Phil Knight’s takeaways: Duke, UNC escape concerns; Michigan State falls to Alabama and loses a key player

Portland, Ore. CBS college basketball insider Matt Norlander spends Thanksgiving weekend at PK85, covering the Phil Knight Invitational and Phil Knight Legacy tournaments. He’ll provide updates throughout as he talks to the players and coaches at the biggest regular season college hoops event. Here are five notes from Thursday’s activity at the Moda Center and Veterans Coliseum.

The Tar Heels are still waiting for, or playing, as the first team

This PK85 took almost no time to deliver some drama. UNC flirted with becoming the first No. 1 team since then duke in November 2019 to lose to an unranked team not in the Power Conference (Stephen F. Austin). The Tar Heels continued their trend of playing in competitive matches against mediocre opponents. Portland led by five with 11 minutes remaining and made 13 lead changes before UNC could push back the troublesome Flyers in the last minute of a 98-91 Tar Heels win.

UNC coach Hubert Davis was not surprised by Portland’s behavior. He wants his team to play with that kind of energy, spirit and dynamism. Davis also acknowledged that the Carolina players still had not collectively embraced or learned how to bear the weight of not only being the first goal in every game, but carrying the first team title.

“The situation we’re in, people have expectations about what it should look like,” Davis said. “And so we’re supposed to get to level 20 in the first half. We’re supposed to win every game by 30. No, we’re supposed to compete and play hard and keep getting better and see what kind of team we can become.”

Davis later added, “I think they’re trying to figure it out. I think they’ve never, really, ever in their life dealt with this—the weight of other people’s expectations—and I’ve addressed it. We’ve talked a lot about it, whether it comes from criticism or from praise. There is still noise and it is of no use to us.”

Portland averaged 1.12 points per possession and became the second team in five games to clear 80 points on UNC. The Pilots set the tone and the drivetrain came out flat, the Tar Heels Leaky Black senior winger told CBS Sports. It’s a running theme with every game to date, and he’s pretty much done with it. UNC is winning, he said, but it is not winning the way it should.

“The lack of detail, the lack of enthusiasm and energy,” said Black. “Obviously we have the talent, we have to stop showing up slowly and expecting us to beat everyone because we’ve got it.” North Carolina Across our chest and a No. 1. Going out flat obviously doesn’t work for us and just trying to do whatever we want to do instead of what the coaches want us to do is obviously not working for us, which puts us in a tough spot. “

Black said that there is a lot of property where “no one talks” and the team “just stares at each other”. Black also told me that it doesn’t matter how well he plays defense, when a team fails collectively, it starts with him and his leadership.

The good: North West Transfer Pete Nance tied a career best with 28 points for UNC. If he wasn’t in this game, he would almost certainly have lost. Little guard Caleb Love, who isn’t shy about shooting, added 23 on 10-of-15 shooting. Too much free work, not enough defense, though. Being in the locker room afterward, it felt like the UNC guys knew they couldn’t play like that and come out of this tournament with three wins. Davis said the same thing in his post-match presser.

“To play for me, you have to have my character,” Davis said. “I’m passionate. I’m ready to fight. I’m ready to compete. I’m ready to go after it. And as a player, if you can’t match that or you can’t mimic that or that something that’s not part of who you are, it’s going to be very difficult for me to play. … One of the things I always talk about is, ‘Is there hunger and thirst? Thirst, and I’ve told them many times, ‘I’m not nearly full. I’m starving right now.'”

UNC will play Iowa (More on that below) Friday at 5:30 p.m. ET.

The Blue Devils are looking for a spin – and a guy to go for it

Both Carolina blue bloods were frightened, and I think Duke was even more alarmed. Because he was as weak as UNC’s lead on defense, Duke was even worse on offense. The Blue Devils won 54-51 against Oregon State, but their record was the worst since John Scheer had been playing for the school.

By percentage, Duke managed just 26.7% from the field and 0.98 points per possession in a game in festive possession (55). credit to Oregon To shake it off and throw Duke out of the blue with a zone defense look Scheyer tells me Duke hasn’t seen yet this season. Wayne Tinkle’s team really had a bad win last year (3) and almost pulled off the win at Thanksgiving.

“That I should not make them so ready,” Shire said to me.

Why did Duke win? Maybe more corpses. Mike Krzyzewski has been known to play the shortstop, but that’s not Scheyer’s approach right now. Little-known men like Ryan Young and Jaylen Blacks were on the floor, while highly-distinguished freshmen Dark Whitehead and Derek Lively sat on the floor.

“We feel that depth is our huge strength,” Shire said. “And that could mean we close matches differently than how we start, or, depending on how the match goes, someone really does.”

Also similar to UNC, Scheyer said his team is coming out slowly and it’s usually in need of a shake. I asked him why Duke was so slow off the edge; He said he honestly didn’t have an answer.

