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What the Phil Knight Invitational Means for the PAC-12

Naturally, Phil Knight’s alma maters Oregon and Stanford are involved, but this is bigger for the two schools than most realize

Basketball from the PK80 launch event

On September 21, 2016, the Phil Knight Invitational was announced. The tournament — honoring Nike founder Phil Knight’s 80th birthday — will be held from November 23-26, 2017. There will be two PAC-12 teams involved in the tournament: Oregon and Stanford. Next November will be an excellent time for each of Phil Knight’s alma maters to make a statement.

The sixteen teams competing in the Phil Knight Invitational boast 23 total national titles, with Oregon and Stanford each adding one of its own. The tournament will be filled with national powerhouses and is bound to give basketball fans some incredible match-ups early in the season. This tournament will serve as an excellent way for Oregon and Stanford to prove that they can compete.

Of course, Oregon already has national title expectations for 2016-17, meaning that they could potentially prove themselves before then. However, if Oregon does fall short in 2016-17, it will be the perfect opportunity for the program to redeem itself, and build up confidence for the season ahead. Even if Oregon does shock the world and win the title this upcoming season, they’ll still need to defend a national title. Winning one of the biggest regular season tournaments in history with a target on their backs would be the way for the Ducks to prove themselves.

Stanford, on the other hand, has had very little expectations for its basketball team during the last few years. While Oregon would be disappointed with anything but victory in the PK80 tournament, Stanford will be able to be satisfied if they make any noise. Stanford finished the 2015-16 season with a 15-15 record and aren’t expected to be much better in 2017. Stanford will go into the Phil Knight Invitational as one of the least likely teams to win. However, some may start to gain respect for Stanford’s basketball program if they can knock out one of the more elite teams in one of the early rounds. If they could manage to take the whole tournament, it would likely be one of the biggest victories Stanford’s basketball team has had in recent memory.

If either Oregon or Stanford can take the tournament, It would show the college basketball world that the PAC-12 can compete with the likes of the ACC, Big-12, and the other Power 5 conferences. The PAC-12 has always seemed to be the first conference people dismiss of the top conferences, and this tournament is a perfect opportunity for Oregon and Stanford to prove otherwise.

Oregon and Stanford probably will not be the most likely teams to win the Phil Knight Invitational in 2017. Oregon may be in the conversation, but not the total favorite. The two schools may not be in the conversation of national powerhouses, but they are the two schools who have the honor of saying that Phil Knight was one of their students. Phil Knight took the education he received from Oregon and Stanford and turned it into a multi-billion dollar company. All Oregon and Stanford are trying to do is win a basketball tournament. Because the tournament is being held to honor Phil Knight, who’s to say his two alma maters won’t try to honor him by winning the whole thing?