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Portland State is playing Duke in PK80 and worth getting to know

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Like his team, Bryce Canda is off to a great start.
Portland State Athletics

Location gave Portland State its golden ticket to the PK80, which kicks off Thursday in Portland. But the Viks aren’t staggering into the blueblood-sprinkled event with their shoulders hung and eyes low.

They enter their PK80 opening game against Duke with a first-year coach and a 4-0 record, which includes a true road win (UC Riverside) and a win over a Mountain West team (Utah State). It’s the Viks’ best start since 2014-15, and for Barret Peery, it’s been the perfect debut.

PSU opened the year with a win over cross-town rival Portland, which has had more buzz over the past year after hiring Terry Porter. Peery didn’t play 10 seasons with the Trailblazers, but was an intriguing hire nonetheless. Known as a great recruiter, the former high-level JuCo coach (Indian Hills) figured to do a good job finding prospects at that level.

And it looks like he found one right away. Portland-native Deante Strickland is off to a good start running the point in the Viks’ up-tempo offense (9.3 PPG, 3.8 APG, 56.3 3P%). He also pounced on 7’1 Gonzaga grad transfer Ryan Edwards, who has excelled in a main role (11.3 PPG, 3.5 RPG) after playing sparsely during the Zags’ run last season.

To be fair, former coach Tyler Geving didn’t leave Peery without anything to work with. A number of returners are off to great starts, including senior guards Bryce Canda (17.5 PPG, 8.0 RPG) and Deonte North (16.0 PPG, 3.7 APG), and Holland “Boo Boo” Woods — a freshman he signed that Peery was able to retain — has been incredible thus far (10.5 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 4.0 APG).

The hyper-early signature, and somewhat legitimizing, win came Monday night when PSU was able to hold off a second-half comeback from a Utah State team that had just played well against Gonzaga. Peery talked about the importance of the Viks’ pressing defense after the win.

"I think we played a very ball-conservative, sharp team that we turned over 21 times, which was just enough to win. Our guys got the to the free throw line and made just enough to win," said Viking Coach Barret Peery.

The victory was significant, as it was just PSU’s third top-150 KenPom win over the past eight seasons.

Will the Viks shock the world and get their first top-5 KenPom in program history Thursday afternoon against #4 Duke? No, they almost certainly won’t, but Peery has PSU looking like a Big Sky contender in the early going.