NCAA Football

Phil Knight’s takeaways: Duke, UNC survive scares; Michigan State moves to Alabama, loses key player

Phil Knight’s takeaways: Duke, UNC survive scares; Michigan State moves to Alabama, loses key player

PORTLAND, Oregon. — CBS college basketball insider Matt Norlander spends Thanksgiving weekend at PK85 covering the Phil Knight Invitational and Phil Knight Legacy tournaments. He’ll be breaking news throughout as he talks to players and coaches at college’s biggest regular-season event. Here are five takeaways from Thursday’s action at the Moda Center and Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

The Tar Heels have yet to look or play like a No. 1 team

It took almost no time for this PK85 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 a power conference (Stephen F. Austin). The Tar Heels continued their trend of playing competitive games against mid-level opponents. Portland led by five with 11 minutes left and forced 13 lead changes before UNC was able to push away the pesky Pilots in the final minute of a 98-91 Tar Heels victory.

UNC coach Hubert Davis wasn’t surprised by Portland’s behavior; he wants his team to play with such passion, spirit and power. Davis also acknowledged that Carolina’s players still haven’t accepted or learned to collectively carry the weight of not only being the top target every game, but also holding onto the No. 1 team title.

“In the position we’re in, people are waiting for what it should look like,” Davis said. “So we should be up by 20 at halftime. We have to win every game by 30. No, we have to compete and play hard and keep improving and see what kind of team we can be.”

Davis later added, “I think they’re trying to figure it out. I think they’ve never really had to deal with that in their lives—the burden of other people’s expectations—and I addressed that. We’ve talked about it a lot, whether it comes from criticism or praise. It’s still noise and it doesn’t do us any good.”

Portland averaged 1.12 points per possession and became the second team in five games to hold UNC to 80 points. The Pilots set the tone and UNC came out flat, the Tar Heels’ senior wing Holey black said CBS Sports. It’s a running theme in every game so far, and he’s pretty much done with it. UNC is winning, but not the way it should be, he said.

“Lack of detail, lack of enthusiasm, lack of energy,” Black said. “Obviously we’ve got the talent, we’ve got to stop coming out slow expecting to beat everybody because we’ve got North Carolina through our chests and number 1. It seems that going flat doesn’t work for us, and simply trying to do whatever we want instead of what the coaches want us to do obviously doesn’t work for us, which puts us in difficult situation. “

Black said there were too many possessions where “nobody was talking” and the team was “just looking at each other.” Black also told me that it doesn’t matter how well he plays defense, that if the team fails, it starts with him and his leadership.

good: Northwest transmission Pete Nance tied a career high with 28 points for UNC. Had he not been in this game, the Hills almost certainly would have lost. Junior guard Caleb Love, who isn’t shy about taking his shots, added 23 on 10-of-15 shooting. Too much freestyle, not enough defense, though. In the locker room afterward, it seemed UNC’s players knew they couldn’t afford to play like this and come out of this tournament with three wins. Davis said this in the presser after the game.

“In order to play for me, you have to have my personality,” Davis said. “I’m emotional. I am ready to fight. I am ready to compete. I am ready to pursue it. And as a player, if you can’t live up to that or can’t mimic this or that, something that’s not part of your personality, it’s going to be very difficult for me to play. … One of the things I always talk about, is there hunger and thirst? You have to be hungry and thirsty, and I told them several times, I’m not even full. I’m starving.”

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

The Blue Devils are looking for a rotation — and a good guy

Both Carolina Blues got a scare, and I’d say Duke got the bigger scare. ​While UNC was a mess on defense, Duke was even worse on offense. The Blue Devils won 54-51 against Oregon State, but suffered their worst performance since John Scheier played for the school.

Percentage-wise, Duke managed just 26.7% from the field and 0.98 points per possession in limited possession games (55). Credit to State of Oregon for making a mistake and throwing Duke out of a zone-defending look that Scheier told me Duke hasn’t seen yet this season. Wayne Tinkle’s team has already matched last year’s monstrous win total (3) and narrowly missed out on Thanksgiving.

“It’s my job to make sure they’re not ready for it,” Schaer told me.

Why did Duke win? More bodies, maybe. Mike Krzyzewski has been known to play with a short bench, but that’s not Scheyer’s approach right now. Unannounced guys love Ryan Young and Jaylen Blakes were on the floor down while the freshmen were highly touted Darric Whitehead and Derek Lively sat.

“We think depth is a huge strength of ours,” Schaer said. “And that could mean we close games differently than we start them, or depending on how the game goes, somebody really gets it going.”

Also similar to UNC, Scheier said his team is coming out slow, a habit that needs to be shaken. I asked him why the Duke was so slow with the tip; he said he honestly didn’t have an answer.

