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Duke, UNC To Play In Phil Knight Invitational

New event will honor Nike co-founder

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Duke v Michigan State
Duke’s Coach K and MIchigan State’s Tom Izzo are just two of the big shots who will coach in the Phil Knight Invitational
Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images

Well this ought to be fun: on Wednesday, ESPN announced the 2017 Phil Knight Invitational.

AKA the PK80, it’s a Thanksgiving tournament to honor Nike’s Phil Knight.

Actually, it’s two tournaments each with eight teams. Duke and UNC with both participate, and that presumably means they’ll be in opposite fields. That’s probably true for the Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, SEC and WCC teams as well.

The invited teams other than Duke and UNC are Michigan State, Ohio State, Georgetown, Butler, Texas, Oklahoma, Oregon, Stanford, Florida, Arkansas, Gonzaga, Portland, UConn and Portland State.

We understand why the teams and organizers would want to keep the conference rivals separate - we’re pretty sure that’s the plan although it hasn’t been announced yet - but a 16-team tournament like this, early in the season, with a winner-take-all format, would set up so many cool things down the road, and particularly with conference consolidation. Some of these teams might only play once this season and an early-season matchup here would have juiced up the rematch.

As a matter of fact, and this would go beyond a Nike event, it would be amazing to have a rivalry tournament early in the season.

This would have games like Duke vs. UNC, Michigan vs. Ohio State, Xavier vs. Cincinnati, Georgetown vs. Syracuse, Arizona vs. Arizona State, Virginia vs. Virginia Tech, BYU vs. Utah, Kansas vs. Missouri and Kentucky vs. Lousville.

Those would be the opening pairings and the winners would advance until the last two teams played for the title.

That would be a huge, stunning event played at a very high level and it would give fans things to talk about for months as the anticipation for rematches builds.

In the case of teams like Kansas and Missouri, with that bitter rivalry lost to conference consolidation, it would be incredibly intense.

The whole thing would be riveting, even the blowouts - and it’ll never happen.