Florida coach Mike White said if he didn’t have to worry about coaching in the PK80 Tournament over Thanksgiving weekend in Portland, Ore., he’d go as a fan.
“Incredibly competitive,” White said. “Some of the best teams in the country out here. It’s going to be a really neat event out here, really exciting. It would be neat to attend it as a fan, and not be prepping for the next game and just to be out there and watch a bunch of really good basketball. I’m excited to be a part of it.”
Florida will begin play in the tournament on Thursday night against Stanford, with a chance to play either Ohio State or No. 17 Gonzaga on Friday night. On Sunday, Florida could face No. 1 Duke, Butler, Texas or Portland State, depending on results of the first two games.
Florida is part of the eight-team motion bracket. A corresponding eight-team victory bracket will be playing simultaneously that includes No. 4 Michigan State, No. 9 North Carolina, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Oregon, UConn, DePaul and Portland. The event, involving 16 Nike sponsored schools, was created to celebrate Nike founder Phil Knight’s 80th birthday.
For the No. 7 Gators, it will serve as the first road trip of the season and the first test against major conference competition on a national stage. The Gators took the 2,930-mile cross-country flight from Gainesville to Portland on Tuesday night.
“We’re always excited to go out there and play, no matter where it is,” Florida senior point guard Chris Chiozza said. “We know this is a big stage with great competition. We know it’s a great opportunity to show what kind of team we’re going to be this year or what kind of team we can be going against these teams coming up.”
White said UF’s goal for the tournament is for both wins and improvement.
“A continued jelling, if you will, with an understanding of what we’re trying to do offensively and defensively,” White said. “Added defense energy and intensity. We’re still a work in progress, relative to our mental and physical toughness, so those are things you’d like to see improvements in this week. And, obviously, you’d like to have success against high-level competition.”
Ball movement was an issue in UF’s 70-63 win over New Hampshire on Sunday night, as the Gators had just three assists to six turnovers. White said the Gators took a few quick, ill-advised shots against UNH after averaging 25 assists over their first two games.
“When guys come in off our bench and have an ability to score it and have a great look, I want to shoot it,” White said. “But we also have to be a little bit more particular with picking our spots, especially in transition offense.”
Said Chiozza, who celebrated his 22nd birthday on Tuesday: “I never thought we would have three assists as a team. Maybe in a half, at the worst. But throughout the whole game, I don’t think I’ve ever been part of a team that did that. But we found a way to win and that’s all that matters.”
Stanford will present an interesting first test for the Gators on Thursday night. The Cardinal are coming off a 96-72 loss to North Carolina on Monday night. But White is concerned with a Stanford frontline that includes 6-foot-9 forward Michael Humphrey, 6-9 forward Oscar Da Silva and 6-8 forward Reid Travis.
“Their frontcourt is very, very talented, skilled, athletic,” White said. “They are big, they are strong, they’ve got shooters, they spread the floor, they run really good actions. They’re really diverse with their offensive attack.”
White and his staff have familiarity with Stanford coach Jerod Haase. The two faced off against each other in Conference USA when Haase coached at UAB and White coached at Louisiana Tech.
“They’ll be prepared,” White said. “They’ll be solid. They won’t beat themselves. It’s funny we’re talking about our team and how different we are this year to last year it’s interesting watching film on Stanford and seeing how different his team is compared to his teams at UAB, just very different, and they’ve adjusted to their personnel. I really like what they’re doing.”
What: Phil Knight Invitational
Who: No. 7 Florida (3-0) vs. Stanford (3-2)
When: 10 p.m.
Where: Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Portland, Oregon
Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850
FLORIDA PROBABLE STARTERS
G;KeVaughn Allen;6-2;Jr.;10.7 ppg; 4.3 rpg
G;Chris Chiozza;6-0; Sr.;8.7 ppg;5.7 apg
G;Egor Koulechov;6-5; GSr.;20.3 ppg;8.3 rpg
F;Keith Stone;6-8; RSo.;6.3 ppg;2.0 rpg
C;Kevarrius Hayes;6-9; Jr.;6.3 ppg;5.7 rpg
STANFORD PROBABLE STARTERS
G;Isaac White; 6-1;Fr.;12.8 ppg;1.8 rpg
G;Daejon Davis;6-3; Fr.;6.5 ppg;4.8 rpg
F;Reid Travis; 6-8;Jr.;21.2 ppg;6.6 rpg
F;Oscar DaSilva;6-9;Fr.;7.2 ppg;6.6 rpg
F;Michael Humphrey;6-9;Sr.;12.2 ppg;10.6 rpg
Notes: Florida will be facing a Pac-12 team for the first team in the Mike White era when it faces Stanford on the PK80 Tournament. The last time Florida faced a Pac-12 team, it beat UCLA 79-68 in the Sweet 16. … The Gators are 0-4 all-time against Stanford. In the last meeting between the two schools, Florida lost 69-65 to Stanford on Nov. 27, 2002 … Junior guard Jalen Hudson scored a season-high 26 points to lead Florida to a 70-63 win over New Hampshire on Sunday night. Hudson, who scored 17 of UF’s final 22 points vs. UNH, is averaging 18 points per game and 4 rebounds per game off the bench. … Florida is averaging 40 bench points in its first three games. … The Gators are shooting 49 percent from the field and 40.3 percent from 3-point range in their first three games. … Stanford has posted a plus-3.2 rebounding margin in its first three games and has made an average of 26.4 trips to the free throw line, compared to 14.8 trips for its opponents. … Former Gator walk-on center Schuyler Rimmer, who is now working at the Atlanta Hawks’ video department, began his career at Stanford. … Stanford athletic director Bernard Muir grew up in Gainesville and was a former Buchholz High basketball standout before going on to play at Brown University.
— Kevin Brockway
Now it begins! Just do it! GO GATORS!