It will be interesting to see on Friday if Whitehead, who was Duke’s most proven freshman scorer, gets more than the 17 minutes he had today.

“He can’t fall in love with his jump shot, and he’s shaking off the rust,” Scheier told me of Whitehead. “I thought he had a really good run today.”

For now Kyle Filipowski (game-high 19 points) has been Duke’s most indispensable player so far, mostly because the young Blue Devils are looking for a guy they like. Instead of getting it Thursday, Duke mostly survived and held off Oregon State. Duke has a lot of untapped potential. I could see this team winning the Legacy Network just as easily as I could see them being toppled by Xavier in Friday’s semifinals. The Musketeers uncorked their best offensive game of the season Floridaand now X vs. Duke could be Friday’s best game of the day.

Injuries hamper MSU’s title chase in the Rose City

No. 18 Alabama had a great performance from freshman Brandon Miller (24 points, nine rebounds, two blocks) and the Crimson Tide beat No. 12 Michigan State 81-70 in the final game of the night at the Moda Center. Alabama could have a good season, but I’ll save the Tide talk for tomorrow — when Alabama takes on UConn in the PKI semifinals.

At the moment, MSU is a bit more intriguing and shaky. Sparty is 3-2 with losses to Gonzaga and Bama. Wins over Kentucky and Villanova moved Tom Izzo’s team from an unranked position to No. 12 in the AP Top 25. The truth is, this isn’t a top-20 team right now, not because of various injury setbacks. MSU was hindered from making the jump Thursday with the absence of starting wing Malik Hall (stress reaction) and backup guard Jayden Akins (ankle).

Complicating matters, Joey Hauser also tweaked his ankle against Alabama. Hauser is expected to play Friday against Oregon. Izzo said after the game that Akin power play on Sunday, but that’s not the expectation. Hall’s biggest injury. He might be MSU’s best player, but his left foot problem (which popped up against Villanova) will keep him out for at least three weeks.

That problem is compounded by the fact that MSU still has a road game against Notre Dame next week, and we’ll see if it can get past Portland’s 2-1 deficit. Oregon is next, then we’ll see.

VilanovaThe issues have some positive signals

No preseason top-25 team has had a more difficult start than Villanova. The Wildcats are 2-3 after an 81-79 loss to Iowa State and now need to avoid an upset Friday against a slippery Portland team. Villanova still doesn’t have a star freshman/projected lottery pick Cam Whitmoreand also Justin Moore returned from Achilles injury. But the damage done to the resume will have long-term effects come March.

Still, Villanova rallied from a double-digit deficit State of Michigan, plus here Thursday against Iowa State, only to lose those two games by four points. The losses are stinging and Nova has won games like this often over the past decade … but the signs are encouraging. The team has determination. Villanova is without Jay Wright, without arguably its top two players, but those issues could be a useful hindrance three months from now. To be clear: I would strongly advise against losing to Portland. Alarm clocks will go off if VU loses on Friday.

As for Iowa State, a team that reached the Sweet 16 in March, TJ Otzelberger has the Cyclones off to a 4-0 start with a familiar defensive approach. Through four games, ISU’s turnover rate of 32.4% is the best in the sport. Saint Bonaventure transfer Osun Ossuniyi (17 points, five rebounds, three assists, two blocks, one steal) was ISU’s most important player in the win. He will have to oppose again Armando Bacot and UNC on Friday. An event like this is perfect for Iowa State to get some buzz and improve its reputation.

Xavier has the pieces to develop into a Big East contender

Sean Miller’s team pulled away late and Xavier beat Florida 90-83, but through the first 34 minutes or so of playing time, it was the best watch of the first four tips in Portland. Each of the Musketeers’ starters finished in double figures, led by Colby Jones and Sully Boom each roll 22. Boom is a firecracker. The UTEP transplant is a problem in transition and hard to keep on the radar. In the end, Florida had no answers to his question, and UF coach Todd Golden didn’t expect Miller’s guys to be as efficient and eclectic from 3-point range as they were. Jones, Zach 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, haven’t hit three points so far,” Golden said. “[Xavier] I would say a little bit over scouted because we didn’t think of them as lethal 3-point shooters. But they were tonight.’

Florida is 3-2 and will send Oregon State into the loser’s bracket in the Legacy Tournament on Friday. It’s a tough spot for a Gators team that has potential but a lot to learn about itself. Xavier gets the duke. With the size, shooting and offensive dynamism the Musketeers possess, it will be interesting to see if Duke can keep up with the X. Who will guard Xavier? The game could easily go into the 80s. After Thursday’s performance, the Muskies rank fourth in Division I 3-point offense (45.7%).

Phil Knight Invitational Bracket

Phil Knight’s legacy

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