Big Basketball News + Football

by Frank Baldwin September 22, 2016



Basketball News

Duke, North Carolina, Michigan State to headline Phil Knight Invitational: Best college basketball tournament ever?

Plans were officially announced Wednesday for the Phil Knight Invitational, two dueling eight-team college basketball tournaments to be hosted at the Rose Quarter in November 2017.

The event, also entitled PK80, will feature 16 Nike-sponsored teams and will honor Phil Knight ahead of his 80th birthday. Knight, the co-founder and chairman emeritus of Nike, turns 80 on February 24, 2018. But because of the college basketball calendar, the invitational needed to be held earlier in the 2017-18 season, from Nov. 23-26.

ESPN initially reported on the event in August 2012.

The teams at the event (in alphabetical order) are Arkansas, Butler, Connecticut, Duke, Florida, Georgetown, Gonzaga, Michigan State, North Carolina, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oregon, Portland, Portland State, Stanford and Texas.

The loaded field should put the Phil Knight Invitational among the best regular-season college basketball tournaments in history.

Games for the two tournaments will be played at both the Moda Center and Veterans Memorial Coliseum over the course of four days.

Stay with The Oregonian/OregonLive for more updates from the Wednesday news conference. 

-- Danny Moran


ESPN's Sean Farnham calls Oregon Ducks Knight Invitational 'final four good'

The Rose Quarter and ESPN announced Wednesday details about the Phil Knight Invitational coming to Portland November 2017.

The Phil Knight Invitational will feature two dueling eight-team college basketball tournaments at the Rose Quarter over Thanksgiving weekend in honor of Phil Knight's 80th birthday.

The teams at the event are Arkansas, Butler, Connecticut, Duke, Florida, Georgetown, Gonzaga, Michigan State, North Carolina, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oregon, Portland, Portland State, Stanford and Texas.

ESPN College Basketball Analyst Sean Farnham previewed the Phil Knight Invitational and shared high expectations for the Oregon Ducks upcoming basketball season, declaring Oregon, "final four good."

--Jen Beyrle 





Ducks wary of Buffaloes: 'This is not the old Colorado team that we're used to seeing'

By Andrew Greif


For college football's beaten, ailing or downtrodden, the perfect antidote has been seeing the Colorado Buffaloes ahead on the schedule. They've won five games against conference opponents in as many seasons since joining the Pac-12. In 2016, could things be changing?

When Oregon (2-1) opens Pac-12 play Saturday at Autzen Stadium (2:30 p.m., Pac-12 Networks), it will face a Colorado program off to its third 2-1 start in four seasons under head coach Mike MacIntyre, and by now Buffs fans know not to get ahead of themselves: The previous two instances ended in four-win seasons, reminders that CU's rebuilding process would be slow and arduous. Yet after routing Colorado State and Idaho State and putting then-No. 4 Michigan on notice with a 14-point lead until an injury to CU's starting quarterback, these Buffaloes hope they finally are closer to translating encouraging, nonconference starts into Pac-12 success.

"They are so much better," offensive line coach Steve Greatwood said. "We've been playing against some of these guys going on four years now. Obviously they're physically much better.  "I'm very impressed. Michigan had a hard time running the ball on them. Doing anything on them. This is not the old Colorado team that we're used to seeing the past 6-7 years. This is a team coming in here believing they can win and it's going to be a dogfight." Quarterback Sefo Liufau, who ended last season with a Lisfranc injury in his foot and is questionable with a right ankle injury suffered against Michigan, has been electric when healthy, owning the seventh-highest passing efficiency rate in the country with six touchdowns. 

Colorado will make a game-time decision on whether to start Liufau or backup Steven Montez, who struggled in relief at Michigan, and that decision will be a large factor in Saturday's outcome. Colorado gained 18 yards on 20 plays after Liufau left with injury. CU also will be without starting kicker Diego Gonzalez, lost for the season with a torn Achilles' tendon. "Once Sefo got hurt – and Sefo is our leader – that took a little bit of a toll," receiver Jay MacIntyre said. "But Steven (Montez) is a guy who has a really strong arm and can make plays. Some of it was that we didn't make plays for him but we will this game if Montez happens to play."

The Buffaloes also are trying to withstand the loss of one of their best defenders, linebacker Derek McCartney, to a season-ending injury, believing their pass defense can offset his pass rush. Colorado ranks fourth in yards per attempt allowed and fifth in passing efficiency defense, and has been helped in both categories by matching up receivers with big corners in 6-foot, 205-pound star Chidobe Awuzie and running mate Ahkello Witherspoon (6-3, 195). The defense also stands 19th in third-down conversions allowed, at 26.1 percent. 

As Oregon coach Mark Helfrich noted, those gaudy rankings stem from Colorado's beatdown of FCS-level Idaho State on Sept. 10, when the outmatched Bengals compiled 96 yards of offense. Yet the way they played Jim Harbaugh's Wolverines lent credibility to the Buffs' legitimacy. "I think they're significantly different and better both offensively and special teams," Helfrich said. "Defensively, they've been outstanding."

Oregon (2-1) is trying to rebound not only from its loss to Nebraska but two season-ending injuries to left tackle Tyrell Crosby and receiver Devon Allen suffered during the game. Safety Brenden Schooler and running back Royce Freeman also were hurt, and though they are questionable for Saturday, their injuries will not cost them the season.  Crosby underwent surgery on his left foot Tuesday. 

