Phil Knight Invitational: UNC, Michigan State and Oregon set to compete
The college basketball world turns its eyes to Portland for Thanksgiving as the Phil Knight Invitational returns bigger than ever for 2022.
After starting in 2017 and being played again 2019, the event that honors Nike founder Phil Knight has 16 men's teams participating and eight women's teams, the first time the women's game will take place during the event.
This preview takes a look at the eight men's teams playing in the PK Invitational bracket. You can check out the eight men's teams in the Legacy bracket here, and you can preview the eight women's teams across the Invitational and Legacy fields here.
Here are the eight teams across the men's invitational bracket:
The preseason No. 1 team and still top-ranked squad in the nation is going to hoop it up in Rose City this weekend, starting with a 10 a.m. tip time against Portland on Nov. 24 in the Moda Center.
The Tar Heels enter at 4-0 but it hasn't been the easiest path with that No. 1 target on their back. Still, the reigning runner-ups have looked every bit the part of a national title contender behind returning big man Armando Bacot.
The senior forward/center leads the Tar Heels in scoring with 18.3 PPG while also bringing down 11.8 rebounds a game so far. Caleb Love is the backcourt scoring with 17.8 points per game so far despite shooting 18.5% from 3-point range. Look for him and fellow guard RJ Davis to turn it up in Portland.
Pete Nance and Leaky Black fill out the starting five for UNC who are looking to finish at the top of the PKI this Sunday.
The Pilots will certainly be heavy underdogs against the No. 1 Tar Heels, but a program on the rise under second-year head coach Shantay Legans would love nothing more than a signature win to announce their arrival.
Portland is 4-2 on the year behind 17.5 PPG from junior guard/forward Tyler Robertson, who transferred to Portland last year from Eastern Washington to stay with Legans.
The Pilots might struggle to match up with Bacot, but 6-foot-8 forward and Pilots leading rebounder Moses Wood will give it his best shot, averaging 7.6 boards and 13.8 points per game.
No matter what happens to the Pilots over the weekend, they're going to get quality looks against of bunch of teams who will likely be playing in March, and that'll be more than welcomed for a Portland team that hopes to climb even further in West Coast Conference standings this year.
The Cyclones enter the PKI undefeated at 3-0 after taking down some mid-major competition in all three games rather easily.
Iowa State has dominated defensively in those three games, continuing its trend from last season that helped it reach the Sweet 16 despite a middle of the road regular season. In fact, the Cyclones 45 points per game allowed is the best in the nation so far.
Two St. Bonaventure transfers have made big impacts so far in Ames with Jaren Holmes leading the way scoring with 18.3 a night while Osun Osunniyi is averaging 11.3 points per game and has three blocks on the year.
The Cyclones defense will get its first true test at 12:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 24 when they take on Villanova in the first round of the PKI.
Despite receiving seven points in the latest AP poll, the Wildcats have had a bit of a rough start to the season at 2-2.
Villanova took care of La Salle to open the season, but lost to cross-town rival Temple and then was losing at halftime to Delaware State before coming back for a 60-50 win. And most recently the Wildcats lost to Michigan State 73-71.
Eric Dixon has helped steady the ship under first-year head coach Kyle Neptune as the 6-foot-8 redshirt junior leads the team in scoring and rebounding with 19.8 points and 5.8 boards a game. He's also the team's leading shot blocker with five denials so far.
Guard Caleb Daniels is next in scoring with 15.8 a night and has hit eight 3-pointers to lead the Wildcats. Look for these two to try and provide some inside and outside scoring against the stingy Cyclones.
The No. 20 Huskies are 5-0 and haven't really been challenged either coming into the 5 p.m. matchup Thursday, Nov. 24 against Oregon in the first round.
Anchoring UConn has been 6-foot-9 junior forward Adama Sanogo and his 21.4 points per game, which currently sits tied for 23rd most nationally and is the highest scorer this season in the PKI field.
Couple Sanogo with 7-foot-2 freshman center Donovan Clingan and the Huskies have an interesting 1-2 punch down low from the starter in Sanogo and the backup in Clingan.
Meanwhile the Huskies have worked through some different starting guards Tristen Newton is the mainstay and second leading scorer with 11.2 PPG and he's got 20 assists on the year.
There will be plenty of Ducks in the Moda Center for the primetime Thanksgiving matchup with UConn where Dana Altman and crew hope to avoid falling below .500 as they enter 2-2.
Oregon started the year in the preseason rankings, but a home loss to UC Irvine bumped the Ducks out, but they still received 4 points in the latest AP poll. And the Ducks enter the PKI following a 66-56 home loss to No. 2 Houston.
N'Faly Dante has led the way on offense with 14.8 points per game plus nine rebounds a night. A healthy Will Richardson returns to the guard spot but he's only averaging 10 points a game and has 18 turnovers to 16 assists.
Highly touted freshman Kel'el Ware has been a nice piece off the bench with 7.5 points and five rebounds a game plus eight blocks.
Ware and Dante will likely be needed to try and slow down the size of UConn in the first round matchup.
The No. 18 Crimson Tide come to Portland 4-0 and hope to stay that way playing No. 12 Michigan State in round one at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 24.
Alabama likes to play fast and shoot a bunch of 3-pointers, and its 84.8 points per game as a team so far proves that, ranked 33rd best in the country.
Freshman Brandon Miller has been every bit worth the hype, which has been a potential top five pick in the 2023 NBA Draft. He's leading the Crimson Tide in scoring with 20.3 points per game and is shooting 51.7% from deep. Couple that with 9.3 rebounds a game and fourth-year head coach Nate Oats has to be smiling.
Junior guard Mark Sears has played well also, scoring 15.3 a night on 41.7% shooting from deep. And the PKI could be a continuation of progress for senior guard Jahvon Quinerly who ended last season with an ACL tear. He played off the bench in Alabama's last two games and scored six points against Jacksonville State.
The next highest ranked team in the field behind No. 1 UNC are the Spartans, who are 3-1 with wins over Kentucky and Villanova and the only loss coming to Gonzaga by one point on a navy ship in San Diego.
The Spartans have seen a number of guys contribute so far, starting with leading scorer Joey Hauser and his 14 points per game on 50% shooting from beyond the arc. He's also second on the team in rebounding with six a night.
Tyson Walker and Malik Hall aren't far behind scoring, putting up 13.5 and 12 points per game. Michigan State isn't afraid to go small with Hauser at the five, and so far it's worked out well.
Now in Portland, going against even more tough competition, Tom Izzo hopes his crew can continue to nonconference onslaught with success.
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