Jeremy Lin doing his thing for Hahvahd Hoops 2006-2010

Jeremy Lin doing his thing for Hahvahd Hoops 2006-2010

Jeremy Lin is only the 3d player from Harvard to play in the NBA.

He was a terrific player not only at Harvard, but in the Ivies.  He established a line of records unmatched in Ivy League history, and along the way, the Harvard basketball team, which had never amounted to a bucket of warm spit until Lin and Coach Amaker arrived, found its way to the Ivy League title and the NCAA tournament.

My sons and I watched these guys, led by Lin, play a ferocious contest in the Palestra against their arch-rivals Penn in 2010, which was a double overtime contest, and as Harvard finally won, largely due to the intensity and refusal to lose of Lin, who kept penetrating, dishing off, shooting jumpers, and doing whatever it took to win, it seemed like a passing of the guard.

DP made pun of Lin's name back in 2009 at Penn

The Daily Pennsylvanian made pun of Lin's name back in 2009 at Penn, showing once again Philly was three years ahead of NYC media.

So it’s no secret why Lin is the 2d best player on the knicks in win shares per 48 minutes at .187 after Tyson Chandler’s .248; or why his PER approaching 25 leads the team.  Lin plays defense, doesn’t turnover the ball, and is efficient both on offense and defense.  Also, he hustles.  In the Ivy League, he led across a large number of categories, including points, steals, rebounds, assists, assist to turnover ration, etc. and established benchmarks for a guard across many such categories–in fact, all time records for a guard to have such all-around abilities.

What we saw, watching him two years ago, was a guy who refused to lose.  He could penetrate and score; penetrate and dish out to the three line; penetrate and dish to the man beside him after drawing the double-team;  penetrate and dish to the open man; had amazing peripheral vision; could drop the three or the jumper if left unattended; always could run the ball and locate the open man on the run; could play defense; could steal the ball; could rebound and start the break the other way; in short, he was a complete player.

And Lin never stopped to breath.  He was always in continuous motion.  Harvard had a lot of talented players, but they looked kind of confused unless Lin got them the ball and he was coordinating the offense.  He was, in short, a terrific and talented point guard who had game.

A lot of Penn players have played in the NBA, but not so much Harvard.  Hockey has always been the winter sport at Harvard, along with playing the stock market and inventing new financial instruments the SEC can’t regulate.

Three players including Lin played in the NBA:

http://www.basketball-reference.com/friv/colleges.cgi?college=harvard#stats::none

first was

Saul Mariaschin

http://www.basketball-reference.com/players/m/mariasa01.html

who was a 5 foot 11 inch player on the 1947-48 Boston Celtics.  The Celtics were in a predecessor league to the NBA, but who cares?

Here were Saul Mariaschin’s teammates on the Boston Celtics of 1947-48:

riebe_spector_sadowski_garfinkel_mariaschin_1948

riebe, spector, sadowski, garfinkel with Saul Mariaschin Harvard Grad on 1948 Boston Celtics

http://www.basketball-reference.com/teams/BOS/1948.html

Here’s another of his teammates from that legendary Celts team:

CHUCK CONNORS.  Yes, the guy who later played the RIFLEMAN on TV.  Lucas McCain himself.  And a 6’5″ grad of Seton Hall, which in 1947-48 would have made him a giant player.  And he was a CELTIC.  You can look it up.

http://www.basketball-reference.com/players/c/connoch01.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chuck_Connors

Chuck Connors was a Celtic and played with Harvard Grad Saul Mariaschin in 1947-48

Chuck Connors was a Celtic and played with Harvard Grad Saul Mariaschin in 1947-48

Chuck Connors also played baseball for the Brooklyn Dodgers!

And he was a TV Star!

Chuck Connors as Lucas McCain the Rifleman

Chuck Connors as Lucas McCain the Rifleman

Chuck Connors was a Boston Celtic and and Brooklyn Dodger

Chuck Connors was a Boston Celtic and and Brooklyn Dodger

The second player that went to Harvard and played in the NBA was

Ed Smith

Edward Bernard Smith (Ed)

Ed Smith was a New York Knick in 1953-54.  On that Knicks team, Ed played with Vince “Moose” Boryla, Nate “Sweetwater” Clifton, Al McGuire and Dick McGuire, and the famous Ernie Vandeweghe, and others well-noted.

That 1953-54 Knicks team finished 1st in the Eastern Division, going 44-28 under the helm of the legendary Joe Lapchick.  And they played in the old Madison Square Garden, which many hold in as high esteem as the old Boston Garden.

