June 25, 2024

Kentucky basketball projected starting five: a key piece still missing from Mark Pope’s roster

Mark Pope is only about two months into his tenure at Kentucky, but so far he’s shown that his limited success as a college basketball head coach had more to do with the limitations placed on him by Utah Valley and BYU. Now that Pope has access to elite talent in Lexington, he’s loading up his roster.

While he was unable to retain a single player from John Calipari’s roster, Pope has added 10 players to his 2024 team. Seven via the transfer portal and three more as incoming freshmen, including Collin Chandler who spent his last two years on a mission trip after committing to Pope and BYU back in 2022.

Coach Cal was the king of the one-and-done, but Pope has redefined that term, one Big Blue Nation was tired of hearing. Pope’s one-and-done players are graduate transfers like Kerr Kriisa from West Virginia, Koby Brea from Dayton, LaMont Butler from San Diego State, Andrew Carr from Wake Forest, and Amari Williams from Drexel.

While the roster is loaded with quality contributors, it’s still missing a real centerpiece, but Pope doesn’t appear to be done. It may not look like this come Game 1 next season, but here is Kentucky’s tentative projected starting five.

At this point, Kriisa is well-traveled. He began his career at Arizona before transferring to West Virginia, a move likely made for the Wildcats to clear room for Caleb Love in Tuscon. Now, with Darian DeVries taking over in Morgantown Kriisa needed a new home for his final year of college basketball.

Kriisa doesn’t provide great upside and his 2.9 turnover a game last year is concerning, but he’s the ideal point guard for Mark Pope’s motion offense. Kriisa keeps the ball moving on offense and can orchestrate an effective pick-and-roll, but his elite catch-and-shoot numbers allow him to play without the ball in his hands which will be a necessity for Kentucky point guards now.

At WVU, Kriisa shot a career-high 42.4% from three, but he’ll need an attacking guard next to him to penetrate SEC defenses. Kriisa lacks the necessary athleticism to beat defenders off the dribble consistently, so he could be a nice pairing in lineups with Otega Oweh, a slender slasher who currently projects as the third guard for Kentucky.

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