Phil Knight Legacy: Duke, Gonzaga headline men's field in Portland
The Phil Knight Legacy college basketball tournament is coming to Portland later this week, with the eight-team event beginning Thursday, Nov. 24, at Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
In the top half of the men's bracket, Duke will take on Oregon State in the opener before Florida and Xavier square off in Thursday's second game. The other half of the bracket includes an intriguing matchup between Purdue and West Virginia, as well as a potential upset when Portland State takes on Gonzaga in the final game on the Thanksgiving platter.
Here is a brief introduction into each of the eight teams making their way to the Rose City for the Phil Knight Legacy tournament.
Duke Blue Devils
The Blue Devils are one of college basketball's best-known brands, but a new-look Duke program is coming to Portland for the holidays. New head coach Jon Scheyer takes over for the legendary Mike Krzyzewski, who took over the program in 1980 and turned it into one of the bluebloods of the sport over the course of his 42-year tenure.
Now, the Blue Devils turn to one of Coach K's brightest pupils from years past in Scheyer. The young coach has already proven to be one of the best recruiters in the country, pulling in a handful of five-star recruits early in his tenure.
For this season, those high-caliber prospects include 7-footers Dereck Lively II and Kyle Filipowski, as well as forwards Dariq Whitehead and Mark Mitchell. Those phenomenal freshmen have joined forces with returning guard Jeremy Roach and Northwestern graduate transfer Ryan Young to form one of the country's top national title contenders.
Duke does not appear to be skipping a beat in the first season of the post-Krzyzewski era.
Oregon State Beavers
Coming off a dream season in 2020-21 that ended with the Beavers making a run to the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament, the wheels came off the bus for Oregon State last year. The team finished just 3-28 a year ago, one of the worst seasons in school history and a major letdown from their recent success.
Head coach Wayne Tinkle is working with a massively revamped roster now, though, with sophomore wing Glenn Taylor Jr., senior guard Dexter Akanno and senior forward Rodrigue Andela some of the only familiar faces.
The Beavers have enjoyed a hot start out of freshman guard Jordan Pope, who led the team in scoring with 48 points through the first three games, as well as San Francisco transfer Dzmitry Ryuny, who provides size and shooting ability. Big man Chol Marial (7-foot-2, 230 pounds) has also joined the fray.
Oregon State is unlikely to get back to the doorstep of the Final Four anytime soon. Still, after winning just three games all season long last year, the program is already 3-1 this year. Unfortunately, that one loss was a surprising upset on Nov. 19 by Portland State.
The Gators have ushered in a new era this year as first-year head coach Todd Golden takes the helm in Gainesville. Golden is coming off three successful seasons at San Francisco that culminated in an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament last season, just the Dons' second appearance since 1982.
The 37-year-old Golden is a wunderkind in the college coaching industry, but now he faces the bright lights of the SEC.
On the floor, Florida is led by fifth-year senior Colin Castleton. The 6-foot-11 big man is averaging 25.3 points, 8.8 rebounds and 3.3 blocks through four games, while fellow returner Kowacie Reeves has been the team's most prolific deep threat. Meanwhile, the new coach has brought in some new faces in transfers Will Richard (Belmont), Kyle Lofton (St. Bonaventure), Alex Fudge (LSU) and Trey Bonham (VMI) to round out his first Gator team.
A strong showing in the Phil Knight Legacy tournament would give Golden some signature wins in Year 1 that could help the team heading into December.
Like Duke and Florida, this Xavier team is also working with a new head coach this year. Unlike Duke and Florida, however, Sean Miller has been in this job before.
Miller is in the first season of his second stint in Cincinnati. During his first run at Xavier from 2004 to 2009, he took the Musketeers to the Big Dance four times and made two trips to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament. After more than a decade at Arizona, Miller was out of coaching last year before jumping at the opportunity to get his old job back.
The Musketeers are led by big men Jack Nunge and Zach Freemantle, who have combined to average 32.5 points, 14.1 rebounds, 6.0 assists and 3.0 blocks through the first four games. That dominant frontcourt is aided by stellar guard play from Souley Boum, Colby Jones, Adam Kunkel and KyKy Tandy.
