The UConn men’s basketball team (3-0) will play their first game at the PK80 Invitational midseason tournament Thursday night when they battle Oregon (4-0) at the Moda Center in Portland, Oregon.
The winner of Thursday’s game will play the winner of DePaul vs. No. 4 Michigan State in the tournament’s second round on Friday.
The PK80 is a unique event held this year to celebrate the 80th birthday of Nike founder Phil Knight, consisting of two eight-team brackets featuring some of the country’s top programs. Other participants include No. 1 Duke, No. 7 Florida, No. 9 UNC, No. 17 Gonzaga, Butler, Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Stanford, Ohio State, Portland and Portland State.
“[The PK80] is going to show who’s working and who’s not. The competition steps up. You can’t hide in this tournament. The big boys are here. So, we got to put our big boy britches on and go out there and play, play hard and step up. A lot of guys got to step up their game,” UConn head coach Kevin Ollie said after Sunday’s win over Boston University.
UConn beat BU 85-66 Sunday to move to 3-0, a definite improvement over the 1-2 record they brought to Maui last season to participate in the Maui Invitational. Christian Vital scored 30 points to power the Huskies’ offense against the Terriers.
“[This tournament] is going to help us tremendously,” Vital said Sunday. “The other caliber of teams that are out there, we know they’re good, they know we’re good, so it’s going to be really good basketball out there. We’re looking forward to it.”
UConn will open against Oregon, an opponent they played in Maui last season. The Ducks walked away with a 79-69 win that day, and eventually went to the Final Four behind Dillon Brooks, Jordan Bell, Tyler Dorsey, Chris Boucher and Dylan Ennis, all of whom graduated in June.
Payton Pritchard is the only returning starter, but the Ducks remain a deep and talented team. Six players average double figures in scoring, with freshman forward Troy Brown the team leader at 13.0 points per game. Pritchard leads the team with 5.8 assists, and Kenny Wooten has assumed Bell’s role as rim protector, averaging 3.3 blocks.
“Our first game is Oregon, a rematch from last year, which I’m looking forward to, and I know the team is looking forward to as well,” Vital said.
The Huskies have four double-digit scorers through three games, with Terry Larrier (16.7 points), Jalen Adams (15.5) and Antwoine Anderson (11.0) joining Vital. UConn has won their first three games by an average margin of 13 points.
The loser of UConn vs. Oregon will play the loser of Michigan State vs. DePaul in the tournament’s second round Friday. Depending on Thursday’s results, UConn will play at either 9:30 p.m. or midnight EST Friday.