The college basketball season has arrived, ushering in a new era for the Big 5. Now consisting of six schools, the Big 5 includes Drexel, La Salle, Pennsylvania, Saint Joseph’s, Temple, and Villanova.
In today’s college athletics landscape, where conferences like the Big Ten and Big 12 have multiple teams, it’s not uncommon for the Big 5 to have six teams. Drexel joining the fold is a recent addition to the Big 5. Additionally, this season introduces a new format for Big 5 competition.
The six teams will be split into two three-team pods. The first pod includes Pennsylvania, Saint Joseph’s, and Villanova, while the second pod consists of Drexel, La Salle, and Temple. In November, each team will play the other two teams in their respective pods. The first-place teams from each pod will compete in the final game of a Big 5 tripleheader on Dec. 2 at the Wells Fargo Center to determine the Big 5 champion. The second- and third-place teams from each pod will play in the first two games of the tripleheader.
Overall, the new format promises an exciting day of basketball in South Philadelphia.
As we enter this new season and format, there are several key questions to address. Let’s dive into some of them.
Is the new format an improvement?
Without a doubt. The Big 5 has lost some of its appeal in recent years for various reasons. Villanova’s dominance in the city series has been a contributing factor, with other programs struggling to find their footing. Saint Joseph’s, for example, has only secured one NCAA Tournament victory since 2004. Temple, on the other hand, hasn’t won an NCAA Tournament game since 2013. The hope is that the new Big 5 format, especially the tripleheader at the Wells Fargo Center, will rejuvenate fan interest and attendance. Time will tell, but it’s clear that change was necessary.
The new format also reduces the number of Big 5 games each school plays from four to three. This offers more scheduling flexibility, considering teams already have 18 to 20 conference games, in-season tournaments, and mandated conference crossover games.
Will Villanova make a comeback?
The pieces are in place for a strong bounce-back season for Villanova. After missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time in nearly a decade, Villanova’s new head coach, Kyle Neptune, has made significant roster changes. Despite losing three starters, including NBA draft pick Cam Whitmore, Neptune has brought in talented players through the transfer portal. Senior leaders Justin Moore and Eric Dixon are expected to play pivotal roles this season. With a No. 22 ranking in the Associated Press poll, Villanova has high hopes of competing for a Big East title and returning to the NCAA Tournament.
Can Saint Joseph’s turn things around?
In Billy Lange’s fifth season as head coach, Saint Joseph’s is poised to build on the progress made last year. With standout guard Erik Reynolds, along with Lynn Greer III and Cameron Brown, the Hawks have a solid nucleus that can compete with top teams in the Atlantic 10. Picked fifth in the preseason poll, a 20-win season is a realistic goal for Saint Joseph’s.
Will Adam Fisher revitalize Temple?
Temple’s first-year head coach, Adam Fisher, is off to a promising start. Despite the roster changes caused by player transfers, Fisher has a strong reputation as a recruiter. He has already made progress in bolstering Temple’s recruiting class for the future. While this season may prove challenging in conference play, the future looks bright for Temple.
Who will secure NCAA Tournament bids?
Last season, no Big 5 team advanced to the NCAA Tournament. However, this year, that is likely to change. Villanova is a strong contender, with the potential to make a deep run in the tournament. Saint Joseph’s has the talent to compete for a bid as well. Temple may need another year or two to fully develop. Despite being picked to finish last in the Atlantic 10, La Salle, under coach Fran Dunphy, could exceed expectations. Penn, under Steve Donahue, will continue to contend for an Ivy League title. Drexel, the newest Big 5 member, has a history of making the NCAA Tournament and should perform well in the Coastal Athletic Association.
As the college basketball season kicks off, keep an eye on the exciting changes in the Big 5 and see which teams will make a splash in the NCAA Tournament.
Laura Davis covers the world of basketball with precision. Her articles explore NBA and college basketball, offering game analysis, player profiles, and highlights. Laura’s passion for hoops is evident in her comprehensive basketball coverage.