Nate "Nat" "Sweetwater" Clifton of the 1953-54 NY Knicks played with Harvard's Ed Smith

Nate "Nat" "Sweetwater" Clifton of the 1953-54 NY Knicks played with Harvard's Ed Smith

and here’s ernie vandewege v bob cousy:

Bob Cousy and Ernie Vandeweghe Reaching For Ball

Bob Cousy and Ernie Vandeweghe Reaching For Ball

Of course, Ernie has some bloodlines. Kiki Vanderweghe was a great NBA player, and now his granddaughter is a professional tennis player:

CoCo Vandeweghe professional tennis player and granddaugher of Ernie Vandeweghe who played on the NY Knicks with Ed Smith in 1953-54.  Ed was the last Harvard alum to play for the NY Knicks, nearly fifty years ago

CoCo Vandeweghe professional tennis player and granddaugher of Ernie Vandeweghe who played on the NY Knicks with Ed Smith in 1953-54. Ed was the last Harvard alum to play for the NY Knicks, nearly fifty years ago

The Sixers have finally addressed the glaring issue of three point shooting, which this blogger-columnist has hammered them on repeatedly (see earlier posts regarding this issue), by trading defensive rebounder and shot blocker Reggie Evans to Toronto for three point shooter Jason Kapono.

Kapono has excellent three point shooting numbers. He’s a career 45.4% three point FG shooter in the NBA and his free throw percentage for career is 84.7%. In addition, he’s 6 foot 8, and averages about 2 rebounds, one assist and half a steal a game, and less than one turnover. He scores about 13 points per 36 minutes, and that’s been about his career norm. He’s 29 years old and he went to college at UCLA, not too shabby.

In the playoffs with Toronto in 2007-08, Kapono in five games averaged better than 15 points per game, illustrating that the half court game of the playoffs favors his three point shooting skills. This would be of considerable interest to the sixers should they reach again the playoffs. If they have a healthy elton brand (i know that sounds weird) they actually could alternate between brand and kapono, inside and outside, and have a half court game.

So, is Kapono better than Kyle Korver, the three point guy the Sixers unloaded last year for nothing to Utah in a dumb move that created a black hole at the three point shooting position? Well, oddly enough, the answer is yes, Kapono is a BETTER three point man than Korver. Korver is about a 38.9% three point FG % lifetime; while Korver scores 13 ppg per 36 minutes played, Korver is not as efficient as Kapono. Korver needs more shots and misses more shots to get the same number of points. Kapono is an inch taller and has played much better in the playoffs than Korver.

So, in a word, while it took Eddie Stefanski a year and a half, he finished by upgrading the Sixers roster at the three point shooting end with Kapono. If Stefanski could add another perimeter shooter like Kapono, that would be terrific. Someone like a Rashard Lewis type would be ideal.

Mareese Speights made Reggie Evans expendable–Evans played half the minutes this past season he did in 2007-08–however, the Sixers should beware. Reggie Evans and Theo Ratliff, together, earned 2.5 defensive win shares together–a not insignificant figure–and they played 1700 minutes overall during the season–minutes that some other two players or one player will have to play.

No one here is suggesting that Jason Kapono can play defense or block shots like Reggie Evans or Theo Ratliff, so presumably Elton Brand will actually have to play some defense alongside Dalembert and Speights or Young.

At any rate, this is an early Christmas present for new coach Eddie Jordan.

I haven’t commented on Eddie Jordan. He had a good record in Washington, so let’s give him a chance. The hire is a bit suspicious, since Washington is still paying his salary for the most part, so it looks as if Jordan was the CHEAPEST coach with actual skills available, important since the sixers are still paying mo cheeks to sit at home, but maybe it was a choice based on merit.

then again, maybe the moon is made of cheese, and bank executives will gladly welcome government limits on their bonuses and compensation, and maybe we can re-outlaw alcohol and re-impose prohibition after we’re done nationalizing health care and the automotive industry.

Seriously, this is a good first move by Stefanski after hiring Jordan.

–art kyriazis, philly/south jersey
home of the world champion phillies

Detroit was embarrassingly bad against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, by far the worst performance of any playoff team.

Not only that, but the games were boring.

There was one player who might have at least made the games entertaining, and here I refer to ALLEN IVERSON who for some odd reason was sitting down by order of Detroit management.

AI has the second highest career playoff scoring average in NBA history—second only to Michael Jordan—and YOU SIT HIM DOWN FOR THE PLAYOFFS?

I should think that AI would have been a bit revved up to play LeBron James, only the best player in the league.

Even if Detroit went down in flames, I think we could have seen AI go off for 40 points in at least one of those playoff games.

He’s Allen Iverson, that’s what he does.

I’m not totally sure what narcotics or drugs Detroit is on, but sitting down your best scorer against the NBA’s best team in the playoffs is crazy.

I might note, Detroit had trouble scoring even 80 points most every game in the series—they had point totals like 78, 79, and so forth. Again, an Allen Iverson would have helped that tremendously.

Over and over, even hurt, Allen Iverson has always shown up for the playoffs and played big.

Commissioner David Stern should have stepped in here and required Detroit to produced Allen Iverson for the playoffs.

It’s embarrassing for the league and for the fans that we were denied the opportunity to see an Allen Iverson-LeBron James playoff series.

This is an insult to our intelligence and to us as fans.

No other matchup in the playoffs would have been as interesting or intriguing, except possibly watching Kobe Bryant against LeBron James in the finals.

Whenever AI went against LeBron James this winter in the regular season, he had an extraordinary game on a nationally televised Sunday afternoon game, he scored 30 or 40 points, I can’t recall how many.

