The first-ever Big 5 Classic will conclude on Saturday, December 2 with all six of Philadelphia's men's Division 1 college basketball programs taking part in a triple header at the Wells Fargo Center in South Philly.
At the end of the night, the champion of the Big 5 will be crowned.
As a result of pool play over the last few weeks, Temple and St. Joseph's will play in the championship game on Saturday. La Salle and Penn will play in the third-place game, and Drexel and Villanova will be taking part in the fifth-place game.
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All three games will air on NBC Sports Philadelphia Plus, and will be streaming on Peacock. The games begin at 2 p.m. ET on Saturday afternoon. Tickets are available for $45 and get you in to all three games.
What is the Big 5 Classic?
The Big 5 Classic was announced earlier in 2023, replacing the former Big 5 title that was simply determined by round-robin, regular-season play between five of the six area schools (minus Drexel). The five member schools came together to expand the Big 5 to officially include Drexel, which had been in D1 basketball since 1974 but was never recognized as a member of the group.
With Drexel's addition, the six schools were separated into two pods of three teams each for the inaugural 2023 Big 5 Classic. Pod 1 comprised of Temple, La Salle, and Drexel this year, while Villanova, St. Joe's, and Penn made up Pod 2. Teams in each pod played each other in a round-robin format.
As a result of pod play, the top teams in each pod advanced to the championship game, the second teams in each pod will play in the third-place game, and the bottom teams will face off in the fifth-place game. All three games will take place back-to-back-to-back on Saturday afternoon in what should be a terrific showcase of Philadelphia college basketball.
Is the new Big 5 Classic format a change for the better?
Absolutely. For a number of reasons, the Big 5 lost considerable luster in recent years. Some of that was because of Villanova's dominance in the city series over the past two decades. The other programs in the city have struggled to find their footing. St. Joseph's has just one NCAA Tournament victory since Jameer Nelson left campus in 2004. Meanwhile, Temple hasn't won a NCAA Tournament game since 2013, which was the same year as La Salle's most recent NCAA Tournament appearance.
Fan interest and attendance has waned. The hope is that the new Big 5 format — particularly the triple header at the Wells Fargo Center — will provide a spark. Time will tell if it does but it was clear that a change of some sort was needed.
The new format also means each school will play three Big 5 games (two in pod play and one in the triple header) as opposed to four Big 5 games. This will allow for some scheduling flexibility in an era where teams are playing 18 to 20 conference games in addition to in-season tournaments and mandated conference crossover games.
Why are there six teams in the Big 5?
La Salle head coach Fran Dunphy -- who has 600 wins in the Big 5 and has also led Temple and Penn in his illustrious career -- answered that question at the April announcement of the new format.
"As evidenced by the Atlantic 10 with 15 schools, the Big Ten has 14 schools, the Big 12 has ten," Dunphy said. "So it's not really that important how many schools are in the Big 5. Now we're going to have six."
Tradition dictates keeping the Big 5 name, as opposed to switching to the "City 6" or some other moniker.
What happened during pod play?
In classic Big 5 fashion, things did not go as expected in pod play.
Villanova came into the college basketball season ranked No. 21 in the AP Top 25, the only of the six schools to be ranked. They certainly were the favorite to advance to the championship game out of Pod 2. Heading into the triple header final on December 2, they've only lost two games on the season and have advanced to No. 18 in the AP poll, in part thanks to a key win over then-No. 14 North Carolina on November 23.
But, yes, you guessed it -- Villanova's two losses on the season so far were both in Big 5 Classic pod play.
Penn upset Villanova at The Palestra by a score of 76-72 on November 13, the Quakers' first win against a ranked team since a similar upset of Villanova in 2018. It's safe to say that it was one of Penn's biggest wins of the last five years.
Villanova still had a chance to advance to the championship game with a win on home court on November 29, yet lost handily to St. Joe's by a score of 78-65 thanks to lights out shooting by Hawks guard Erik Reynolds II.
That win helped St. Joe's to the title game as they finished 2-0 in pod play. Their other win came at Hagan Arena against Penn on November 10, a 69-61 victory. Sophomore guard Lynn Greer III and Reynolds II each finished with 13 points.
Penn's 1-1 record in Pod 2 locked in their spot in Saturday's third-place game against La Salle.
La Salle got to the third-place game by defeating Drexel, 67-61, in the season opener and Pod 1 opener for both teams on November 7. The Explorers have had a strong season to date, starting 4-0 before dropping a game against No. 9 Duke -- at Cameron Indoor Stadium, nonetheless -- on November 21.
La Salle carried a 5-1 record down North Broad Street to face Temple on November 29, the final night of pod play. With a trip to the title game on the line, the teams delivered a back-and-forth triple-overtime thriller -- just the fifth 3OT game in Big 5 history.
The Owls pulled off the win, 106-99, after pulling away in the third OT period. But it didn't come without work.
La Salle came back from an eight point deficit with just 1:39 left, with senior Jhamir Brickus hitting a last-second three pointer to send the game to overtime. Temple's Steve Settle III later forced the third overtime with a clutch three-pointer to tie the game at 91-91 with five seconds on the clock.
That win, plus a 66-64 win on the road against Drexel on November 14, locked up the Owls' place in the title game.
Big 5 Classic Pod 1 Standings
- Temple Owls: 2-0
- La Salle Explorers: 1-1
- Drexel Dragons: 0-2
Big 5 Classic Pod 2 Standings
- St. Joseph's Hawks: 2-0
- Penn Quakers: 1-1
- Villanova Wildcats: 0-2
Schedule for 2023 Big 5 Classic triple header on December 2
- 5th place game: Drexel Dragons vs. Villanova Wildcats - 2 p.m. ET
- 3rd place game: La Salle Explorers vs. Penn Quakers - 4:45 p.m. ET
- Championship: Temple vs. St. Joseph's - 7:30 p.m. ET
Tickets can be found at big5classic.com, starting at $45. All three games will be broadcast on NBC Sports Philadelphia Plus and Peacock.
NBC Sports Philly senior producer Sean Kane contributed to this story.