PORTLAND, Ore. -- November college basketball that felt like March Madness. The question asked most frequently around the Rose Quarter over Thanksgiving weekend: Can Phil Knight turn 80 every year?
The PK80-Phil Knight Invitational was a tremendous event, a huge success not merely because of the teams involved but also the location. Having the Moda Center and Veterans Memorial Coliseum next to each other allowed for a convenient and cozy tournament atmosphere. It was an NCAA Tournament vibe with a travel tournament flavor, given how many games were played in the opposing buildings.
Players on opposing teams crossed paths often and stayed near each other on the west side of the river that splits Portland. It was a festive four-day run with a communal basketball feel.
"Who, even in the most creative places that Nike has, they could not think of how good this tournament has been," Mike Krzyzewski said after Duke won the Motion bracket Sunday night.
Credit to Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis, who concocted the idea for all of this back in 2011. It took almost six years, but the wait was worth it. Now, the obvious: This needs to happen again. But if it does, it won't be for at least three years. The next two seasons already have big-time programs locked into the November tournaments.
So if there's to be another PK80-type event, 2020 is the earliest we would see it, and 2021 is more realistic. Hollis is a forward-thinking guy, and it would be shocking if he weren't at least debating how to get something like this done again. Portland would be great, but it could be even bigger if you got the likes of Kansas, Kentucky, Louisville and other top-20 programs involved -- and played the event in the middle of the country. Allow big fan bases to drive, then we'll have something gargantuan.
But we'll see on that.
Power brokers in college basketball will come away from this weekend with the knowledge that the PK80 was an out-and-out success, a bright light of positivity during a time when the sport needs a lot of it.
"This is what college basketball needs," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said on Friday. "This should be capturing the attention of a lot of people. This tonight, guys, is why college basketball's so great."
The PK80 was more than an incredible 16-team event, the first and only of its kind. From a basketball standpoint, it gave us a look at 16 teams facing tough competition and big opportunities to build their NCAA Tournament résumés. Every team had three chances to show where it's at right now, and perhaps offer harbingers for January, February and March.
Here's an overview of how each team fared and what the results revealed.
Grade: B-plus ... The Hogs beat Oklahoma by nine on Thursday, then killed the spirit of UConn on Sunday with a 102-67 disemboweling of the Huskies. Sandwiched in? An 87-68 loss to UNC that was definitely closer than that score indicates. The Razorbacks are 5-1 and could find themselves ranked in a week if they're able to go on the road and win at Houston.
Mike Anderson's team continues to thrive with pace, but what makes it a compelling team going forward is how the Hogs are shooting well from 3 and threatening with speed. The Razorbacks made 29 of their 64 3-point attempts in Portland. Jaylen Barford and Daryl Macon, both 6-foot-3 guards, are the long-range weapons. Quality all-around showing by this team here.
Grade: B ... Emotionally satisfying finish for the Bulldogs, who took Sunday's fifth-place game in the Motion bracket after rallying from a 15-point deficit with less than four minutes remaining to beat their former coach, Ohio State's Chris Holtmann. Butler won in overtime and perhaps changed the course of its season. Kelan Martin and Kamar Baldwin have the chemistry, toughness and aptitude to carry this team to the NCAA Tournament. Baldwin's 3 with 8.8 seconds to go tied the game, then Martin's layup in the closing seconds of OT clinched the victory. Symbolic contributions. The pair could go down as the MVD (Most Valuable Duo) in the sport this season.
Butler rallied to finish 2-1 after looking lackluster in a 61-48 loss to Texas in the quarterfinals on Thursday. The Longhorns' length and athleticism were simply too much. A 71-69 victory vs. Portland State on Friday was another example of Butler having a habit for playing close to the horn. Bulldogs are now 5-2. They will not play a road game until Dec. 27, when they open Big East play against Georgetown. A shoutout to Butler fans, who traveled well to this event, even if there was one clown.
With Ohio State guard Andrew Dakich on the floor, Butler fan yells “DAKICH SUCKS!” five times, then screams “F— you, Dan Dakich!”— Matt Norlander (@MattNorlander) November 26, 2017
Was warned to not use profanity again by venue security.
Grade: C-minus ... The Huskies have the longest flight back home, made all the worse by the team's abysmal 102-67 loss to Arkansas on Sunday. Kevin Ollie's team started well with a 71-63 victory against Oregon on Thursday, but a 20-point loss to Michigan State (with a season-low 57 points) turned the worm in the wrong way for the Huskies. (Plus, Oregon went 1-2 and nearly lost to DePaul.)
