CoBL Staff (@hooplove 215)
The discourse surrounding Philadelphia’s Division I men’s basketball programs during the non-conference season focused on the longstanding ‘Big 5’ rivalry and its future.
According to The Athletic’s Dana O’Neil, Villanova, Temple, St. Joe’s, La Salle and Penn have agreed to a new format to keep the rivalry alive, adding Drexel to the mix beginning in the 2023-24 season.
Saint Joseph's University released a statement refuting the report, explaining that while discussions have been had there have been no final decisions.
"Administrators and coaches from the six NCAA Division I institutions in the Philadelphia area are aware of current reports speculating on the future of Big 5 basketball," the release said. "Basketball is ingrained into the fabric of the city and administrators have held discussions about what future possibilities exist. However, no decision has been finalized and conversations are ongoing. All institutions involved are committed to building upon the traditions of Big 5 men's and women's basketball and excited about the future of collegiate basketball in the city of Philadelphia."
The move would change the current round robin format, which was rekindled in 1999-2000 and dates all the way back to 1955-56.
St. Joe's Lynn Greer goes up for a shot against Penn's Lucas Monroe during a Big 5 doubleheader at the Palestra earlier this season. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
The City 6 programs or as O’Neil described ‘Philly Six’ would be split into two three-team pods. Those three schools would play each other in November (two games apiece) and the tournament would conclude with a tripleheader at the Wells Fargo Center on the first Saturday in December. First, second and third place in each pod would meet up in the tripleheader with the two first place teams competing for the City 6 championship, the two second-place teams meeting for 3rd place, and so on.
The city’s basketball purists will certainly not be happy if the original ‘Big 5’ don't all meet up annually. However, the signs were there that change was imminent.
Temple, La Salle, St. Joe’s and Penn were part of just the third Big 5 doubleheader at the Palestra this century on Nov. 30 and drew just a crowd of 3,246.
Recently after the event, The Inquirer’s Mike Jensen wrote about the potential of a Big 5 (or City 6) tournament.
“As it currently stands, it isn’t what it was,” one Big 5 administrator told Jensen. “Everybody who has two eyes knows that.”
The new tournament format would open an extra non-conference game for each team (and potentially two for St. Joe’s and La Salle depending on the pod structure?).
Adding Drexel to the rivalry series makes a lot of sense as the Dragons are often on the schedule of the city’s other programs. Drexel’s men faced Penn, Temple and La Salle this season and played St. Joe’s in each of the two years prior.
One big question that lingers is how/if this new format would impact the women’s Big 5 round robin tournament, which has gone uninterrupted (with the exception of the 2020-21 COVID season) since 1979-80. The current proposal seems to be for the men’s teams only, while the women’s coaches have been discussing their own changes.
“I suspect that the women’s teams may do the same thing but we could come up with our own plan,” La Salle women’s coach Mountain MacGillivray told CoBL. “I think having Drexel be involved just makes sense. Anything that doesn’t include them would be a little disappointing, because I understand why the men didn’t do it, because their history goes back so far, but ours is a young history and all of these teams are pretty decent. It’s a good game.”
Temple and Villanova men split the Big 5 title this season with 3-1 marks, while the Villanova women went an unblemished 4-0 for the title.
CoBL will have more on this story as it becomes available
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