We already knew which 16 schools were participating in next November’s one-time-only college basketball event honoring Nike founder Phil Knight.
Now we also know the brackets for the two eight-team tournaments that will be held simultaneously in two Portland arenas over Thanksgiving weekend.
The ‘Victory Bracket’ could feature a title game clash between reigning national champ North Carolina and potential preseason No. 1 Michigan State if form holds. The Tar Heels open with Portland before meeting either Arkansas or Oklahoma in the semifinals, while the Spartans would have to beat Georgetown and either UConn or Oregon to reach the title game.
The ‘Motion Bracket’ should also produce a marquee title game. Duke should face either Texas or Butler in one semifinal if the Blue Devils can survive Portland State in the opening round. Gonzaga and Florida could clash in the other semifinal if the Zags can defeat Ohio State in the quarterfinals and the Gators can get through Stanford.
No other holiday tournament next college basketball season will come close to matching the brand recognition or star power of the PK80 Invitational.
Fourteen of the 16 Nike-sponsored schools participating have reached a Final Four and nine have won at least one national championship. Of college basketball’s prominent Nike programs, Kentucky, Arizona, Villanova and Xavier are among the few who will not be part of this event.
Oregon and Stanford received the Pac-12’s two invitations instead of Arizona because they are the two schools from which Knight holds a degree. Xavier’s move from the Atlantic 10 to the Big East may have cost it a spot, while Kentucky was replaced by Arkansas because of what John Calipari described as a “scheduling conflict.”
Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis came up with the event as a way of celebrating Knight’s 80th birthday and honoring his contributions to college basketball. Hollis had to wait until Nov. 2017 to implement it because many of the elite programs participating had committed to other preseason tournaments through 2016.
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