Nike founder Phil Knight will be celebrating his 80th birthday with an early-season tournament between some of the best college basketball teams in America. Three of the four teams from last year’s Final Four will be competing at the PK 80 Invitational (Nov. 23-26, 2017), including National Champion North Carolina and runner-up Gonzaga. Also making an appearance is one of 2018’s favorites, Michigan State, plus a Texas team showcasing its best recruiting class since Kevin Durant left Austin. We’ll also get our first look at Georgetown and Ohio State teams under their new coaches, Patrick Ewing and Somebody-Not-Named-Greg-McDermott.
It’ll be an interesting tournament, not least because it pits top teams against each other early in the season and lets us see top-rated recruits all in the same tournament together. There’s going to be a half-dozen bona fide five-stars in this event, playing their first tournaments against tough national competition.
PK80 is broken into two eight-team brackets, Motion and Victory. Each bracket features at least one genuine title contender, a handful of teams that could make decent runs in March, and then a local Portland team. We’ve broken down the odds to win each bracket below.
The Victory Bracket is headlined by defending national champion North Carolina. They have a pillowy soft match-up in the first round, facing a Portland team that hasn’t made the NCAA tournament since 1996. Also featured: an interesting first-round matchup between UConn and Oregon, and Patrick Ewing’s Georgetown facing off against Miles Bridges and the Michigan State Spartans. The first round is finished off by an Arkansas/Oklahoma game that decides who plays North Carolina in the second round. That game will highlight Oklahoma freshman Trae Young, a five-star point guard from Norman, Oklahoma, and Arkansas rookie Daniel Gafford, a four-star forward from Arizona.
Hopefully this bracket culminates with a Michigan State/North Carolina game. That would provide us a good preview of two teams in the national championship conversation, a valuable early-season experience indeed. Otherwise, look for one of those two teams to blow through this bracket in the absence of the other.
Odds to win Victory Bracket
- UNC: 3/2
- Michigan State: 7/3
- Oregon: 4/1
Headlining the Motion Bracket is either Duke or national title runner-up Gonzaga, depending on whom you ask. Whoever drew the bracket up appears to be a Blue Devils fan, as Duke faces Portland State, which was knocked out in the first round of the 2009 NCAA tournament and hasn’t been back since. Duke’s not the superteam it’s been in the past: Luke Kennard went to the draft and took Jayson Tatum and Harry Giles with him. Other key contributors graduate and only Grayson Allen is left to carry the torch. Of course, he’ll have Duke’s usual crop of top-1o recruits to help (PG Trevon Duval, PF Wendell Carter, SG Gary Trent Jr).
Meanwhile, the Zags draw an Ohio State team that will be coached by … someone, presumably … but not Thad Matta. Look for the Zags to also be diminished from last year: Zach Collins and Nigel Williams-Goss are both gone to the draft, and Gonzaga didn’t recruit well enough to replace both of them from the get-go.
The meat of this bracket is in the middle: Texas gets to show off five-star recruit Mohamed Bamba against a Butler team that made the Sweet Sixteen and only lost to eventual champion UNC. Florida and its top-10 recruiting class squares off against Stanford, albeit without star forward Devin Robinson.
The Motion Bracket is a little more balanced than the Victory Bracket, and a lot of interesting scenarios could play out here. It’ll be interesting to see how Duke’s crop of five-star recruits adapts to collegiate competition. After a 2016-17 season marred by subpar point guard play, the performance of projected first-rounder Trevon Duval will be crucial.
Odds to win Motion Bracket
- Duke: 2/1
- Gonzaga: 2/1
- Butler: 5/1
- Texas: 5/1
PK 80 Side Props
Winner of PK80 also wins NCAA title: 10/1
Either Portland team wins a game: 8/1
Miles Bridges scores most points in tournament: 5/1
Grayson Allen scores most points in tournament: 12/1
Phil Knight announces massive charitable donation at the event: 1/2
Phil Knight announces that he’s purchasing the University of Oregon: 1/15