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March 12, 2023

No City 6 school makes Men's NCAA Tournament for first time since 1977

The Big 5 and the City 6 are hurting in Philadelphia. Not a single school from Penn, Villanova, Temple, La Salle, Drexel and Saint Joseph's made the Men's NCAA Tournament for the first time in 46 years.

Philadelphia is a city that's steeped in a rich college basketball tradition, but that has been eroding for some time, culminating in an embarrassing turn of events in 2023. Per the Philadelphia Inquirer's Jeff Neiburg, this will be the first year since 1977 that no City 6 school (Penn, Villanova, Drexel, La Salle, Temple and Saint Joseph's) will make the Men's NCAA Tournament:

How did we get here? On a micro level, here's how each team performed in 2022-23 and where they were knocked out of their conference's respective tournament: 

Team  RecordConference Tourney Result 
Penn 17-13 Lost in Semifinals 
Drexel 17-15 Lost in Quarterfinals 
Temple 16-16 Lost in Quarterfinals  
Saint Joseph's 16-17 Lost in Quarterfinals  
La Salle 15-19 Lost in Quarterfinals  
Villanova 17-16 Lost in Quarterfinals 

Not good. Not good at all. None of those teams sniffed at-large bids. 

On a macro level, Philly's fertile ground for hoops talent has seen its best homegrown players play college ball outside the city, something that seems to increase by the year. The attention these schools once commanded throughout the Delaware Valley is slipping away as well.

The connective tissue these colleges previously shared is on life support, too. 

Starting next season, the classic Big 5 (minus Drexel) and the City 6 will be no longer, rebranded as the "Philly Six," initially reported by The Athletic's Dana O'Neil

A quick guide to the overhaul from O'Neil:

Under the new format, the six schools — the traditional Big 5 teams of La Salle, Penn, Temple, Saint Joseph’s and Villanova, plus Drexel — will be split into two three-team pods.

The pod teams will play each other in November, with the winners matching up based on their record in a tripleheader (a designated fifth place, third place and championship game, if you will) at the Wells Fargo Center on the first Saturday in December. [The Athletic/$]

With waning fan interest from students and the city overall that saw embarrassing attendance numbers this past season, the hope is to revitalize what once was a crop of premiere events in the Philadelphia sports scene. I can't speak to all of these schools and their respective campus environments, but as a Penn grad, I can tell you that the student body, sadly as a Philly native, did not care one iota about hoops nor, really, the school's sports teams in general. 

For a somewhat local note (as local as a school three hours away can be), Penn State has made the tourney for the first time since 2011. They had a spirited run to the Big 10 Tournament Championship Game, narrowly losing 67-65 to a Purdue team that entered the day as the No. 5 team in the country. 

The Nittany Lions will be the No. 10 seed in the Midwest Region and face No. 7 seed Texas A&M. Former Villanova coach Jay Wright thinks that could be the best game of the entire first round:

Who should Philly fans root for this March? Historically, given that I did not go to a college with big-time sports programs, I tended to go with schools that had connection to Philly sports figures. For example, I loved Oregon football and would rock their gear during the Chip Kelly days. If you want to put your support behind the guy who should win the NBA MVP this year, you could always go for Joel Embiid's old Kansas Jayhawks, who are the No. 1 seed in the West Region. 

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