Phil Knight’s 85th birthday will be celebrated with two brackets of high-level NCAA basketball. The PK85 Legacy bracket has a ton of intriguing matchups.
TV Schedule: November 24, 25, 27 – Various Times
Arena: Chilles Center, Moda Center, Veterans Memorial Coliseum – Portland, OR
Five years ago, Phil Knight celebrated his 80th birthday with two brackets exactly like the ones this year. While the teams have changed, the quality of competition is still some of the best during Feast Week. There are two clear favorites in the Legacy bracket, but no shortage of sleepers and upset potential.
Despite what people want to believe, Gonzaga has had a very good start to the season. They are not unbeatable. No team ever is. The Zags getting blown out by Texas is of course, notable, but they have two quality wins over Michigan State and Kentucky already. The schedule also won’t lighten up until conference play starts, but Gonzaga does benefit from a better draw than Duke in this bracket. Getting to play either Purdue or West Virginia instead of Florida or Xavier is definitely a plus.
Drew Timme has looked fantastic early in the season and is once again a national player of the year candidate. Outside of him, the Zags definitely could use better point guard play, but Julian Strawther and Rasir Bolton both had big games against Kentucky. Nolan Hickman on the other hand, is averaging the same amount of assists and turnovers so far. They need him to be better if they want to win this tournament.
Duke, similar to Gonzaga, has had a very good start to the season. They’ve climbed from 15 to nine in KenPom and have taken care of business against some solid mid-majors. Even in the game against Kansas, it felt like Duke was the better team for at least 75% of that game. Oregon State to start the tournament should be a comfortable victory, but Florida and Xavier both pose threats to a title run. Florida and Xavier both have good front courts and Duke has a ton of size, so the semifinal can certainly be an interesting chess match for the Blue Devils.
The star of Duke’s season so far has definitely been Kyle Filipowski. Filipowski is averaging around 16 points and 10 rebounds per game so far this season and is doing it while being an efficient three-point shooter. Jeremy Roach, Duke’s captain, has also had a solid year so far not just on the offensive end, but on the defensive end as he leads the team in steals. The big mystery with Duke is how much they can get out of Dariq Whitehead and Dereck Lively this weekend. Both are working to get back into peak shape as they are coming off of injuries. If Duke can get more from the two star freshmen, winning the tournament is more than just in the cards.
While Xavier missed a quality win opportunity on Friday against Indiana, they have a chance to redeem themselves this week. The opener of the tournament against Florida has a chance to be the best first-round game between both brackets. Colin Castleton vs. Jack Nunge is a must-watch big man matchup and both teams have good playmaking point guards as well.
Zach Freemantle seems to have found his old self again posting 16 points, seven rebounds and five assists per game so far this season. If he can continue that up, Xavier can be one of the best teams in the Big East. Souley Boum, Colby Jones, and Adam Kunkel have also been great scoring-wise as the Musketeers currently post a near top-20 offense in the country.
The Boilermakers struggled a little out of the gate against Marquette in the Gavitt Games, but with nine days to prepare for West Virginia, Matt Painter will have his team ready. Zach Edey appears to be in much better shape this season and has played more than he did last season. While Purdue, hasn’t exactly needed him to play a ton in blowout victories early, the 33 minutes he got against Marquette is a great sign for Purdue’s overall ceiling.
Outside of Edey, Purdue definitely could use some more production of the offensive end. Braden Smith and Fletcher Loyer have looked good so far in their short time as freshmen, but this tournament is definitely going to test the maturity of the young guys.
After losing to in-state foe Florida Atlantic last week, the Gators are certainly looking to bounce back in Portland. Todd Golden’s team has gotten off to a shaky start, but that doesn’t mean the ceiling isn’t high anymore. Colin Castleton is averaging a ridiculous 25 points, nine rebounds and three blocks per game. Will Richard, the Belmont transfer has also been a good contributor with 14 points per game. So where are the Gators going wrong? Depth.
Castleton and Richard are currently accounting for over 49% of Florida’s points per game. If only two guys are a threat, that makes the team as a whole much easier to defend. The answer to the question “who needs to step up?” is simple. Myeron Jones hasn’t played as much as last year, but less than two points per game after averaging 8.5 a year ago is unacceptable. Kowacie Reeves and Alex Fudge also haven’t showed that they made the complete jump yet, but there’s obviously still time.
The Mountaineers were flying under the radar in the off-season, but have been one of the quiet risers early. Bob Huggins squad started the team at 73 in KenPom and have rose all the way to 39. This is largely due to blowout wins over Pitt and Penn that have displayed a balanced scoring attack with transfers meshing already.
Erik Stevenson, Tre Mitchell, Joe Toussaint and Emmitt Matthews Jr. all left their schools and came to West Virginia for a variety of reasons. However, they’re all scoring in double figures and playing good defense. While West Virginia still might be thought of as the worst team in this tier, they can prove a ton this weekend by beating Purdue and playing their way into the championship bracket. Let’s also not forget, Jose Perez will be in the mix, not this weekend, but soon enough.
One win is a success
Oregon State & Portland State
These teams are grouped together because them winning a game against anyone besides each other would be a minor miracle. Portland State and Oregon State are ranked 262 and 242 on KenPom, respectively, and no other team in this tournament is below 40. To make matters even worse these teams met on November 19th and Portland State won by 13. We’ll see if they play again if Oregon State can get revenge.
This tournament will surely bring a ton of good games. Even the teams in the darkhorse category could challenge for a title. When you play three games in four days, a ton of bets are off.
3rd place: Xavier
4th place: Purdue
5th place: Florida
6th place: West Virginia
7th place: Portland State
8th place: Oregon State