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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

How we voted: Phil Knight Invitational lives up to the hype … and so do the Blue Devils

Duke holds up the championship trophy after an NCAA college basketball game against Florida in the Phil Knight Invitational tournament in Portland, Ore., Sunday, Nov. 26, 2017. Duke won 87-84. (Craig Mitchelldyer / AP)

If the Nike co-founder is still around in 10 years, do we get a PK90? College basketball fans can only hope… The Portland tournament, which featured 16 teams and a few-dozen players who’ll be competing on the Moda Center hardwood in NBA uniforms sometime in the near future, was easily the top attraction in the Pacific Northwest over the holiday weekend. OK, that’s partially because the Civil War and Apple Cup were hardly even attractions, but still … anytime Phil Knight wants to lock Mike Krzyzewski, Tom Izzo, Roy Williams, Shaka Smart and Mark Few in the same building for a few days, I think we’d be more than happy to watch.

How we voted

1. Duke (8-0)

2. Kansas (5-0)

3. Villanova (6-0)

4. Notre Dame (6-0)

5. Cincinnati (6-0)

6. Minnesota (7-0)

7. Miami (FL) (5-0)

8. Michigan State (5-1)

9. Florida (5-1)

10. Kentucky (6-1)

11. Texas A&M (6-0)

12. Wichita State (4-1)

13. Baylor (5-0)

14. North Carolina (5-1)

15. Southern California (4-1)

16. Gonzaga (5-1)

17. Virginia (6-0)

18. Louisville (5-0)

19. Creighton (5-1)

20. Xavier (5-1)

21. Texas Tech (6-0)

22. Arizona State (6-0)

23. Washington State (6-0)

24. Arkansas (5-1)

25. TCU (6-0)

Five thoughts

1) Duke took on a tough field of challengers and Portland State at the PK80 and didn’t bat an eye. The Blue Devils are living up to their preseason billing and those voters who selected Marvin Bagley III to their preseason All-American teams are probably feeling mighty fine, too. The freshman is averaging 22.3 points and 11.3 rebounds and he had two 30-15 games in Portland.

2) Notre Dame, Baylor and Virginia all made significant climbs up the rankings ladder. The Irish won five blowouts before clipping No. 6 Wichita State 67-66 for their first signature win. They have another marquee game on deck, vs. No. 3 Michigan State in East Lansing on Thursday. Baylor catapulted nine spots in our poll after nabbing wins over Wisconsin and Creighton to win the Hall of Fame Classic. How good are the Bears? We’re about to find out. No. 21 Xavier and No. 8 Wichita State are up next.

3) The ACC is looking like, well, the ACC. The conference placed six teams in this week’s poll and that doesn’t include Syracuse (5-0) and Florida State (5-0), who’ve yet to test themselves in nonleague play, but have a few major games on the horizon. For the Orange, it’s Maryland followed by No. 2 Kansas. For the Noles, it’s Rutgers and then No. 6 Florida. For now, the ACC has seven unbeatens and four more with just one loss.

4) I had a hard time keeping Alabama in the Top 25 after Saturday’s fiasco in Tuscaloosa. In case you missed it, the Crimson Tide had five bench players ejected during a scuffle with Minnesota. Another Alabama player fouled out, then two more left the game with injuries, leaving the hosts to play 3 vs. 5. I think that three-man team would be an overwhelming favorite at Spokane Hoopfest – it nearly beat the Golden Gophers, too. Alabama lost by five despite outscoring Minnesota after halftime. Thirty-six voters still gave the Crimson Tide a Top 25 nod.

5) A couple of traditional football powers found their way into the hoops poll this week. Texas Tech, which owns a Top 25 win over Northwestern, went from unranked to No. 21 in our poll. The Red Raiders are now getting ready for the gauntlet of their noncon slate – home games vs. two fringe Top 25 teams, Seton Hall and Nevada. TCU also snuck in at No. 25.

Perusing the Pac-12

USC – Are the Trojans the best the Pac-12 has to offer up this year? If that’s how it pans out, the conference probably won’t be well-represented in March. USC fell four places after an embarrassing 16-point home loss to Texas A&M.

Arizona State – Best offense in the state of Arizona right now: Khalil Tate and the football Wildcats or Tra Holder and the basketball Sun Devils? Arizona State scored 99, 92 and 102 points to beat UC Irvine, Kansas State and No. 15 Xavier in the Las Vegas Invitational. The Pac-12 better hope the Sun Devils cool down before they return to Sin City in March.

Washington State – The Cougars enjoyed the best week of the Ernie Kent era, beating Saint Joe’s, Saint Mary’s and San Diego State to lift a trophy at the Wooden Legacy Tournament in Fullerton, California. Nine times in the last 10 years, the champion has gone on to qualify for the Big Dance. Just something to keep an eye on…

Dropped out

Arizona – I’m guessing many of my fellow voters are looking at the Wildcats like I am: a Top 25 team that’s in a funk, but should slide right back into the rankings soon. For now, it’s hard to justify a three-loss team keeping its spot.

UCLA – If an 11-point loss to Creighton is the worst thing that happens to these Bruins without three suspended players, the first few months will be considered a big success. But UCLA still has Michigan, No. 11 Cincinnati and No. 7 Kentucky before diving into Pac-12 play.

Home cooking

The bad news for the Zags? Their weekend in Portland ended without a banner and they were oh so close to getting a shot at top-ranked Duke. As in one measly free throw close. The good news? GU fans aren’t missing Nigel Williams-Goss quite as much now, given the weekend Josh Perkins had (17.6 ppg, 6 apg, 4 rpg). The other good news? The gap between the Zags and Saint Mary’s looks a lot bigger than it did when the week started.