Phil Knight Invitational set for 16 teams, will honor Nike founder

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Nike's marketing helped enhance the brands of some of the most well-known modern-day men's college basketball powers, and now those schools want to give back to company founder Phil Knight.

Sixteen Nike-sponsored schools, including blue bloods Duke and North Carolina out of the ACC and perennial Big Ten power Michigan State, will participate in a Thanksgiving week event Nov. 23, 24 and 26, 2017 in two Portland arenas -- the Moda Center and Veterans Memorial Coliseum. The PK80, officially known as the Phil Knight Invitational, will celebrate Nike co-founder and chairman Phil Knight. Knight will turn 80 on Feb. 24, 2018.

An idea hatched by Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis and then executed by ESPN Events, the event will be two eight-team tournaments with two schools each from the ACC (Duke and North Carolina), Big East (Georgetown and Butler), Big Ten (Michigan State and Ohio State), Big 12 (Texas and Oklahoma), SEC (Florida and Arkansas), Pac-12 (Oregon and Stanford), and WCC (Gonzaga and Portland) and one each from the AAC (UConn) and Big Sky (Portland State).

There are other high-profile Nike schools like Kentucky, Arizona and Villanova, but for reasons such as only two schools per conference and scheduling conflicts, some schools couldn't make this event work. The Pac-12 schools were chosen because those are the two institutions where Knight earned degrees.

In two eight-team, three-game tournaments, teams from each league will be put into different brackets. The list of teams in each of the two brackets and possible matchups will be released later this fall, according to ESPN Events vice president Clint Overby.

Each eight-team tournament will crown one champion. The two tournaments will occur at the same time in the two arenas with all of the games televised on the ESPN networks.

Participating coaches issued statements praising Knight and his importance to the game.

"Phil Knight has been a visionary and an innovator for a long time," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "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."

Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, who consistently has played in high-profile early-season events, said the PK80 will be at the height of difficulty, adding, "We've never been a part of something this amazing, both in terms of quantity and quality of the teams."

North Carolina coach Roy Williams added, "I'll always cherish my friendship with [Knight].''

The PK80 will likely dwarf other early-season Thanksgiving week events in 2017. But it will be a one-off and isn't expected to return in 2018 and beyond.