Knight’s 80th offers 24 karat hoop

Knight’s 80th offers 24 karat hoop

November 21, 2017 3:08 AM
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When you’re Phil Knight, you get a 16-team college basketball tournament with some of the current game’s greatest teams and a few of the country’s most-storied programs for your 80th birthday.

The PK80 is a two-venue, four-day, 16-team, 24-game holiday event at Moda Center (formerly Rose Garden) and Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Portland to be held this Thur.-Sun.

The tourney, of course, features only NIKE-endorsed schools.

Top-ranked Duke, defending champ North Carolina, second-ranked Michigan State and UConn may be the headliners, but a few northwest regional clubs aren’t just bracket-fillers when you’re talking about reigning Final Four’ers Gonzaga and Oregon.

Rounding out the opening-round of bracket play are some tightly contested matchups featuring top 50 squads all with their own history of college hoop success.

Spartans’ athletic director Mark Hollins took the idea to Knight in 2013.

For now, the extravaganza for fans, and likely, pro scouts, is a one-time deal. Major teams are reluctant to sacrifice more than a couple of home gates.

The teams will compete in two eight-team brackets with corny NIKE t-shirt titles “Victory” and “Motion.”

All teams will play one game at each venue with the championship round at the larger, more modern Moda Center. The entire series will be carried on the ESPN family of networks.

There is no entire winner of the tournament, but each bracket will have a champion. NIKE locals Portland State and Portland may prove some fodder for the heavyweights, but some pretty decent programs are going to leave Rose City with a pair of losses.

Should the bracket favorites prevail in the opening two rounds, Sunday’s tournament title games would pit Michigan State and North Carolina (Victory bracket championship, 5:30 p.m.) followed by Duke and Florida (Motion bracket championship) immediately following.

Teams not mentioned early that could make some national noise with an upset include Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas and Butler.

Both finals are televised on the ESPN mothership. For fans attending the event, the games start or are played at separate times, allowing all-access ticket holders to attend at least a portion of all games at both facilities.

Also, on Saturday, four elite women’s teams will play a pair of games at Matthew Knight Arena as UConn takes on Michigan State, followed by women’s event-host Oregon meeting Oklahoma, starting at noon.

On Thursday, the Tar Heels (-22, 150) open the event at Moda Center against the local Pilots (11:30), followed by the Blue Devils (-19.5, 167) and the Vikings (1:30) at the Coliseum, both on ESPN.

Here’s the best of the opening round:

Arkansas (+1.5, 157.5) vs. Oklahoma (at Moda, 2, ESPN2): The Sooners, for now, sit on the edge of the top 25 behind its near-top 15 rated defense after a pair of 40-point blowouts of Omaha and Ball to open the season. The excitement though in Norman surrounds last year’s Oklahoma state of the Year Trae Young and his nomination to the preseason top 50 Wooden Award watch list. The 6-foot-2 guard from Norman North HS responded with 23 assists in the opening wins and already looks like a first-team All-American at this point. The Hogs are 3-0 behind their veteran backcourt of Jaylen Barford, Daryl Macon, and Anton Beard.

Butler (+1.5, 142.5) vs. Texas (at Memorial, 4, ESPN2): Texas coach Shaka Smart has his trademark defense taking hold with the ‘Horns, already in the top 15 efficiency-wise after a reasonable 3-0 non-board start at home against teams all outside the top 150. The Bulldogs won three home games but failed a road challenge at Maryland last week losing 79-65 as a 5.5-point ‘dog for a 2-1 ATS record.

UConn (+7.5, 141.5) vs. Oregon (at Moda, 6, ESPN2): The Ducks own a pair of 30-plus point covers and a blowout of Ball on Sunday at home, scoring 95 points as a heavy public-backed 19-point choice. Sharps reportedly scored nicely in that one, as well, going OVER in a 6-point move up to 162 (landed 166). Nothing too special about the Huskies’ 3-0 non-board start. Sophomore Christian Vital scored 30 on Sunday at home in a 19-point win over BU.

Stanford (+10, 150) vs. Florida (at Memorial, 7, ESPN2): Thre-Egor Koulechov has landed in Gainesville for his senior season and the affable Russian is sure to be a long-distance hit with the Gator fans. He hit 76 threes in each of the last two years at Rice and has nine already after a 3-0 start (2-1 ATS. Florida failed as a 27-point home choice in a 70-63 win over New Hampshire on Sunday. The Cardinal, off to a 1-3 ATS start, got punched out at home by Eastern Washington, 67-61, last Tuesday as a 16.5-point choice, though sharps reportedly scored nicely with UNDER there.

DePaul (+13.5, 145) vs. Michigan State (at Moda, 8:30, ESPN): Plenty to critique of Miles Bridges, Jaren Jackson and even coach Izzo in the 88-81 loss to Duke last week, then the Spartans failed as an inflated 28-point favorite at home against Stony Brook on Sunday in a 93-71 win. Demons not shy with early losses to Notre Dame and Illinois, though they failed both including losing by nine to the Illini in Champaign getting 8.5. Sharps reportedly scored with OVER in that one.

Ohio State (+8, 150) vs. Gonzaga (at Memorial, 9:30, ESPN2): 3-0 ‘Zags failed their first board test on Saturday laying 18 in a 79-66 win over Utah State. Kellian Tillie, a 6-foot-10 sophomore from France, is averaging over 17 points per game for GU. The Bucks have been busy with four home wins and a 1-1 ATS mark after crushing Northeastern 80-55 as a heavily-backed 10-point fave on Sunday, as sharps reportedly steamed and won the UNDER 143.