For a certain generation from the Delaware Valley, the Big 5 is as hallowed as an Eagles gameday or Red October. While some of that fervent energy has tailed off as of late, Philadelphia's college basketball scene is hoping to emphatically put itself back on this city's map with the inaugural Big 5 Classic.
The Big 5, which now comprises all City 6 schools (congrats, Drexel), will descend upon the Wells Fargo Center on Dec. 2 for a triple-header of Philly hoops.
A new tournament format was introduced this collegiate season with three teams representing two different pods and playing one another within them: Temple (1-0), Drexel (0-2) and La Salle (1-0) in Pod 1; Penn (1-1), Villanova (0-1) and Saint Joseph's (1-0) in Pod 2.
There are still two games that will determine the standings and Saturday's matchups: Wednesday night's La Salle-Temple and Saint Joseph's-Villanova games. Once those are settled, Saturday will tip off with a fifth-place game at 1:00 p.m., a third-place game at 4:45 p.m., and then the championship round at 7:00 p.m.
This new iteration of the Big 5 is meant to "reinvigorate" Philly's storied college basketball tradition, says Wells Fargo Center general manager Mike Sulkes.
"The first conversation that we had at the Wells Fargo Center with the Big 5 took place about seven years ago," Sulkes said about the City 6 schools' plan to "make it different" when it comes to breathing life into the Big 5. "All of the universities, credit to them, were being very forward-looking and seeing how they could adapt to the new landscape and make this thing special.
"We wanted all six fan bases under one roof for one day," Sulkes said about the triple-header format. "One of the things that made it special [previously] was that it wasn't just two fan bases. It was four fan bases. It was the interaction toward the end of the first game where the second game fan bases started coming in and the chants and interactions for those fan bases was one of the things that made it special. Bringing it here will allow more people to experience that with more access."
For that experience, tickets are available for $45, which includes admission to all three games.
The Big 5 Classic is part of an entire process that is hoping to establish the Wells Fargo Center, and re-establish Philadelphia overall, as a home for college basketball. Christian Laettner's shot remains in South Philly lore long after the Spectrum has been torn down. In the 21st century, there was the "Dunk City" Florida Gulf Coast upset over No. 2 Georgetown in the 2013 NCAA Tournament. Just last year, No. 15 St. Peter's went on an Elite 8 run right at the Wells Fargo Center.
New highs could be coming. The following weekend, on Saturday, Dec. 9, the Wells Fargo Center will be home to two big-time games. Kentucky will descend upon South Philly to play Penn and Duke will suit up against Villanova later that night in a doubleheader.
In a hyper-local region, however, the real fanfare needs to start on Saturday with these six schools if the impact wants to have true ripple effects going forward.
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