When the rumblings started to surface that there was going to be a celebration of Nike co-founder Phil Knight’s 80th birthday in the form of a tournament of sorts, you knew it was going to be good.
The end result is the PK80 Invitational, which by all standards is the best (and will be the best), non-conference holiday tournament college basketball has ever seen. Sixteen teams from around the country will converge in Portland to create essentially a tantalizing matchup for each and every time slot.
The tournament, which is so huge, required two separate brackets: the Victory and the Motion Bracket. Gonzaga, which sits in the Motion Bracket, is one of the top teams, but also has a monster sitting at the head of the table.
Let’s take a quick look at the teams in the Motion Bracket. For a printable bracket of the entire tournament, click here.
Butler Bulldogs, KenPom #49
The not Gonzaga Bulldogs lost quite a bit of a talented team from last season, and so far, they haven’t quite gotten the wheels fully locked back into place. Sure, they are currently 3-1, but that record hides the fact that the defense is letting players shoot whatever they want to shoot. Butler’s defense is holding opponents to an eFG% of 56.9, which is rated No. 299 in the nation. So instead of saying holding opponents, we should say gifting opponents.
Duke Blue Devils, KenPom #5
What is there we don’t know about good ‘ol Duke. They are on their way to becoming the consensus No. 1 team in the nation, featuring a starting lineup of four freshmen and Grayson Allen. Luckily, no matter what you think about exciting basketball, and Allen’s supposed redemption arc this year, it is still just as easy to hate this team.
Duke’s offense is rated No. 1 in the country. Marvin Bagley and Wendall Carter have quickly established themselves as one of the best frontcourts in the nation. But like all good Duke teams, this squad’s achilles heel appears to be defense once again. Out of the top 20 teams in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings, only Notre Dame has a worse rated defense.
Florida Gators, KenPom #9
There is a good chance that the Zags will face Florida on Friday, and the team should look relatively familiar from last year’s Thanksgiving day brawl. If you remember in the game, the Gators looked like they were completely ready to run away with the game before Gonzaga cruelly snatched victory away late in the second half.
This year’s incarnation of the Gators look just as good. Like Gonzaga, it is hard to gauge the performance of their players so far considering the quality of their competition. However, there doesn’t seem to be any problem with scoring the ball at will. The Gators, if it comes to this, will pose a fantastic stress test for the Gonzaga defense.
Ohio State Buckeyes, KenPom #67
Ohio State is not a really good basketball team. They are picked to finish middle at best in the Big Ten Conference. Katea Bates-Diop is a monster in the post and Jae’Sean Tate is a talented scorer on the wing, but the drop off in quality is pretty evident once the Buckeyes go to the bench. Either way, playing Ohio State will be a perfect introduction to Gonzaga for the physicality they will face in the rest of the tournament. Much better to warm up against the Buckeyes then against Texas, Florida, or Duke, for example.
Portland State Vikings, KenPom #217
Portland State is only here because they are from Portland. If Gonzaga is playing Portland State at any point in this tournament, the whole season is over before it started. Either that, or they rattled off the biggest upset of the college season by defeating Duke on turkey day.
Stanford Cardinal, KenPom #77
Who knows what to actually think about Stanford. This is a team that has already lost to a not good Eastern Washington squad AT HOME after all. Junior forward Reid Travis can score with the best of them, and senior center Michael Humphrey is a fantastic rebounder. Much of the Cardinal’s issues stem from turnovers. If you are interested, former Gonzaga target, then Washington recruit, then Gonzaga target, then Washington recruit 2.0, then Gonzaga target, then Stanford recruit Daejon Davis is a big factor of that problem, averaging 4.3 turnovers per game so far.
Texas Longhorns, KenPom #31
You have yourselves a Shaka Smart coached team so one thing will always remain fact: Texas is really good at defense. The Longhorns are holding opponents to the fifth worth eFG% in the nation. They compliment this defense with an offense that rarely turns the ball over and minimizes most mistakes. The latter point being rather impressive because Texas is one of the younger teams in the nation. As such, they have shown some talent so far, but to go deeper into this tournament, the Longhorns will have to hit a three pointer or two (or eight or nine), which is a talent that has eluded the team so far this season.