UConn men's, women's basketball teams in Phil Knight tournaments: Our view from Portland

Photo of Maggie Vanoni

PORTLAND Ore. — Welcome to Portland!

No, it’s not like "Portlandia" – well maybe a little, but that’s an exaggeration ... so don’t compare us.

Yes, we take our donuts seriously and don’t believe in umbrellas (they’re for the weak). And yes, everyone is dressed like they’re ready to go on a hike at a moment’s notice (flannel is a year-long staple) and most people seem to drive a Subaru. Yes, it’s gray and rainy 10 months out of the year, but it’s also lush with greenery and trees and waterfalls.

It’s home to the world’s smallest park (a 452-square-inch circle of grass) and the World Naked Bike Ride. It’s also the city that genuinely mourned when the airport upgraded its carpet to a new one (see the Blazers’ new City Edition jerseys for reference). If you’re confused, just know one of the city’s mottos is "Keep Portland Weird."

But that’s home – well, at least for this reporter – and where the UConn basketball teams will be spending Thanksgiving this week. (It’s also where the 2030 NCAA Women’s Final Four will be, too).

Both teams will spend Wednesday night at a Thanksgiving-theme banquet dinner in Portland hosted by Nike co-founder Phil Knight and joined by the other 22 college basketball teams that are visiting the Rose City for this weekend’s tournaments.

The UConn men kick off the Phil Knight Invitational (PKI) on Thanksgiving Day (8 p.m.) and play Oregon in the first round. The UConn women will spend the holiday together and watch the men’s team play at the Moda Center.

On Friday, the women will play Duke (6 p.m.) in the first round of the Phil Knight Legacy tournament at the Chiles Center on the University of Portland’s campus. The Huskies will then face either No. 9 Iowa or Oregon State on Sunday at the Moda Center.

The weekend’s four tournaments (both the Phil Knight Legacy and PKI have a men’s and women’s bracket) will honor Knight and all that Nike has done for the sport of basketball.

"I got a new rain hat and I’m looking forward to wearing it," UConn women's coach Geno Auriemma said on Sunday. "When you go to these events, it’s really a showcase for the sport itself. It’s a lot of really good teams that get together and play really good games and you’re honoring a great man, who’s done a lot for the game of basketball.

"The fact that they’ve put the men’s and women’s tournaments combined them in the same place I think is just going to bring an awful lot of attention. That’s going to be the center of the universe pretty much for three or four days. I think it’s a great opportunity for teams and kids to not only play against that kind of competition but to really appreciate what all this means and what Nike has meant to basketball."

So, why Portland?

Quick Nike history: Knight co-founded the shoe brand in 1964 following his time as a track and field athlete at the University of Oregon. He had help from track and field coach legend Bill Bowerman, who created the rubber waffle-like bottoms after pouring tar in a waffle iron. While the brand started in Eugene near campus, it eventually moved up to the suburbs of Portland (One Bowerman Dr. in Beaverton) and created what is now its world headquarters.

In 2017, a year after Knight officially retired after 52 years with the company, ESPN and Nike hosted the inaugural PKI – then called the PK-80 to celebrate Knight’s 80th birthday. The tournament featured a 16-team bracket of the top men’s teams in the country that had relationships with Nike including Oregon and Stanford (Knight’s alma maters), UConn, Gonzaga, DePaul, Duke and others. UConn defeated Oregon (71-63) in the quarterfinals before falling to Michigan State (77-57) in the semifinals and Arkansans (102-67) in the third-place game.

The tournament was held again in 2019 but on a smaller scale with just four teams (Oregon, Memphis, Oklahoma and Oregon State) in a one-day tournament.

This year, the event honors Knight’s 85th birthday and will feature women’s teams for the first time. The PKI is still hosted by ESPN while the PK Legacy will be hosted by Rip City Management. Both tournaments will feature eight men’s teams and four women’s teams.


Men’s teams: Oregon, No. 20 UConn, Villanova, No. 1 North Carolina, No. 12 Michigan State, Iowa State, Portland and No. 18 Alabama

Women’s teams: No. 5 Iowa State, Michigan State, No. 8 North Carolina and No. 18 Oregon

PK Legacy

Men’s teams: No. 8 Duke, Florida, No. 6 Gonzaga, No. 24 Purdue, Portland State, Oregon State, West Virginia and Xavier

Women’s teams: Duke, Oregon State, No. 3 UConn and No. 9 Iowa

UConn schedule


vs Oregon on Thursday at 8 p.m.

vs No. 18 Alabama OR No. 12 Michigan State on Friday at TBD

vs TBD on Sunday at TBD


vs Duke on Friday at 6 p.m.

vs No. 9 Iowa OR Oregon State on Sunday at TBD

Maggie.Vanoni@hearstmediact.com  @maggie_vanoni