Phil Knight Invitational, Legacy tournaments bring host of elite men’s basketball teams to Portland

Five years ago, Portland hosted one of the biggest and most prestigious college basketball tournaments ever in season, welcoming 16 teams to the Pink City to celebrate the 80th birthday of the founder and former CEO of Nike, Phil Knight.

As Knight now approaches its 85th birthday, the tournament will return with seven teams currently ranked in the top 25 AP as well as all four Oregon Division I programs. In addition to the 16 men’s teams, eight women’s programs will also compete.

With games from morning until late at night over three days in three different venues, the event will be like a multi-stage music festival: you can’t see everything, so you’ll have to choose who you want to see the most. Think of it like Coachella for college hoops.

The men’s field is split into two eight-team pools – the Phil Knight Legacy and the Phil Knight Invitational – with matches taking place Thursday and Friday at the Moda Center and Veterans Memorial Coliseum. After the tournament begins on Saturday, Sunday includes league matches at Moda, third-place matches at the Coliseum, and fifth- and seventh-place matches at Chiles Center. All teams will be guaranteed to play three games. Tickets are sold in two-game sessions at each venue. Packages are also available that include all games on one site.

Teams from the same conference are not allowed to meet in the tournament, which is why there are two separate brackets to produce two different champions. This, for example, allows ACC enemies Duke and North Carolina to both spawn with no chance of clashing.

Here’s a numbers-based look at what you need to know as Portland becomes the center of the college hoops world over Thanksgiving weekend.

The number of combined national championships won by the seven former champions on the field. North Carolina leads with six national titles, followed by Duke (5), UConn (4), Villanova (3), Florida and Michigan State (2) and Oregon (1).

The number of miles between the campuses of Duke and North Carolina, which will be the front of the two installments.

The rivals faced off in a classic Final Four battle in April, with the Tar Heels knocking out the Blue Devils to advance to the national championship game.

Although there is no rematch in Portland, both programs should be among the favorites to win titles in each bracket. AP-ranked No. 1 North Carolina kicks off the PK Invitational at 10 a.m. Thursday against Portland at the Moda Center. The Tar Heels feature four returning starters from last year’s finalist squad.

Duke No. 8 announces PK Legacy against Oregon State at noon at the Coliseum. The Blue Devils are in their first season with Jon Scheyer as head coach. The former Duke player succeeded legend Mike Krzyzewski, who retired after 42 seasons and five national championships at the school in Durham, North Carolina.

The number of Oregon-based teams featured in the tournament.

In 2017, only three of Oregon’s four Division I programs were invited, but now Oregon State joins returnees from Oregon, Portland and Portland State for the embodiment of 2022.

All four have tough first-round draws, but Oregon probably has the best chance of winning Thursday as the Ducks take on No. 20 UConn at 5 p.m. at Moda Center in the Invitational bracket. Oregon started the season in the top 25, but suffered a shock home loss to UC Irvine on Nov. 11, then lost a 66-56 decision to No. 3 Houston at Matthew Knight Arena. sunday.

Pilots and Beavers have tough battles against North Carolina and Duke, respectively, while Portland State meets No. 6 Gonzaga at 9:30 p.m. at the Coliseum in the Legacy bracket. The Vikings gave Duke a tough game at the 2017 event and picked up a win over Stanford. Portland State beat Oregon State over the weekend, and it’s possible the two teams will meet again this weekend.

The number of teams (so far) in the Big Ten Conference, which is expected to add UCLA and UCLA in 2024.

The league is sending two teams to Portland, with No. 12 Michigan State for the invitational bracket and No. 24 Purdue in the Legacy.

Coach Tom Izzo’s Spartans were the last Big Ten team to win a national championship, in 2000. Michigan State was unranked at the start of the season, but jumped in the AP poll after beat Kentucky and lost by one point to Gonzaga. The Spartans take on No. 18 Alabama at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Moda Center, with the winner advancing to face either Oregon or UConn.

Purdue, meanwhile, is looking to rebound from a disappointing loss to Saint Peter’s in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament in March. Coach Matt Painter’s Boilermakers will face Bob Huggins’ West Virginia team at 7 p.m. at the Coliseum.

The number of games Gonzaga coach Mark Few won in 29 games played in Portland during his tenure as Bulldogs coach.

Gonzaga is no stranger to Portland, having won two games in March at the Moda Center as the No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Bulldogs also visit each season to take on the Portland Drivers in WCC play. One of Few’s two losses in the city came in the 2017 PK80, a 111-105 double-overtime loss to Florida. The Bulldogs have won two games in this tournament, beating Ohio State and Texas.

Gonzaga fires four starters from last year’s Sweet 16 club, including reigning WCC Player of the Year Drew Timme. Transfer guard Malachi Smith averaged 20 points per game last season for Chattanooga.

First-round tournament games that feature a clash of unranked teams.

Although the Villanova Wildcats have won two national championships since 2016, they enter this week outside the top 25 under freshman coach Kyle Neptune, who took over after the coach’s surprise retirement from longtime Jay Wright. If the Wildcats can get past Iowa State at 12:30 p.m. Thursday in the PK Invitational bracket, they will likely face North Carolina.

Iowa State had one of the biggest turnarounds in college basketball history last season, going from a 2-22 record in 2020-21 to 22-13 and a surprise appearance in the Sweet 16 in March. The Cyclones get their first real test this season against Villanova.

The other unranked match pits Xavier against Florida in the Legacy bracket, a rematch of a second-round NIT match from last season, which Xavier won en route to the NIT title.

The Gators had a down year by their standards last season, and new coach Todd Golden (formerly of San Francisco) is hoping to get them back on track. The Musketeers are led by a familiar face to Pac-12 fans in former Arizona coach Sean Miller, who returned to the University of Cincinnati this season after coaching Xavier from 2004-09.

Florida and Xavier play at 2:30 p.m. Thursday at the Coliseum, with the winner advancing to face Duke or Oregon State.

— Scott Sepich for The Oregonian/OregonLive