The greatest college basketball teams set to honor Nike founder Phil Knight at new tourney

Thanksgiving week next year will serve up extra helpings of college basketball in Portland, Oregon as the Phil Knight Invitational (PK80) takes over. The tournament will feature some of the biggest names in college hoops, and they’re all coming together to honor the Nike founder for his 80th birthday — thus the PK80 moniker.

Knight won’t actually turn 80 until February 23, 2018 but the tourney needed to be held earlier in the season.

The teams involved are Arkansas, Butler, Connecticut, Duke, Florida, Georgetown, Gonzaga, Michigan State, North Carolina, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oregon, Portland, Portland State, Stanford and Texas.

Having this many powerhouse teams, competing in two side-by-side eight-team tournaments, makes it one of the most prominent regular-season college tournaments, vaulting the Northwest as a basketball powerhouse. Additionally, all teams are Nike-signed, meaning the Swoosh will be prominently featured all over the sports giant’s hometown — Nike is based in nearby Beaverton, Oregon. The competing teams boast a combined 23 national championships, 89 Final Four appearances and are among the tops in marketing. The company, and Knight himself, have deep relationships with the program and head coaches — and all are excited to share in this unique opportunity.

“Phil Knight has been a visionary and an innovator for a long time. PK80 is a unique way we can honor him and the contributions he has made not just to the game of basketball, but to all of sport,” said Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski

“What a thrill for North Carolina Basketball to be playing in such a special event to honor a truly special man,” noted North Carolina head coach Roy Williams. “PK80 not only brings together some of the top basketball programs in the game, it honors a giant in business and sports. Mr. Knight has a wonderful ability to touch people’s lives and do great things, both in and out of the sports world. I’ll always cherish my friendship with him.”

The tourneys will both have consolation brackets, meaning that every team is guaranteed to play three games, which should bode well for both ticket sales to the Moda Center and the Memorial Coliseum, and for television viewership on ESPN.

“We’re grateful for the opportunity to host 16 of the country’s best college basketball teams while honoring a man whose influence on the game and our region is immeasurable,” said Chris Oxley, senior vice president of venue operations, Rose Quarter to ESPN. “PK80 will be an incredible showcase of basketball for fans in our arenas and watching on ESPN.”

The promo video is already hyping the event more than a year in advance and Portland itself is ready to shine as well.

“We are very excited to welcome the elite of college basketball to the city of Portland for this landmark event,” said University of Portland hear coach and former Portland Trail Blazer, Terry Porter. “To be asked to participate in the greatest regular season college basketball tournament of all time is a special honor for the University of Portland. Phil Knight and Nike have contributed so much to the growth of college basketball and impacted so many individual student-athletes in a positive manner. We are privileged to be able to say thank you to Phil by helping to host and showcase this event, as well as our great city, to a national audience via ESPN next year.”

This news comes at a good time for college basketball, which has seen the ACC tourney announce that it will not be in North Carolina in reaction to a state law that curbed anti-discrimination protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. To put the focus on a positive tournament like the PK80 helps raise the profile of college basketball and the Pacific Northwest.

The only prominent Oregon team not to be on the roster is Oregon State, which had a scheduling conflict.

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