by The Dunkin Dad on November 08
Welcome to Chicago, where for the second time, Barstool Sports and the NCAA came together for a power packed evening of college basketball action with the Barstool Invitational. Combining creativity, original personalities, and maximizing every aspect of a major sporting event; Barstool delivered again.
Headlining the four team, two game tournament was none other than the darling Cinderella of last year’s’ NCAA Men’s Final Four, the Florida Atlantic University Owls. The Owls come into this season ranked #10 in the Nation; going from underdogs to being one of the top-dogs. Final Four aspirations have become expectation, and a trip to Phoenix is the end goal; anything less will not suffice.
Facing off against FAU, is another team that is no stranger to sudden success. The Loyola-Chicago Ramblers, a consistent force among mid-major schools who had a similar rise to basketball relevancy following their unexpected Final Four run in 2018. The Ramblers have been a formidable opponent ever since, and have established themselves as NCAA tournament regulars.
It was only fitting that FAU and Loyola should tip-off their respective seasons against one another. So, in a not so neutral site, Wintrust Arena (DePaul, Chicago), the 2023-2024 season began. The stands were visibly packed with loyal Ramblers fans, a raucous student section, full band, and cheerleaders. This lent itself to the action and for the majority of the first half the game remained fairly close.
However, around the 14 minute mark, the Owls began to assert themselves and quickly took full control of the game. By the time the end of the First half rolled around, FAU was leading by 13 points and never looked back. This delighted the Owls faithful, who made the trip from Boca, and for the remainder of the game they were able to match the Loyola fans’ energy.
The second half was more of the same and although Loyola never backed down, the FAU Owls were just too much to handle. Led by standout Center, Vladislav Goldin (19 pts, 10 Rebs) and Guard, Nicholas Boyd (13 pts), the Owls put it in cruise control and finished off the Ramblers 75-62; to win game one.
The second game of the evening featured the returning Barstool Invitational Champion, Mississippi State Bulldogs and the Arizona State Sun Devils.
Mississippi State, led by Coach Jans, is a big, quick, strong and long team; filled with grit and sheer power. Their physical style of play, savvy guard play (Trey Fort 21 pts, 5-10 3pts) and relentless pressure on the glass made short work of ASU.
ASU, is guided by NCAA legend, Bobby Hurley, and are certainly no slouches. Only returning three players from last year’s team; ASU finds themselves a little behind the eight ball, but their gritty game play and hustle are evident.
The game would mirror all of the aforementioned factors and in a matter of twenty minutes; Mississippi State would take a commanding 39-18 lead into the half; capped off by a beautiful Dashawn Davis 3 pt at the buzzer.
The second half was much of the same and at one point, Miss St had extended their lead to 25 points. Credit to ASU for not completely caving to the onslaught of three balls; they stayed true to their game and got the lead down to 15. Miss St 71 – ASU 56.
The Barstool Invitational is quickly establishing itself as a sought after, early season tournament. From a fans perspective, it offers an entertaining pre-game, in-game and post game menu. Clad with popular Social Media stars, Barstool personalities, and unpredictable escapades (in game pizza delivery races) you are always engaged and entertained. At this point, I can only foresee this becoming even more popular and garnering more recognition as a viable tip-off tournament. Sign me up!