November 23, 2017 / 10:16 PM / 6 months ago

Preview: Portland vs. North Carolina

Defending national champion North Carolina hopes to add another tournament title this weekend, as the ninth-ranked Tar Heels open the PK80 Invitational on Thursday against Portland. The tournament honoring Nike co-founder Phil Knight’s 80th birthday features two eight-team brackets and is being played in Portland, Ore.

The Tar Heels’ title defense is off to a roaring start with three double-digit wins, including a 96-72 road victory at Stanford on Monday. North Carolina could face some tough competition later in the tournament – including either Arkansas or Oklahoma on Friday and a potential matchup with Michigan State two days later. First up, though, are the Pilots, who have won two straight – both against NAIA opponents. Former NBA star Terry Porter is in his second season as the coach at Portland after going 11-22 last campaign.

TV: 2:30 p.m., ESPN

ABOUT PORTLAND (2-1): Porter reinforced the roster for his second season at the helm, adding junior-college transfer Josh McSwiggan (14.3 points, five rebounds) as well as his son, Franklin Porter (11 points), among others. Those two have emerged as the team’s top two scorers, while 7-2 center Philipp Hartwich averages eight points and 12 rebounds while ranking second in the nation with 4.7 blocks per contest. Hartwich’s ability to protect the rim is a big reason why the Pilots rank third nationally in field-goal defense, holding opponents to 31.9 percent shooting.

ABOUT NORTH CAROLINA (3-0): The Tar Heels have no shortage of offensive threats, as five players are averaging double digits in points. Luke Maye (19.3 points, 9.3 rebounds) and point guard Joel Berry II (18.5 points, 4.5 assists) lead the way, but sharpshooter Kenny Williams (13.3 points) poured in a career-high 20 points against Stanford. The Tar Heels also appear to have a big-time post player in the making with 6-11 freshman Sterling Manley, who is averaging 10.7 points and 8.7 rebounds off the bench.

TIP-INS

1. North Carolina is 6-0 all-time in Oregon.

2. The Tar Heels have shot better than 50 percent in two of their three games.

3. Portland has lost nine straight to ranked teams and is 0-24 against top-10 opponents.

PREDICTION: North Carolina 89, Portland 73

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