Thanks to its pair of big men up front, a solid backcourt and one of the more experienced coaches in the PK Legacy field, Xavier is a dark horse to make a deep run over the holiday weekend.
Purdue may not come into the Phil Knight Legacy with the same kind of hype that last year's team had early in the season, but the Boilermakers are still one of the biggest teams in the field — literally.
Zach Edey is a 7-foot-4 giant in the Purdue frontcourt, leading the squad with 20.7 points and 13.7 rebounds per contest over the first two weeks of the season. The Toronto native is a matchup nightmare for just about every other player in Division I basketball, and his 3.3 blocks per game should strike fear into all opposing drivers.
Aside from Edey, a pair of freshmen guards have shown promise early. Braden Smith and Foster Loyer are each averaging over 10 points per game, while returning pieces such as Brandon Newman, Ethan Morton and Mason Gillis are all major pieces in the rotation. One X-factor for the Boilermakers is transfer guard David Jenkins Jr., a streaky scorer who can take over games when he's on.
This might not be a Final Four contender, but with the biggest player in the tournament on their team, Purdue could have a nice Thanksgiving weekend in Portland.
West Virginia Mountaineers
West Virginia is led by legendary head coach Bob Huggins, who has the fourth-highest win total in NCAA Division I history. Huggins will look to add a few more to the ledger during the PK Legacy tournament.
The Mountaineers are coming off just the third losing season in Huggins' first 15 years in charge, and one in which they finished last in the Big 12. In response, West Virginia cleaned house via the transfer portal — so much so that the team's top five scorers through the first are all new players.
Erik Stevenson (South Carolina), Tre Mitchell (Texas), Joe Toussaint (Iowa) and Emmitt Matthews Jr. (Washington) all come over from other major conferences, while junior college product Mohamed Wague has provided size and scoring off the bench.
The Mountaineers have outscored their first four opponents by an average score of 81.0-57.3, but the competition will ramp up considerably once they touch down in Portland. Their performance in this tournament could be a bellwether for the rest of their year.
Yet again, the Bulldogs enter the season with championship-or-bust expectations from many outsiders. Those hopes are buoyed by longtime head coach Mark Few and senior Drew Timme, who is one of the early frontrunners for National Player of the Year honors.
While the last few Gonzaga teams have featured game-changing freshmen in Jalen Suggs (2020-21) and Chet Holmgren (2021-22), this year's edition is relying more on its returning cast. Now that those players are in the pros, some of the other prized players who signed along with them are finally getting their chance in the limelight.
Julian Strawther has major star potential on the wing as a scoring option alongside Timme, and guards Nolan Hickma and Hunter Sallis are getting a longer look. Meanwhile, returning senior Rasir Bolton is another threat to score from anywhere on the court, and transfers Malachi Smith (Chattanooga) and Efton Reid (LSU) provide experience and talent from the portal.
Along with Duke, this Gonzaga team should be seen as one of the favorites at the PK Legacy event.
Portland State Vikings
The Vikings' early-season tour around the Pacific Northwest continues as Portland State returns home to the Rose City for a game with Spokane-based Gonzaga. PSU started the year with a loss at the Chiles Center against University of Portland, then went up north for a defeat at Seattle University.
Second-year coach Jase Coburn and the Vikings managed to get things back on track when they traveled back southward on I-5. Portland State crushed Evergreen State at home before going down to Corvallis to derail Oregon State's three-game winning streak.
The team's top six scorers all came from the transfer portal, led by Jorell Saterfield (UTEP), who had 25 points in the win over the Beavers. Cameron Parker (Montana), Isiah Kirby (Southeastern Louisiana), Hunter Woods (Elon), Bobby Harvey (IUPUI) and Keshaun Saunders (Toledo) are other new faces who are pouring in the points early on.
The Vikings aren't likely to upset Gonzaga in the first round, but they have a team full of talented, experienced Division I players — and they've already beat one of the teams in this field. It's not unrealistic to think that another upset could be brewing from this Portland State team.
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