The most likely timetable for Allen's surgery to repair the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee is two weeks, as he still plans to attend a White House reception for the U.S. Olympic team next week. Allen finished fifth in the Rio Olympics 110-meter hurdles. Allen has now suffered two season-ending knee injuries on special teams in three seasons but Helfrich said he never hesitated to play Allen as a punt coverage "gunner" because the receiver's competitiveness "wouldn't let that happen. He's one of those guys that wants to be in on everything." "I want to know from some physicist what the odds are of that happening twice, very similarly, non-contact," Helfrich said, shaking his head. "Just incredible." 

Allen was the first player at Tuesday's practice after Helfrich challenged him to remain connected to the team given his credibility as a leader within the locker room. "The type of person he is, he has to be an emotional leader for us with a bunch of young guys, a bunch of immature guys at various spots, he kind of has influence with," Helfrich said. "We need that. We need his impact still. ... He is a guy who is revered around here." Asked if he believes Allen, an Olympic hurdler who is expected to turn professional in track and field when back to health, will attempt to play football again, Helfrich said the topic hasn't been discussed yet.

Oregon's physical woes have grabbed the headlines, but this week is about repairing the mental side of Oregon's team, too, after a series of small mistakes allowed a road win against Nebraska to slip away. Missed tackles and misplaced defenders allowed 35 points to the Huskers, a number corner Arrion Springs was not happy with. "That's a lot of points, 35, to Nebraska, they're not even like, a powerhouse on offense, so that's definitely a problem," Springs said. "We can't give up 35 points to Nebraska or any team to win."  Nor can it continue to draw an average of 11 penalties per game. Its 13 flags against Nebraska required the Ducks' defensive backs, with four pass interference calls, to do up-downs Monday. Meanwhile, offensive linemen ran wind sprints as a unit, which is their standard punishment if anyone draws a penalty.

Those errors could gnaw at a team's focus. UO's message this week: Dwell on them at your own peril, because despite its own injuries, Colorado hopes to put Oregon on upset alert. One Duck who isn't sleeping on Colorado is Springs. Well, sort of. During his first viewing of the CU-Michigan game tape Springs did, technically, nod off during the second quarter. But what he saw up to that point was the threat of streaky wideouts Shay Fields and Devin Ross and an offense that wants to hang another 35 or more on UO's defense. "They looked really good," he said.



Colorado's injuries


QB Sefo Liufau’s status uncertain; Derek McCartney lost for season for CU Buffs

Kicker Diego Gonzalez will also miss the rest of the season with a torn Achilles tendon




Colorado suffered more than its first loss at No. 4 Michigan on Saturday. The Buffaloes were also left to deal with a handful of injuries that could prove more far more damaging than a non-conference defeat. The status of CU quarterback Sefo Liufau for Saturday’s game at Oregon won’t be decided until later this week, coach Mike MacIntyre said Monday. What is certain: CU will play the rest of the season without junior outside linebacker Derek McCartney, who suffered a torn right anterior cruciate ligament during Saturday’s game. It’s a major blow for the Buffs.

“It’s really disappointing,” MacIntyre said. “Derek is our biggest, strongest outside linebacker. He’s a good player for us, great leader.” McCartney began Saturday’s game in grand fashion, picking up a fumble forced by Chidobe Awuzie early in the first quarter and returning it for a touchdown that gave the Buffs a 14-0 lead.

Unfortunately for the Buffs (2-1), it will be his last highlight of his season. McCartney, the grandson of former CU coach Bill McCartney, suffered the injury during a play in the middle of the second quarter. “I just kind of landed funny and my knee buckled on me,” McCartney said. “I felt something that felt weird. I didn’t go back in because it didn’t feel right, and the doctors figured (an ACL tear) was probably what had happened.” McCartney was fifth on the team with 70 tackles as a sophomore last season and was second with five sacks. He hadn’t compiled big numbers before Saturday’s score, but his ability to rush the passer and apply pressure has been key for the Buffs. “It’s unfortunate,” McCartney said. “I’ve just got to be there for my teammates and do what I can to help them.”

Liufau suffered a right ankle injury during the third quarter of CU’s loss to Saturday.  MacIntyre said Liufau “was moving around better” on Monday than he was on Sunday, but did not practice. The quarterback is considered day-to-day. “If he’s moving good enough to play, we’ll play him,” MacIntyre said. “If he’s not moving good enough to play then we won’t play him. We’ll know as the week goes along on that.” If Liufau is unable to play against the Ducks (2-1), who are coming off a 35-32 loss to Nebraska, the Buffs will turn to backup Steven Montez. The redshirt freshman from El Paso, Texas, is 6-of-17 passing for 117 yards and two touchdowns this season. He was 0-of-7 in relief of Liufau against Michigan. “Steven Montez had a great spring and a good fall and he’s played in all three games now,” MacIntyre said. “So he’ll be ready to roll. I feel good about Steven’s capabilities. Now he’s got to do it in the game.” Montez said his biggest takeaway from his performance from Michigan was a renewed appreciation for how much preparation is required to play at the major-conference level. “Just learned the importance of studying before the game,” he said. “Just preparing and knowing what our game plan is. You have to be extremely serious about how you prepare.”

MacIntyre on Monday also confirmed kicker Diego Gonzalez will miss the rest of the season with a torn Achilles tendon. His absence has produced a kicking competition this week between junior Chris Graham and walk-on freshman Davis Price, a former Evergreen standout.

Frank Baldwin
Frank Baldwin


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