It’s the last weekend of November, so you know what that means around this area – college basketball’s premier non-conference event, of course, Feast Week! An annual tradition in the College Hoop, teams from across the country fly to exotic locations to compete in exciting non-conference tournaments of varying degrees of prestige. The 18th-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide is no stranger to the phenomenon, having taken place at many festival week events over the years – from Hawaii to New York City. This year, Alabama was invited to compete in PK85 – the Phil Knight Invitational.
While there are events with more history and tradition – the Maui Invitational, Battle 4 Atlantis and Preseason NIT come to mind – the Phil Knight Invitational is perhaps the rarest and most unique experience. It started with the PK80 event in 2017 – PK80 refers to the founder of Nike and well-known Oregon superfan and booster Phil Knight turning 80. It was arguably the largest field in festival week history – North Carolina, Duke, Michigan State, Ohio State, Arkansas, Florida, Texas, Oklahoma, Gonzaga, UConn, Butler and Depaul joined local schools in Oregon, Portland, Portland State and Stanford for a pair of 8-team tournaments to celebrate the life and success of the Nike legend in Portland, Oregon in what was destined to be a once-in-a-lifetime event.
Now, five years later, they’re bringing it back (technically they had a showcase in 2019 that Oregon hosted Memphis and Oregon State Oklahoma, but that wasn’t a big event). The field might not be as historically elite as the PK80, but the PK85 is certainly not a dramatic drop. There will again be two separate tournaments, the Phil Knight Invitational and the Phil Knight Legacy, featuring the following teams:
Invitation from Phil Knight
- #1 North Carolina (Kenpom: 18; T-Rank: 11)
- #12 Michigan State (Kenpom: 24; T-Rank: 24)
- #18 Alabama (Kenpom: 13; T-Rank: 20)
- #20 UConn (Kenpom: 20; T-Rank: 37)
Villanova (Kenpom: 32; T-Rank: 45)
- Oregon (Kenpom: 38; T-Rank: 48)
Iowa State (Kenpom: 54; T-Rank: 31)
- Portland (Kenpom: 130; T-Rank: 130)
The Legacy of Phil Knight
- #6 Gonzaga (Kenpom: 3; T-Rank: 2)
- #8 Duke (Kenpom: 10; T-Rank: 4)
- #24 Purdue (Kenpom: 27; T-Rank: 30)
- Florida (Kenpom: 36; T-Rank: 34)
- Xavier (Kenpom: 34; T-Rank: 29)
- West Virginia (Kenpom: 39; T-Rank: 21)
- Oregon State (Kenpom: 242; T-Rank: 278)
- Portland State (Kenpom: 262; T-Rank: 289)
Both fields are loaded, but it appears that Alabama is the tougher of the two, especially considering the draw. The Tide will open against Sparty and has a potential championship path from Michigan State -> UConn -> North Carolina. Talk about a glove. See below for the full field:
Alabama open with the second shortest odds of winning the Phil Knight Invitational as they are listed at +420 to win this week’s event:
I have to say it’s exciting to be listed as the runner-up to win this tournament. But the path will be treacherous. It starts in earnest Thursday night at 9:30pm CST – I hope you got your bodies ready for those late picks with our inexplicably late starts last week – against an experienced Michigan State club coached by one of the all-time greats it, Tom Izzo. A spartan team that’s as battle-hardened as any in college basketball, having played against Gonzaga, Kentucky and Villanova. It’s going to be a big test and could end up being one the game of the day. In any case, it’s really fun to see how the tide beats.
I’ll post a more detailed article tomorrow with a preview of the fight with the Spartans. Until then, I hope you are all enjoying your Thanksgiving celebrations, wherever they may be. We will regroup for Tide Hoops afterwards.