In celebration of Phil Knight’s 80th birthday, 16 Nike-sponsored college basketball teams traveled to Portland to play in a college basketball tournament that was broadcast on ESPN throughout Thanksgiving weekend.
The tournament featured the likes of Duke, North Carolina, Michigan State, Gonzaga, and Florida. It felt like a mini-NCAA Tournament in November, as fans from all over brought their Thanksgiving fever to the hardwood. Instead of the traditional football viewing, hoops fans witnessed a fast paced, high octane show with the best college basketball teams in the country.
With 391 tournament appearances, 89 Final Four berths, and 23 national championships between the schools, there was an abundance of brand recognition and an incredibly deep talent pool.
With Marvin Bagley III, Jaren Jackson, Mohammed Bamba, Miles Bridges, and a bevy of other top-50 NBA prospects, it was a chance for NBA scouts and fans to catch a glimpse of the next class of superstars.
The PK80 is just a one-off event in celebration of the Nike co-founder, but with the teams in attendance and the future stars that went head-to-head, college hoops fans would love for it to became an annual event. The event organization, the games themselves, and the collection of talent made it intriguing, exciting, and enjoyable. It managed to bring a bit of the March Madness vibe to November hoops.
For college hoops fans, seeing blue-blood programs go head-to-head and getting potential matchups between teams that could meet deep into the tournament was great. For NBA fans, it gave a glimpse into the future of the league with a number of potential top picks for the upcoming 2018 Draft. Here’s a list of some of the standout players from the tournament:
1. Marvin Bagley III, Duke
Bagley looked unreal, especially his breakout performances against Texas and Florida. His scoring ability and overall skill set made him look NBA ready, but the guy right on his heels looked fantastic, too.
2. Mohamed Bamba, Texas
Bamba isn’t a guy who’s going to score a ton, but he blocked at least four shots in two of the three games Texas played and gobbled up rebounds. His defensive instincts, ability, size, and length — he’s a seven footer with a 7’9(!!!) wingspan — are a scary proposition for opposing players. While he’s still trying to figure things out offensively, Bamba’s going to be a game-changer on defense for years to come.
3. Trae Young, Oklahoma
Young reminds me of Tyler Ulis. He can shoot from virtually anywhere and he’s explosive in transition. He had some incredible performances in tournament, including 43 points and seven assists in Oklahoma’s 90-80 win over Oregon. When it comes to guards who can really score, there aren’t many better than Young.
4. Jaren Jackson, Michigan State
Jackson has been really good for Michigan State, and he’s got all the tools to become a great NBA player. His size and versatility on both ends of the floor gives him an advantage over 99 percent of college basketball players. Jackson didn’t put up the gaudy numbers you might expect at the PK80, but his presence was still felt on the floor.
5. Jalen Hudson and Chris Chiozza, Florida
Florida blew a 17-point lead to Duke in the finals of their half of the bracket, but this team still looks dangerous. Part of this is because of the guard duo of Hudson and Chiozza — the former is a deadeye shooter who can light it up, the latter is a lightning quick guard who is as tough of a player as you’ll find in college basketball. It remains to be seen whether either will be a pro, but for now, they’re really, really fun.