But with non-conference scheduling playing a bigger part in tournament resumés for March, some might say that the Big 5 isn't what it used to be. Which was why the round-robin tournament was put to a halt during most of the 1990s and most of the games getting moved out of the famed Palestra. Back when the thing got started, most teams were independents. Now, all five teams are affiliated in four different conferences (La Salle and St. Joe's are both in the A-10).
Although I'm in Syracuse, which has a rich basketball history itself, I still understand the Big 5 as it is, and how special it is to the city. Places such as New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles don't have anything like this. Syracuse has scheduled fellow in-state rivals Colgate, Cornell, and St. John's for the past few season, but the Orange usually win at least two of those three games, with former Big East rival St. John's being the most competitive.
Every Big 5 team, no matter how talented they are, is always competitive in their games. Look at Villanova's game against Penn from last season. The Quakers were down by two at the half and scraped with the Wildcats for the majority of the second half, being only down single digits during most of the half.
With that, here are three questions that I have in regards to the future of the Big 5.
In the past few years, Drexel has played either two or three Big 5 schools, one has been St. Joe's for a long time. And without being a part of Big 5 competition, Drexel has participated in multiple early season tournaments to get games in, while also gaining some good experience against some quality D1 teams.
Could all Big 5 teams schedule Drexel in some way in the early parts of their season? They could, but that would mean possibly eliminating quality early season opponents like Miami (La Salle), Washington (Penn), Virginia Tech (St. Joe's), Wisconsin (Temple), or Virginia (Villanova). It might be more difficult for a nationally ranked team like Villanova, since they have tough opponents such as Virginia, as well as Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Georgetown early on.
But each team does have a "cupcake" within their schedule that could be replaced like Drexel. La Salle has Rowan (although the Explorers will play Drexel this year), Penn has Ursinus (again, will play Drexel this year), St. Joe's hosts Maryland-East Shore (but play Drexel as well), Temple has Fairleigh Dickinson, and Villanova has East Tennessee State. Surely replacing those opponents with Drexel could improve strengths of schedules, but do some teams want to do it. Drexel's Daskalakis Athletic Center holds 2,509 fans, which is 891 less seats than La Salle's Tom Gola Arena (3,400), making it really small. The question of having Drexel in the Big 5 will be in the same category as asking whether or not a hot dog is a sandwich.
2. MOVE ALL BIG 5 GAMES TO THE PALESTRA?
Back in the day, all Big 5 games were held in the Palestra. But now, times have changed, with boosters trying to get teams to play in their comfier home arenas. This year, outside of Penn's home games, there is only one game that will be held at the Palestra as part of a revived doubleheader (more on that later).
Wouldn't it be great to have all the Big 5 games back in the home of the Big 5? And would it be better with this?
3. THE RETURN OF DOUBLE (AND MAYBE TRIPLE) HEADERS
For me, I want to see more intense Big 5 showdowns. I want more streamers on the courts. I want more doubleheaders. I want to see the Big 5 return to what the Big 5 was, with or without Drexel. Just picture a handful of Saturday afternoons during the start of the basketball season, and there's always at least one Big 5 game that afternoon. There might be a Big 5 doubleheader. There might be a Big 5 game followed by a Penn against against a non-Big 5 opponent. There could be two Big 5 games, followed by a game featuring the leftover Big 5 team against Drexel. Make that a yearly event at the least!
We hope to cover as many, if not all, of the Big 5/City 6 games this season, with recaps from each game. Happy 60th birthday to the Big 5! Where would college basketball, even college sports and maybe even basketball in general, in Philadelphia be without the Big 5 and the Palestra? The Big 5 is like the cheesesteak, the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, and the Art Museum steps as an important part of Philadelphia's culture.