ansley Almonor? 39% at FDU. Freshmen Travis Perry and Trent Noah can shoot.

A Kentucky team of consistent shooters will be a brave new world. With opponents forced to cover four or five shooters, UK will be improved by leaps and bounds.

3. Because college basketball is chaos

Face it, the best reason is that everything we used to know was wrong. Coaches used to spend years assembling carefully crafted lineups. Now, everybody is re-recruiting their own players every day. We're a Dan Hurley move to the Lakers from college basketball chaos.

Would Pope succeeding from day one be any crazier than, say, San Diego State in the NCAA title game? Or NC State making the Final Four? Part of what seemed to drag Calipari down in Lexington was that he was constantly fighting an uphill battle against a sport where a burst of late momentum can undo a million small mistakes. Maybe it's just Kentucky's time.

Can Pope and the Wildcats put together a big first season together? Weigh in below with your thoughts in our comments section!

What could Alabama basketball's 2024-25 starting lineup look like? Find out here

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