Champions Classic Review


Madison Square Garden is the world’s most famous arena. The opening night of college basketball in Madison Square Garden was special. Mike Krzyzewski began the final season of possibly the greatest college basketball coach. There is so much history within the Garden. Every time you step inside, you get a sense of history. Many great heavyweight matchups have happened at MSG, from Rocky Marciano and Joe Lewis to Ali and Frazier. Opening night, we had four more heavyweights take center stage in Michigan State vs Kansas and Duke vs Kentucky. It’s early in the season. But most of the Kansas, Duke, Kentucky, and Michigan State teams that we’ve seen in the last decade have transformed into something different. 

Champions Classic
Photo Cred:

Michigan State vs Kansas

Kansas men’s basketball coach Bill Self has never put too much stock into what happens at the Champions Classic. The Jayhawks have been enjoying the Champions Classic as of late, going 5-1 the past six years. The only loss in that stretch was two years ago when KU lost by two vs Duke.

 Kansas took control of the paint from the beginning of this game. They controlled the paint like it was their own and without star player Jalen Wilson. Kansas found help from another player who played his best game in Senior Ochai Agbaji, who scored 29 points. Kansas had only nine turnovers, zero coming from Agbaji. Alongside Arizona State transfer Remy Martin who scored all of his 15 points in the second half. Kansas won in a dominant win against Michigan State. Michigan State’s AJ Hoggard provided 17 points for the Spartans. 

Kansas' Remy Martin (11) drives past Michigan State's Max Christie (5) and Tyson Walker during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
Photo Cred: CBS Sports

“I don’t think this game means a ton in February,” Self said after Tuesday’s victory. “It’s too early in the season. I do think it’s one of those games that (when) you look back and start adding good and bad, this is a mark in the good space for us.”

University of Kentucky vs Duke 

Two of Duke’s newest players made huge impacts on the big stage. Freshman guard Trevor Keels put up 25 points, and freshman forward Paolo Banchero added 22 as No. 9 Duke beat No. 10 Kentucky 79-71 in the Champions Classic. Playing before a packed house, the Blue Devils used a 20-6 run to pull away from Kentucky in the second half. Duke led by as many as 15 points after halftime.

Getty Images

The No. 1 story was Coach K’s first game of his final season. The No. 2 story was how good Preseason All-American Paolo Banchero would be. Another intriguing part was how fellow freshman Trevor Keels played. They both are as good as advertised.

“This kid right here is going to be a great player,” Krzyzewski said of Keels. “He weighs 230 pounds, and if he were a running back, he would know how to pick holes like, you intimated charge — he gets fouled. He doesn’t charge very much because he’s so low and has great body control. For three straight years, he was probably the best player in the D.C. area.”

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