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April 11, 2023

Big 5 adds Drexel, introduces triple-header format at the Wells Fargo Center

Drexel is in, and beginning this season, the Big 5 will operate under a new series format that will culminate with a six-team triple-header at the Wells Fargo Center.

Big 5 College Basketball
Villanova-Wells-Fargo-Center-Basketball-3.4.2023-NCAA.jpg Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports

Villanova and the rest of the Big 5, Drexel included, will be clashing at the Wells Fargo Center this December.

The college basketball landscape has been changing rapidly and the Big 5 on Tuesday announced a massive move to change with it. 

Drexel is officially in now, and beginning this season, the Big 5 will operate under a new series format that will culminate with a six-team triple-header at the Wells Fargo Center on December 2 dubbed "The Big 5 Classic." 

Here's a rundown of how it will work:

• The City Six schools will be divided up into two pods. Pod 1 will have Temple, La Salle, and Drexel. Pod 2 will have Villanova, Saint Joe's, and Penn. 

• In each pod, teams will play the other two at one another's own campuses to determine seeding before heading into the Big 5 Classic. 

• At the Classic, the No. 1 seeds from each pod will face off for the Big 5 championship, the No. 2 seeds will play for third place, and the No. 3 seeds will play for fifth, with all three games getting knocked out in a single day. 

“Big 5 basketball and its traditions are a big part of the fabric of Philadelphia basketball,” current La Salle and former Temple and Penn head coach Fran Dunphy said in a press release. “We look back on the Big 5’s history with great fondness, as we welcome a new member to our group in Drexel University and usher in a new era of Big 5 play. We are all excited to participate in this newly imagined format and the first Big 5 Classic at the new Wells Fargo Center next season.” 

While the Big 5 does make up a huge part of Philly's basketball culture and history, the tradition has steadily lost its luster over the past decade. Villanova ascended into a college basketball powerhouse under Jay Wright, but at the same time, Temple, Saint Joe's, La Salle, and Penn all either stagnated or declined as programs, and interest from students and the rest of the city waned. 

The COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbated the problem, and after Wright retired as Villanova's coach last April, none of the City Six teams were good enough this past season to qualify for the NCAA Tournament, a first since 1977

The Big 5 just isn't what it was, but with Drexel's introduction, a new format, and a move from the Palestra at Penn to a bigger and much more modern Wells Fargo Center – which isn't going to sit well with basketball purists – the schools and Comcast Spectacor, which is organizing and hosting the Big 5 Classic, are hoping that this is a major step toward building it back up. 

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