Ollie has got talent and the team is healthy. But they haven't come together yet. They don't look like a group that's comfortable on the floor for a full game. A lot of the offense that was run was easily stymied by Michigan State and Arkansas, two groups that have coaches who specialize in neutralizing with defense. There's a lot left to figure out here.
Grade: C ... The expected outcome for the Blue Demons, who took seventh in the Victory bracket with an 82-69 victory against Portland on Sunday. You'll recall it was Georgetown who was supposed to be in this spot, but the Hoyas backed out in September. DePaul came in and should be commended for stepping up and agreeing to play in a field in which it was overmatched. Beating Oregon would have been a boon, but alas. That said, this team is still ninth or 10th in the Big East. Continually wondering when this school, based in a good basketball city like Chicago, is going to get back to being in contention for the NCAA Tournament.
Grade: A-minus ... The champs of the Motion bracket, but let's start with the negative first, if that's OK? Duke got off to slow starts in all three of its games. It trailed at the half to Portland State, then found itself down double digits in the second half to Texas and Florida. The transition defense is still a concern. So is the long-range shooting.
Yet -- yet! -- despite Duke's obvious flaws, this team has not lost yet. That's Mike Krzyzewski coaching. No team with this many freshmen, no matter how talented, has any business being 8-0 after the types of spells the Blue Devils have gone through. But when you've got a truly rare talent in Marvin Bagley III to pair with another one of the best players in college basketball, Grayson Allen, this is what you get. (To be fair, Allen was underwhelming Sunday.) The No. 1 team in America until someone can find a way to have this team with fewer points at the end of 40 minutes.
Grade: B-plus ... Must-see team. The Gators defiantly shot their way to a 111-105 double-overtime victory against Gonzaga in the semifinals of the Motion bracket. Then they led by 17 in the second half vs. Duke before blowing it. The Gators are a promising team, an athletic club that has taken to shooting the deep ball -- and hitting at a good clip. But what a blown opportunity vs. Duke. Mike White might need a few nights, if not weeks, to get over the loss.
Florida got by Stanford with ease (108-87), then held off a Gonzaga team that made a big statement with its play this week. The Gators didn't prove they had championship mettle in Portland, but they certainly put a lot out on the floor that's going to scare every team in the SEC. Despite the implosion vs. Duke, I still think this is the best team in the SEC. The collective shooting ability of White's team is scary. Jalen Hudson could become the breakout player in the league.
Grade: B-plus ... The PK80 was officially declared a rousing success after what Florida and Gonzaga pulled off deep into the Oregon night on Friday. It was an an epic, college basketball's best game of the young season. Seventeen lead changes and 11 ties. If we're lucky, we'll get these teams against each other again in March. Even then, it would be essentially impossible to top what went down at the Moda Center. The game alone locked Gonzaga into getting a B-plus, and I'm assigning that grade to the Bulldogs for the entire weekend.
Rui Hachimura has a long way to go defensively, but he's an opportunistic player with the ball and a really good athlete. Josh Perkins is a player I've undeniably underrated. His composure is unflinching. Johnathan Williams III has grown into a beast. He put up a career-high 39 points vs. Florida. Bulldogs are again the best team in the WCC. (Did you see that Saint Mary's dropped two straight over the weekend?)
MICHIGAN STATE (3-0)
Grade: A-minus ... Joshua Langford and Cassius Winston made the all-tournament team in the Victory bracket. Michigan State got Tom Izzo its first victory against Roy Wiliams since Williams got to UNC. The Spartans were hit-and-miss offensively but consistent on the other end of the floor. The rebounding was solid.
And Miles Bridges wasn't much of a factor.
That's a big takeaway for MSU. Obviously the super sophomore is going to need to be a top-10 player in order for Michigan State to be a No. 1 seed come March, but the offense took an evolutionary step without him this weekend. He wasn't 100 percent. MSU also beat DePaul and UConn. Average margin of victory: 20 points. Kinks to work out, but undeniable gains for the Big Ten favorites.
NORTH CAROLINA (2-1)
Grade: B ... So, Sunday night was historically awful. The Tar Heels failed to execute on open layups, missed foul shots, blew blockout assignments. Roy Williams said he was terrible in preparing his team, said he was awful in coaching his team.
I won't kill UNC too much on the whole. It predictably wiped out Portland 102-78, then rallied to pull away from Arkansas on Friday. Given the youth on this team, stumbles were inevitable. The question for UNC becomes: Can the big guys grow up this season to the point where they can be effective, and reliable, against ranked competition? UNC's spectrum of outcome for the next three months is very wide, I think. Could wind up anywhere between a No. 2 and No. 7 seed, I think.
