Phil Knight bracket takeaways: Duke, UNC survive scares; Michigan State falls to Alabama, loses key player

PORTLAND, Ore. — CBS school basketball insider Matt Norlander is spending Thanksgiving weekend on the PK85, overlaying the Phil Knight Invitational and Phil Knight Legacy tournaments. He’ll be offering updates all through as he talks to gamers and coaches in school hoops’ largest occasion of the common season. Here are 5 takeaways from Thursday’s motion on the Moda Center and Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

Tar Heels nonetheless have to look, or play, like No. 1 staff

This PK85 took virtually no time to serve up some drama. UNC flirted with changing into the primary No. 1 staff since Duke in November 2019 to lose to an unranked staff not in an influence convention (Stephen F. Austin). The Tar Heels continued their pattern of enjoying in aggressive video games in opposition to mid-major opponents. Portland led by 5 with 11 minutes remaining and induced 13 lead modifications earlier than UNC was in a position to nudge off the pesky Pilots within the last minute of a 98-91 Tar Heels victory.

UNC coach Hubert Davis was not shocked with Portland’s demeanor; he desires his staff to be enjoying with that sort of verve, spirit and vigor. Davis additionally admitted that Carolina gamers nonetheless have not embraced or collectively realized how to carry the burden of being the highest goal not simply in each recreation, however holding the title of No. 1 staff.

“The place that we’re in, folks have an expectation of the way it ought to look,” Davis stated. “And so we’re supposed to be up by 20 at halftime. We’re supposed to win each recreation by 30. No, we’re supposed to compete and play laborious and proceed to enhance and see what sort of staff we are able to develop into .”

Davis later added: “I feel they’re making an attempt to determine this out. I feel they’ve by no means of their lives, actually, had to take care of this — the burden of different folks’s expectations — and I’ve addressed it. We’ ve talked about this quite a bit, whether or not it comes from criticism or comes from reward. It’s nonetheless noise and it’s of no profit to us.”

Portland averaged 1.12 factors per possession and have become the second staff in 5 video games to clear 80 on UNC. The Pilots set the tone and UNC got here out flat, Tar Heels senior wing Leaky Black instructed CBS Sports. It’s a working theme with each recreation up to now, and he is just about accomplished with it. UNC is successful, however not successful the way in which it ought to, he stated.

“Lack of element, lack of enthusiasm, power,” Black stated. “Obviously now we have the expertise, we have to cease popping out sluggish, anticipating us to beat everybody as a result of we acquired North Carolina throughout our chest and No. 1. Coming out flat is clearly not working for us and simply making an attempt to do no matter we wish to do as a substitute of what the coaches need us to do is clearly not working for us, placing us in a troublesome place.”

Black stated there have been approach too many possessions the place “nobody’s on the market speaking” and the staff is “simply looking at one another.” Black additionally instructed me that it would not matter how properly he performs on protection, that when the staff collectively fails, it begins with him and his management.

The good: Northwestern switch Pete Nance tied a career-best with 28 factors for UNC. If he wasn’t on this recreation, the Heels virtually definitely would have misplaced. Junior guard Caleb Love, who would not draw back from capturing his shot, added 23 on 10-of-15 capturing. Too a lot freelancing, not sufficient protection, although. Being within the locker room afterward, it felt like UNC gamers knew they could not afford to play like this and get out of this event with three wins. Davis stated as a lot within the postgame presser.

“In order to play for me you’ve got acquired to have my persona,” Davis stated. “I’m emotional. I’m prepared to battle. I’m prepared to compete. I’m prepared to get after it. And as a player, if you cannot match that or you may’t mimic that or that is one thing that is not a part of your persona, that is going to be very tough to play for me. … One of the issues that I at all times speak about is, is there a starvation and a thirst? You’ve acquired to have a starvation and thirst, and I’ve instructed them numerous instances: I’m not even shut to full. I’m ravenous proper now.”

UNC will play Iowa State (extra on that beneath) Friday at 5:30 pm ET.

Blue Devils looking for a rotation — and a go-to man

Both Carolina blue bloods acquired scares, and I’d say Duke’s was a tad extra worrisome. For as wishy-washy as UNC was on protection, Duke was even worse on offense. The Blue Devils gained 54-51 in opposition to Oregon State however had their worst scoring output since Jon Scheyer was PLAYING for the college.

Percentage-wise, Duke managed solely 26.7% from the sphere and 0.98 factors per possession in a slog-fest possession recreation (55). Credit to Oregon State for mucking it up and by tossing Duke off-kilter with a zone protection look that Scheyer instructed me Duke hadn’t seen but this season. Wayne Tinkle’s staff has already matched final 12 months’s abysmal win whole (3) and almost pulled off a caper on Thanksgiving.

“That’s on me not to have them prepared for it,” Scheyer instructed me.

Why did Duke win? More our bodies, maybe. Mike Krzyzewski famously performed with a brief bench, however that is not Scheyer’s strategy proper now. Unheralded guys like Ryan Young and Jaylen Blakes have been on the ground down the stretch, whereas extremely touted freshmen Dariq Whitehead and Dereck Lively sat.

“We really feel depth is a large energy of ours,” Scheyer stated. “And that will imply we shut video games out in a different way than how we begin or, relying on how the sport goes, any person actually has it going.”

Also comparable to UNC, Scheyer stated his staff is popping out sluggish and it is a behavior in want of shaking. I requested him why Duke was sluggish off the tip; he stated he truthfully did not have a solution.

