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Opening Night in the Books: 2021 Champions Classic Recap From Madison Square Garden

Well, that was fun. For the first time since March 10, 2020 (609 days!), I was lucky enough to attend a college basketball game in person. The entire Barstool Bench Mob crew had media credentials for the 2021 Champions Classic at Madison Square Garden, and the doubleheader here in New York City shaped up to be a fantastic one:

(3) Kansas vs. Michigan State

(9) Duke vs. (10) Kentucky 

I have had my fair share of on-site media experiences over the last 7-8 years, but for Marty Mush and Rico Bosco, this was their first time as Big J's. And with the aforementioned teams playing, it was straight to the big leagues for my fellow co-hosts. 

We began the night on the floor level to check out what this year's Kansas and Michigan State teams would look like. A few weeks ago on our show, we mentioned how we couldn't believe that Kansas' Mitch Lightfoot was still on the team. Fortunately, Rico got his attention when KU was getting shots up. More on that interaction coming in our vlog later this week.

Before the games began, Marty and Rico had to leave for Hoboken for the Barstool Sportsbook stream. It was then time to ride solo (along with our great producer, Doogs). 

One of the more frequent things that you might notice journalists do on the internet is complain about media hospitality. Why? I have no idea. But I'm here to say that the spread at tonight's event was very solid. 

You simply can't have anything that has the potential to upset your stomach on opening night, especially with the chance of having to miss some game action. Anyways, it was time for Game No. 1, as the Jayhawks and Spartans tipped things off at MSG.

We went back down to the floor level to check things out at halftime, as the PA announcer mentioned some sort of ceremony was going to take place on the court. You'll never guess who this ceremony was for...

THE FAREWELL TOUR BEGINS! I am looking forward to seeing what kind of wacky gifts Coach K receives from various teams throughout this season. Back to the game, where Kansas took care of business in the second half, mainly thanks to Ochai Agbaji, who scored a career-high 29 points.

KU had no Jalen Wilson (suspension), but that didn't matter tonight. 

Onwards to Game 2, where both Duke and Kentucky were eager to begin a new season after both enduring a disastrous 2020. This may have been a single-session doubleheader at MSG tonight, but in my mind, the vibe totally changed the moment this game tipped off. It felt like March.

Side note: BIG J'S THIS IS OUR MOMENT!

After an intense pace throughout the game, it was Duke who eventually earned the opening night victory thanks to their freshmen. Trevor Keels: 25 points. Paolo Banchero: 22 points. 

It sure didn't look like their first game at the college level. And to do it at this venue against this team? Impressive.

By the way, this Duke win locked up the first ever Barstool Bench Mob parlay! Congratulations, Mobsters. Great start to the season.

We ended the night back in the media room, where I had my hand raised to hopefully ask Coach K a question. Unfortunately, they ran out of time. 

But with about half of the media leaving after Duke took the podium, I knew there was a much better shot at me getting picked for Coach Calipari and Kentucky. The media coordinator had time for one last question, and BOOM! It was time to go full Big J mode one last time for the evening...

So, that was that. A special night at Madison Square Garden to begin the 2021-2022 college basketball season. 120 games down, and a couple thousand more to go. We ran into the one and only Jon Rothstein on the way out of the building, and it was nice to get his thoughts on this fantastic doubleheader:

Be on the lookout for our full vlog from tonight that includes a behind the scenes look at everything that went down. Until tomorrow...