Nike and ESPN have unvieled plans for a 16-team men’s basketball tournament to take place in November of 2017. The event was organized to honor Nike’s co-founder, Phil Knight, who will be turning 80 in February of 2018.
Hints at the size and scope of the event first came out in a 2012 article by ESPN’s Andy Katz. It wasn’t originated by Nike, but rather sponsored by athletic directors of Nike schools wishing to express thanks to Knight.
The event is a who’s-who of national basketball powers, so naturally it will include the University of Connecticut.
The Huskies will be joining Arkansas, Butler, Duke, Florida, Georgetown, Gonzaga, Michigan State, North Carolina, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oregon (of course), Portland, Portland State, Stanford and Texas for the festivities.
The participating teams have a total of 23 national championships and 89 Final Four between the 16 programs.
The event will actually consist of two tournaments- which is why multiple teams from the same conference are allowed to participate. Each team will be guaranteed three games. One tournament will be held at the Moda Center and the other at Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
The goal was to get the biggest Nike schools all in one place for a significant event and the organizers seem to have done just that. Besides Kentucky, all of the most successful Nike basketball schools are involved.
Nine of the previous 13 national championships since 2004 are involved in this tournament. UConn has three and Duke, North Carolina and Florida each have two. Thirteen of the 16 schools also have been in a Final Four and 10 of those schools hold an NCAA championship.
With the Maui Invitational in 2016 and the Battle 4 Atlantis in 2015, UConn continues to find itself in outstanding early-season tournaments. It will be great to see the Huskies participating in such a unique event next year.