It’ll be fascinating to see on Friday if Whitehead, who was essentially the most confirmed scorer amongst Duke’s freshmen coming into faculty, will get greater than the 17 minutes he had at this time.

“He cannot fall in love together with his bounce shot, and he is shaking off some rust,” Scheyer instructed me of Whitehead. “I believed he had some actually good strides at this time.”

While Kyle Filipowski (game-high 19 factors) has been Duke’s most indispensable player up to now, the principally younger Blue Devils are looking for a go-to man. Instead of getting that on Thursday, Duke primarily survived and held off Oregon State. There’s quite a lot of untapped potential with Duke. I might see this staff successful the Legacy bracket simply as simply as I might see it getting toppled by Xavier in Friday’s semifinals. The Musketeers uncorked their greatest offensive recreation of the season on Florida, and now X vs. Duke has the potential to be the very best recreation of the day on Friday.

MSU’s accidents forestall title chase within the Rose City

No. 18 Alabama acquired a terrific efficiency out of freshman Brandon Miller (24 factors, 9 rebounds, two blocks), because the Crimson Tide dispatched No. 12 Michigan State 81-70 within the last recreation of the evening on the Moda Center. Alabama might be on its approach to a high quality season, however I’ll save the Tide discuss for tomorrow — when Alabama faces UConn within the semifinals of the PKI.

MSU’s a bit extra intriguing and wobbly for the time being. Sparty is 3-2, its losses to Gonzaga and Bama. Wins over Kentucky and Villanova vaulted Tom Izzo’s staff from unranked to No. 12 within the AP Top 25. Truth is, this is not a top-20 staff now, not with a wide range of damage setbacks. MSU was hampered from the bounce Thursday due to not having beginning wing Malik Hall (stress response) and reserve guard Jaden Akins (ankle).

Making issues extra difficult, Joey Hauser had an ankle tweak vs. Alabama as properly. Hauser is predicted to play Friday vs. Oregon. Izzo stated after the sport that Akin would possibly play come Sunday, however that is not the expectation. Hall’s damage is the largest. He might be MSU’s greatest player, however his left foot situation (which surfaced vs. Villanova) goes to preserve him off the ground for not less than three weeks.

It’s an issue compounded by the truth that MSU nonetheless has a highway recreation in opposition to Notre Dame subsequent week, and we’ll see if it might probably get out of Portland with a 2-1 document. Oregon is subsequent, then we’ll see.

Villanova’s troubles have some constructive indicators

No preseason Top 25 staff has had a rockier begin than Villanova. After dropping to Iowa State 81-79, the Wildcats are 2-3 and now want to keep away from stepping in it Friday in opposition to a slippery Portland staff. Villanova nonetheless would not have star freshman/projected lottery decide Cam Whitmore, neither is Justin Moore again from his Achilles’ damage. But the harm being accomplished to the résumé now may have long-lasting results come March.

That stated, Villanova’s rallied from double-digit deficits at Michigan State, plus right here Thursday vs. Iowa State, solely to lose these two video games by a mixed 4 factors. The losses burn, and Nova has usually gained these sorts of video games up to now decade … however the indicators are encouraging. The staff has resolved. Villanova would not have Jay Wright, would not have perhaps its two greatest gamers, however these challenges can wind up being a useful hurdle three months from now. To be clear: I’d strongly advise in opposition to dropping to Portland. Alarms will go off if VU loses Friday.

As for Iowa State, a staff that made the Sweet 16 in March, TJ Otzelberger has the Cyclones off to a 4-0 begin with a well-recognized defense-first strategy. Through 4 video games, ISU’s 32.4% turnover charge is the very best within the sport. St. Bonaventure switch Osun Ossuniyi (17 factors, 5 rebounds, three assists, two blocks, one steal) was a very powerful player for ISU within the win. He’ll want to come up large once more going in opposition to Armando Bacot and UNC on Friday. An occasion like this one is ideal for Iowa State to make noise and enhance its fame.

Xavier has the items to develop right into a Big East challenger

Sean Miller’s staff pulled away late and Xavier defeated Florida 90-83, however for the primary 34 minutes or so of recreation time, this was the very best watch of the primary 4 suggestions in Portland. The Musketeers’ starters every completed in double-figure scoring, led by Colby Jones and Souley Boum every dropping 22. Boum is a firecracker. The UTEP switch is an issue in transition and is a troublesome bogey to carry on the radar. Florida in the end did not have solutions for him, nor did UF coach Todd Golden anticipate Miller’s guys to be as efficient and eclectic from 3-point vary as they have been. Jones, Zach Freemantle and Desmond Claude mixed to shoot 6 for 7 from past the arc, which Golden stated was the distinction in the long run.

“Those guys mixed hadn’t made a 3 up to right here,” Golden stated. “[Xavier] sort of beat the scout a bit of bit, I might say, as a result of we did not actually consider them as being deadly 3-point shooters. But they have been tonight.”

Florida’s 3-2 and can meet Oregon State within the losers’ bracket of the Legacy event on Friday. That’s a troublesome spot for a Gators staff that has potential however quite a bit to uncover about itself. Xavier will get Duke. With the quantity of dimension, capturing and offensive dynamism that the Musketeers have, it is going to be fascinating to see if Duke can preserve tempo with X. For Xavier, who will guard Filipowski? The recreation might simply crack into the 80s. After Thursday’s efficiency, the Muskies have the fourth-ranked 3-point offense in Division I (45.7%).

Phil Knight Invitational bracket

Phil Knight Legacy bracket

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