2022 Phil Knight Invitational Preview | Betting Odds, Bracket & Predictions
Sean Burges/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Dana Altman & Quincy Guerrier of the Oregon Ducks.
The Phil Knight Invitational is here to honor the Nike Founder’s contributions to the game.
Perhaps more importantly, it’s here to bring together eight of the nation’s best college basketball programs for us to gamble on.
There will be 12 games over the next three days, all taking place in Portland, OR.
I’m here to break it all down.
Read on for my favorite futures picks and betting angles for the event.
2022 Phil Knight Invitational Bracket
2022 Phil Knight Invitational Odds
Phil Knight Invitational | Thursday Games
North Carolina (-14) vs. Portland (151.5)
North Carolina hasn’t looked any good during the start of its title defense. The Tar Heels barely slid by UNC Wilmington, Charleston and Gardner-Webb, failing to cover all three games.
I expected this. The Tar Heels are a team that got hot down the stretch last season in a one-and-done tournament that coincides with the National Championship game. They’re likely not the nation’s best basketball team.
Pete Nance has slid into Brady Manek’s spot almost seamlessly, however, shooting 4-for-11 from deep while posting a whopping 125.6 ORtg.
Moreover, the Tar Heels just covered against James Madison, an impressive win and cover considering the Dukes are one of the most underrated early-season teams.
So, maybe the Heels are turning the corner.
I am extremely intrigued by the Pilots. Shantay Legans should already have a statue in Portland after last year’s turnaround, and he now returns all five starters and 91% of their minutes.
The Pilots walked into Colorado Springs and dominated Air Force at 7,200 feet, which I consider a quality low-major win and cover.
Plus, you can’t discount the home-court advantage. UNC is playing 3,000 miles away, while Portland is playing down the road.
The Pilots may struggle to match up size-wise, but the Pilots rebound with the best of them, and this is a good situational spot. I also can’t discount I’m relatively high on Portland and relatively low on North Carolina.
KenPom makes this spread UNC -12, so I’ll happily back the Pilots at +14.
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Iowa State vs. Villanova -2.5 (131.5)
I don’t care what the number is: play the under.
It looks like Nova is still running the Jay Wright offense with Kyle Neptune, given it's 351st in Tempo and 102nd in 3PA%.
The Wildcats also have been elite at not turning the ball over and at shooting free throws.
The Cats are also down two key weapons in Cam Whitmore and Justin Moore. And they’re taking on a lengthy Iowa State team that is holding opponents to 39% shooting from 2 and is anchored by Osun Osunniyi.
Iowa State put up 80-plus points against IUPUI and NC A&T, but production immediately dipped once it played Milwaukee. This is still the T.J. Otzelberger offense, and I don’t project a massive increase in offensive production, even if Jaren Holmes is lighting up the world.
This game is going to be ugly. Just play the under and look away.
Pick: Under 131.5
UConn -3.5 vs. Oregon (140.5)
This is a weird matchup. These are two extremely lengthy teams that are defense-first and are trying to integrate new rosters.
Oregon is obscenely long, running 7-foot-0 and 6-foot-11 in the frontcourt, while Will Richardson runs 6-foot-5 at point guard. The Ducks' 79.3-inch average height makes the team the longest in the nation.
UConn will still run everything through Adama Sanogo, so that’s an advantage to Oregon's interior size.
We also can’t discount the home-court advantage, as Eugene is only an hour away, and Oregon has a ravaged fan base.
But UConn runs guys off the 3-point line as well as any team in the nation and cuts off passing lanes similarly well. So, I’m not sure how Dana Altman runs his offense when Richardson and the shooters are getting hounded.
I’m heavily leaning towards Oregon plus the points, but I would likely need a +5 to pop up to play it.
Lean: Oregon +5 or better
Alabama -2.5 vs. Michigan State (144.5)
It's hard to disagree with Nate Oats’ roster building. Alabama brought in the nation’s No. 3 overall recruiting class (per 247Sports), and it’s already paying off.
Brandon Miller is a problem. He's a 6-foot-9 power forward that’s allowing just .500 PPP in pick-and-roll situations (89th percentile) while shooting 52% from 3. The latter stat isn’t sustainable, but it speaks to his two-way ability that's so valuable to Oats.
Miller is also pouring in a whopping 20 points per game while snagging 9.3 rebounds a night.
The same goes for Jaden Bradley, who looks good as a backcourt running mate to Ohio transfer Mark Sears. Sears is a high-volume, do-it-all floor general already leading the team in usage while shooting 42% from 3.
The problem with Bama is it's so hard to project on a game-to-game basis. You never know if the 3s will fall, and it's already shooting more than it did last year.
Michigan State is battle-tested and very talented. The experienced backcourt has meshed perfectly with new big man Mady Sissoko, while Joey Hauser is turning into the Big Ten’s next sharp-shooter.
But I’m worried about Sparty from a matchup perspective, mostly because they don't run guys off the 3-point line very well. Plus, they’ve been lucky on defense, with opponents shooting an unsustainable 26.5% from deep.
Alabama is the perfect team to force that regression — although you never know if it will.
If anything, I’d probably look towards the over here.
Alabama’s 32.7% 2-point rate allowed is fraudulent — considering it's played four KenPom sub-100 teams — and Sparty is going to dribble penetrate. Meanwhile, Alabama will likely run-and-gun against a team that will let it run-and-gun.
Lean: Over 144.5
Phil Knight Invitational | Friday Games
If North Carolina and Villanova both win, I will give Iowa State a look in the loser’s bracket. The Cyclones' size will overwhelm Portland, and Iowa State has already blown out two low-major teams this season.
Additionally, it’s a good bounce-back spot for Iowa State — if it does lose to Villanova.
Also, if the top half of the bracket plays out with North Carolina and Villanova winning, I love Villanova in that spot. That’s a good fade spot for this early-season Tar Heels team, as Villanova’s slow pace will frustrate Hubert Davis’ up-tempo offense.
PKI Futures or Late Matchups
Alabama can shoot itself towards any title. If it gets hot from 3, +410 to win the Invitational is a steal.
However, the better play probably is Oregon, which has the home-court advantage and the narrative to win the event. The Ducks would have an absurd matchup with either Alabama or Sparty in the second round, but it’s worth a shot at +900, especially after they kept it within 10 against Houston last week.
Avoid any of the top-half bracket teams. There’s no value in UNC, while Iowa State and Villanova are too hard to project.