Alternative to the NFL: College basketball from Portland on ESPN

Forward Theo Pinson is averaging 10.2 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.4 assists this year for North Carolina. Oh, and, he can also get off the floor.

By Jerry Briggs

Way out West, Texas and Gonzaga have tipped off in the made-for-television PK80 tournament at the Moda Center in Portland, Oregon.

It’s the third-place game in the tournament’s Motion Bracket.

I’m watching from my living room in San Antonio, the home of the 2018 NCAA Men’s Final Four, all set to watch this game and a few others today and tonight.

Anxious to see the Longhorns for the first time.

Also, we’ll try to size up North Carolina- Michigan State, which starts at 7:30 tonight, and Duke-Florida, which is set for 9:30.

So, if you need a break from the National Football League this afternoon, check back with for some observations.

I’ll be here all day.


The Longhorns, who played well in an overtime loss to Duke on Friday, have hit the wall.

They jumped out to a 16-8 lead on the Bulldogs.

Now early in the second half, the Bulldogs have surged into a 48-33 lead.

Texas freshman forward Mo Bamba has five points, seven rebounds and three blocks.

Bamba has been pushed around a little bit by Gonzaga’s big guys. He looks out of sorts at the moment, with the Bulldogs on their big run.

But he is the real deal.

Bamba is one of those players who will inspire your imagination, and then he’ll take an ill-advised three from the top of the circle.

Gonzaga’s Jeremy Jones

Jones, who played in high school at East Central, is on the floor for the Zags. A transfer from Rice, he’s averaging 3.4 points in 9.6 minutes off the bench.

Oh, brother…

Texas has erased a 21-point deficit and has tied the game against Gonzaga at the end of regulation.

The Longhorns outscored the Zags 15-4 in the last few minutes.

Bamba hit a bucket and then forced a bad pass on the inbounds, which Texas intercepted and turned into a buzzer-beating three.

In overtime, Gonzaga forced a few turnovers, kicked its transition game into gear and subdued Texas, 76-71.

Michigan State’s Jaren Jackson, Jr.

I can still remember Jaren Jackson hitting big threes in the Spurs’ first championship season, in 1998-99.

Tonight, his son will take the spotlight when Michigan State plays North Carolina in the finals of the PK80 tournament.

Freshman center Jaren Jackson, Jr., is starting for coach Tom Izzo’s Spartans.

Through two games, the former McDonald’s All-American is averaging 12.5 points and 10 rebounds.

In 1999, his father enjoyed two of the biggest games of his career in Portland, in the same arena that Michigan State and Carolina will duel tonight.

Back then, it was known as the Rose Garden.

In June of 1999, Jaren Jackson, Sr. came off the bench to score 19 points in Game 3 and 11 points in Game 4 as the Spurs swept the Trail Blazers in the NBA’s Western Conference finals.

Michigan State 63, North Carolina 45

Jaren Jackson, Jr., a projected lottery pick in the next NBA Draft, didn’t have much of an impact on the finals of the PK80 Victory Bracket.

The Michigan State freshman center picked up two early fouls and sat out most of the first half.

A flagrant foul — questionable, in my view — sent him to the bench in the second half.

Nevertheless, Michigan State throttled North Carolina, 63-45, holding the Tar Heels to 24.6 percent shooting.

“I thought out defense was really, really good,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo told ESPN. “Our offense, we hung in there.”

Sophomore guard Joshua Langford led the Spartans with 23 points.

Jackson, considered a “stretch-four” because of his ability to shoot from distance, finished with three points, five rebounds and two blocks.

He started the tournament with a flourish, producing 13 points and 10 rebounds against DePaul and 12 points and 10 boards against Connecticut.

Duke – Florida

Riding the hot shooting of KeVaughn Allen and Chris Chiozza, Florida jumped on Duke in the opening minutes of the PK80 Motion Bracket title game, moving out to leads of 18-4 and 24-10.

Did Duke flinch? Hardly. Center Marvin Bagley III led a rally that propelled the Blue Devils to a dominant run. At one point, Duke was up 44-37 and cruising.

But Florida settled down, kept playing and took a 53-47 lead into into intermission. Great up and down play by two talented teams.

Where did Florida get all this talent? Jalen Hudson is destroying Duke right now with 22 points and 10 rebounds. Gators are leading the Blue Devils 80-70 with 5:29 remaining in the game.

Duke’s size is starting to take a toll on Florida. Blue Devils are on a 24-10 run. Florida’s lead is down to three. We’re about to see a great finish here. Two free throws by Gary Trent, Jr., give Blue Devils an 85-84 lead. Less than a minute remaining.

Jalen Hudson turns it over on the dribble. Trent hits two free throws. Duke now up by three. There’s 8.9 seconds left. Florida with possession. Bagley has 30 points and 15 rebounds. Duke wins 87-84.