It will be interesting to see on Friday if Whitehead, who has been the most proven scorer among Duke freshmen coming into the school, gets more than the 17 minutes he earned today.

“He can’t just fall in love with his jump shot, and he’s taking some rust off,” Scheyer told me of Whitehead. “I thought he had some really good moves today.”

While Kyle Filipowski (who hit a game-high 19 points) has been Duke’s most indispensable player to date, most of the young Blue Devils are looking for the right guy. Instead of having it on Thursday, Duke basically escaped and held off Oregon State. There is a lot of untapped potential with Duke. I could have seen this team win the Legacy bracket just as easily as I could have seen them knocked down by Xavier in the semi-finals on Friday. The Knights launched their best offensive game of the season flAnd now X vs. Duke is probably the best game of the day on Friday.

MSU injuries are preventing the title chase in the Pink City

No. 18 Alabama got a stellar performance from freshman Brandon Miller (24 points, nine rebounds, two blocks), as the Crimson Tide dispatched No. 12 Michigan State 81-70 in the final game of the night at the Moda Center. Alabama State may be on to a great season, but I’ll save the Tide talk for tomorrow — when Alabama faces UConn in the PKI semifinals.

MSU is more interesting and wobbly at the moment. Sparti is 3-2, losing to Gonzaga and Bama. Victories over Kentucky and Villanova propelled Tom Izzo’s unranked team to No. 12 in the AP Top 25. The truth is, this is not a top 20 team right now, not with a variety of setbacks due to injuries. MSU was hampered from the jump on Thursday by the lack of starting winger Malik Hall (stress reaction) and backup guard Jaden Akins (ankle).

Making things even more complicated, Joey Hauser had a pinched ankle against Alabama as well. Hauser is expected to play on Friday against Oregon. Izu said after the match that Akin may be Play comes Sunday, but that’s not the expectation. Hall’s injury is the biggest. He may be MSU’s best player, but his left foot problem (which surfaced against Villanova) will keep him off the ground for at least three weeks.

It’s a problem compounded by the fact that MSU still has a road game against Notre Dame next week, and we’ll see if they can come away from Portland with a 2-1 record. Oregon is next, then we’ll see.

VillanovaTrouble has some positive signs

No preseason top 25 team has had a tougher start than Villanova. After losing to Iowa State 81-79, the Wildcats are 2-3 and now need to avoid being tackled on Friday against slippery Portland. Villanova still doesn’t have a new superstar/expected lottery pick Cam Whitmore, nor does Justin Moore return from an Achilles injury. But the damage done to CV now will have long-lasting effects come March.

However, Villanova’s performance rose from a double-digit deficit at Michigan State, plus here Thursday against Iowa State, only to lose those two games by four points combined. Losses burn, and Nova has often won these kinds of games in the past decade…but the signs are encouraging. The team has determination. Villanova doesn’t have Jay Wright, maybe they don’t have two top players, but those challenges could become a useful handicap three months from now. To be clear: I strongly advise against losing to Portland. Alarms will go off if VU loses on Friday.

As for Iowa, a team that made the Sweet 16 in March, TJ Otzelberger shut down the Hurricanes 4-0 with a familiar defense-first approach. Through four games, ISU’s turnover rate of 32.4% is the best in the sport. Saint Bonaventure Transmission Osun Osonyi (17 points, five rebounds, three assists, two blocks, one steal) was the most important player for ISU in the win. He’ll need to look strong again against Armando Bacot and UNC on Friday. An event like this is perfect for Iowa to make noise and improve its reputation.

Xavier has the chops to grow into a competitor in the Big East

Sean Miller’s team pulled away late and Xavier defeated Florida 90-83, but in the first 34 minutes or so of game time, this was Portland’s best first-four tip-watch. The Knights’ starters each finished in double-digit scoring, led by Colby Jones and Solly Baum, each with 22 runs down. Boom is a firecracker. The UTEP Transfer is a problem in transition and is a tough specter to keep on the radar. Florida ultimately had no answers for him, and UF coach Todd Golden didn’t expect Miller’s men to be as effective and selective from the 3-point range as they were. Jones, Zack Fremantle and Desmond Claude combined to shoot 6-for-7 from beyond the arc, which Golden said was the difference in the end.

“Those guys combined didn’t make it to 3 here,” Golden said. “[Xavier] I would say kind of beat the Scouts a little bit, because we didn’t really think of them as killer 3-point shooters. But they were tonight.”

Florida is 3-2 and will take Oregon State into the Legacy Tournament losers bracket on Friday. This is a difficult place for a Gators team that has potential but there is a lot to discover about themselves. Xavier gets a duke. With the amount of size, shooting, and offensive dynamic the Knights have, it will be interesting to see if Duke can keep up with the X. As for Xavier, who will guard Filipowski? The game could easily have fallen into the 80s. After Thursday’s performance, the Muskies ranked fourth in 3-point offense in Division I (45.7%).

Phil Knight call arc

Phil Knight Legacy arc

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