The inaugural PK Invitational, named for Nike founder Phil Knight, kicks off tonight at the Moda Center in Portland, Oregon. Not to be confused with the PK80 tournament held a couple of years back, that featured one of the biggest regular-season college basketball tournaments ever, this is a new event that will run through 2021 and will honor the basketball hall of famer and Nike founder.
This event will feature four teams, all of which look to be early season NCAA tournament-caliber squads, including the Oregon Ducks, Memphis Tigers, Oklahoma Sooners, and Oregon State Beavers. The early game will feature Memphis versus Oregon, in a game between two top fifteen ranked teams. The nightcap will be the Sooners versus the Beavers. For our daily pick, we will focus on the early game between Memphis and Oregon.
The thirteenth ranked Memphis Tigers will take their show on the road tonight as they head to Portland, Oregon to face the Oregon Ducks. The Tigers are one of the most explosive young teams in recent memory, and if they can find a way to keep the number one freshman in the country, James Wiseman, on the floor, they could be a sleeper, Final Four team. The Tigers are 2-0 to start out the season as they blew out both South Carolina State and Illinois-Chicago.
But they are going to have their hands full tonight as the competition is going to go way up against an Oregon team that has its sites set on a PAC-12 title. The Ducks start out the regular season ranked fourteenth in the country, and they too have started out the season 2-0, with easy wins over Fresno State and Boise State.
While not technically a home game for Oregon, they play their home games in Eugene, the trip was just a quick two-hour bus ride to Portland, and the crowd is expected to be heavily in favor of Oregon tonight.
The Ducks are -4-point favorites
The game total over-under is set at 144.5 points
Tipoff is scheduled for 6:00 PM PST from the Moda Center in Portland
The Memphis Tigers brought in former NBA superstar Penny Hardaway for one reason, to recruit. The Memphis native came home to his alma mater to bring them back to prominence. And he has done a great job of that this year, as he brought in the number one recruiting class in the country, including three of the top twenty-five freshman in the country. The hype around Memphis is as high as I can ever remember it, and this team is getting a lot of love in the national media.
The big-name here is James Wiseman. Wiseman was the number one recruit in the country, and at 7-1 looks like a young Anthony Davis when he was at Kentucky. Wiseman is tall and long and can do it all. Through the first two games of his college career, Wiseman is averaging 22 points, 10 rebounds, and 4 blocks a game. Those are video game numbers. If Wiseman can stay on the floor all season long, I would expect Memphis to find their way into the NCAA tournament, likely as a top-four seed.
But unfortunately for Memphis fans, that is a big IF. Wiseman was ruled ineligible to play last week by the NCAA. It took a court-ordered injunction to even get him on the floor. And at some point, the courts are going to catch up with Wiseman, who allegedly took gifts from then booster and now coach, Penny Hardaway, to help him get his family moved to Memphis. It seems inevitable that Wiseman will have his season come to an early end, but I, for one, am hoping that he gets to stay on the court. We just don’t see talent on this level all that often, and I want to see the kid play.
If you think Memphis is just a one-man show this season, you are dead wrong. Fellow top recruits Precious Achiuwa and D.J. Jeffries are both also stars in the making and bring a ton of size and athleticism to the floor for Memphis. Achiuwa is another big body that can run the floor, and he has had a nice start to his college career, averaging 12 points and 7.5 rebounds a game.
Jeffries is the guy that tends to get overshadowed, but he is a do-everything guy that fills up the stat sheet with 9 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks, and 1.5 steals a game. This team has plenty of talent, now to find out if Penny can actually coach, and not just recruit!
Oregon has its fair share of young talent this year with CJ Walker and Chandler Watson, both expected to have an impact right away, but this team is all about the upperclassmen. They are led by Peyton Pritchard, who has a shot at taking home the player of the year award in the PAC-12 this year. Pritchard runs the point and can shoot it from anywhere on the court.
Last year was a little bit of a disappointment for Pritchard as he was banged up a lot and underachieved. But he returns for his senior year ready to get the Ducks back into the NCAA tournament and leads five guys scoring in double-digits for the Ducks with 21 points a game.
What a great early season non-conference matchup we have in store for you tonight! Both of these teams are just outside of the top ten, and both are picked to win their respective leagues. This is basically a home game for Oregon, not really a neutral site as it is advertised, and that is what is keeping this number as high as it is right now. If this were truly on a neutral floor, I could see this one being a pick ‘em.
So, who wins tonight? I like Memphis. They have huge size all over the floor, and Oregon is surprisingly small this year. And if Francis Okoro can’t play for Oregon, he was hit by a car and missed their last game, they are going to be really small. It is just really hard to compete when, at every spot on the court you are giving up size and athleticism.
The Ducks have the shooting firepower to stay on the perimeter and shoot through that size, and if they can do that, I think they will win the game. Pritchard can knock them down from deep, and graduate transfer Anthony Mathis drilled eleven three-pointers in a game last week, so he can fill it up as well. This one will all come down who can dictate the pace and play their brand of basketball.
If Oregon can play a half-court type of game and get open looks from three, they are going to have a great night. If they try and run and gun with this uber-athletic Memphis team, they are going to get smashed. This should be a fun and exciting game, and I will back Memphis, taking the points. Give me the Memphis Tigers +4-points tonight from the Moda Center in game one of the PK Inviational!