OHIO STATE (1-2)
Grade: C ... Coach Chris Holtmann told me on Sunday that the 15-point lead his team blew with less than four minutes to go was the biggest collapse he has been a part of as a head coach. The Buckeyes can't handle success, which is a carryover from the previous two seasons under Thad Matta. The backcourt concerns that were the primary flaw heading into the season loomed large in the Butler debacle (24 turnovers for the team).
Had OSU been able to fend off BU and win in overtime, it would have been a big injection of positivity for Holtmann's team. Instead, OSU comes away with only a 79-71 victory against Stanford sandwiched between losses to Gonzaga and Butler. The Gonzaga loss was a different genre of brutal compared to Sunday; the Buckeyes fell 86-59 to the Zags.
Grade: B ... After a good showing -- in a loss -- against Arkansas on Thursday, Oklahoma bounced back to beat Portland (93-71) then take out Oregon (90-80). Trae Young's all the rage and has all the range. He had as good of a tournament as anyone, averaging 34.7 points at the PK80, highlighted by the 43 he dropped on an Oregon team incapable of checking him. The Sooners are primed to make a push for the NCAA Tournament this season thanks to the firepower Young brings. And it's not merely that he can shoot it so well; he's a great distributor and plenty strong for his size.
The Sooners, by the way, rank fourth in college basketball this season in pace. Lon Kruger has a better team than you think. Young's going to get a lot of the attention, but there are good vets on this roster. A lot of good came from this trip for this squad.
Grade: D-plus ... Here's how it all unfolded for the Ducks:
They lost to UConn, which lost its other two games and looked bad in the process.
They beat DePaul, which lost two games. Also, Oregon needed overtime to beat DePaul, a team unlikely to reach the NIT.
They lost to Oklahoma and allowed Trae Young to put up 43 points. Young averaged 44 points his senior year of high school. Not a good sign to let that guy treat you like an inferior varsity squad.
Dana Altman's team has a lot to figure out, and soon.
Grade: C-minus ... Terry Porter's club has yet to beat a D-I team this season. The Pilots fell to UNC, Oklahoma and DePaul by 59 total points. It's not a surprise; the team's seven most used players this season are freshmen and sophomores.
Speaking of Porter, I couldn't help but wonder what it must have felt like for him to coach inside Veterans Memorial Coliseum. He played much of his career in that building which, frankly, should not have been playing host to NBA games as late as 1995. Cool spot for this tourney, but crazy to know it's where the Blazers played the 1992 NBA Finals.
PORTLAND STATE (1-2)
Grade: B-plus ... First-year coach Barret Peery pulled off one of the best coaching jobs in Portland over the holiday weekend. Not having to travel, clearly, was a nice bonus. Perhaps it aided PSU in the process. This team played with "verve" (Krzyzewski's word on Thursday). The Vikings led Duke at the half, nearly beat Butler -- then routed Stanford. This is a program that hasn't made the NCAAs since 2009. Under Peery, the future looks bright.
Look beyond the 1-2 record. Portland State played well, perhaps even above its head, every time out.
Grade: C-plus ... The Longhorns came so close to winning all three games. Texas had no issues with Butler, but then it blew a great opportunity vs. Duke. Dylan Osetkowski has a fun feel for hoops. He was the best player on the floor for the first 30 minutes of UT's game vs. the Blue Devils. Then Duke did this. The Blue Devils are talented, but they beat Texas with five freshmen playing the final two minutes and all of overtime. Rough. Fast forward to Sunday. Shaka Smart's team rallied vs. Gonzaga to force OT -- but a loss.
Here's some quick thoughts on UT freshman Mohamed Bamba: He's so physically gifted, and his length is ridiculous, but he's still finding his way. He hasn't had a consistent game yet from tip to final horn, and he's still trying to prove he has got a 20-footer in his arsenal. In talking to evaluators here in Portland, there's also some concern about his lack of physicality. He can play stronger than he's showing. Texas will need that if it's going to be a Top 25 team this season.
Grade: D-minus ... Just a horrendous PK80 for Knight's two alma maters. Oregon's affiliation for Knight is well known and often discussed, but he attended graduate school at Stanford. The Cardinal lost 108-87 to Florida (and it felt like a 50-point margin), got beat 79-71 by Ohio State, then was handed eighth place with an 87-78 loss to Portland State. The Cardinal had 28 turnovers vs. the Vikings.
Jerod Haase's team was expected to make a jump this season. Instead, this group is going backward. It's 3-5 and has losses to two teams from the Big Sky (Portland State and Eastern Washington). Reid Travis is not good enough to lift the team around him. The Pac-12 has had a disappointing start to the season on the whole. Stanford is the poster team for November laments in the league.