But it’s easy enough to look up the game logs from the regular season:

November 19, 2008: Detroit 96, Cleveland 89. Iverson leading scorer for Detroit with 23 points, followed by Rasheed Wallace with 21 points. LeBron James and Mo Williams each with 25 points. Detroit outscores Cleveland 30-21 in the 4th quarter.

February 1, 2009: Cleveland 90, Detroit 80. Iverson leading scorer for Detroit with 22 points, followed by Rick Hamilton with 16 points. LeBron James goes off for 33 points in this game, Mo Williams scores 22. Detroit is winning after three quarters, but Cleveland takes Detroit down in the 4th quarter 32-14, coming from eight back to win by ten at the end. This was actually a great game where Iverson and James were dueling, and James just came up huge in the 4th quarter. This is what the playoffs might have been like between them.

February 22, 2009: Cleveland 99, Detroit 78. Iverson leading scorer for Detroit with 14 points, followed by Walter Hermann. It’s pretty clear AI is injured in this game. He only played about 26 minutes. Surprisingly, Delonte West (of St. Joe’s Philly fame) led Cleveland with 25 points, followed by LeBron James with 25. This game was a blowout. Cleveland broke out 31-17 in the first quarter and never looked back.

March 31, 2009: Cleveland 79, Detroit 73. Rick Hamilton leads Detroit with 13 points, playing almost 35 minutes, Iverson scores 11 points playing about 18 minutes. This is a weird game due to the low score. LeBron scores 25 for Cleveland, but no one else on the Cavs gets more than a dozen. A close game, but the Cavs win. Here, again, Iverson is hurt, plays limited minutes, but contributes offensively and keeps Detroit in the game.

SUMMARY: In four regular season games, Detroit won once, had two close games, and was only blown out once. Iverson was their leading scorer in three of those games, and was their second leading scorer in the fourth game, and in every game except perhaps the blowout game, made a huge impact on the game. It’s fair to infer, from the box scores, that if you took Iverson away from the Detroit Pistons, in a direct Cleveland-Detroit Playoff matchup, that Detroit would probably get blown out.

Actual results:

Game 1 April 18 Detroit Pistons 84 Cleveland Cavaliers 102
Game 2 April 21 Detroit Pistons 82 Cleveland Cavaliers 94
Game 3 April 24 Cleveland Cavaliers 79 Detroit Pistons 68
Game 4 April 26 Cleveland Cavaliers 99 Detroit Pistons 78

As you can see, Detroit not only lost four in a row, but they scored 84, 82, 68 and 78 points in those games, which is an average offensive output of only 78 points a game. That’s pretty horrible, especially when you’re giving up 102, 94, 79 and 99 points to the opposition.

Even though Detroit would have lost with AI, the playoffs would have been the LeBron-AI show instead of a pathetic rollover. Detroit should be ashamed of themselves.

Art Kyriazis
Philly/South Jersey
Home of the Philadelphia Phillies

PART ONE – VILLANOVA HAD A GREAT RUN – ANOTHER BIG FIVE WINNER FOR THE BOOKS

There is no denying Villanova had a great run in this year’s NCAA tournament, making it to the Final Four before losing to North Carolina last night. It was a hard loss to swallow, especially after watching the Spartans of Michigan State make such a statement game of upsetting UConn in the opening of the Final Four doubleheader, but Villanova shot very poorly from the three point line, and could not establish its inside game against UNC. Moreover, Villanova’s normally excellent defense failed them against UNC’s superb inside-outside attack of attacking at the low post but also kicking out to the three point line, and here, UNC shooting 50% or better from the three point arc sealed Villanova’s fate—if Villanova sagged to defense the low post, UNC simply killed them from the three point arc. When Villanova came out to play perimeter defense, UNC exploited the seams to get easy buckets inside. One final point is that UNC seemed to be taller overall than Villanova, and this seemed to make some difference on the defensive side of the ball; Villanova was not getting out in transition, and in the half-court offense, was having trouble shooting over, or matching up with, the taller UNC players.

Having said that, Villanova was by far the best Big East team in the tournament this year. They beat UCLA handily, they crushed a very good Duke team (with an RPI of one), they got past a Pitt team that had been ranked #1 at times this season, and got to the Final Four.

This year’s Villanova team was a team of seniors and juniors, experienced players who had played together a long time. I had them bracketed to get to the finals of the NCAA, not just the Final Four, because I felt that having three seniors who had played together as long as Villanova’s seniors had played together, was an incredible advantage in today’s college basketball.

In today’s college game, your best player usually leaves after one season to seek out pro contracts and a sneaker endorsement. It’s hard to find athletes who will commit to four years on campus.

But we all know why they stay at Villanova. Howie Long tells the story every week on that NFL pre-game show. It’s the nuns, the professors, the small campus atmosphere. Villanova feels like home. It’s the kind of place you don’t want to leave. For many of the kids who come to play basketball there, they will learn much more than basketball at Villanova, they will learn life skills and many other things.

Having said that, it should be pointed out that Villanova is now spending as much money on its basketball program, according to the Philly Daily News and other sources, as any other major Division I basketball program, around $5 million annually, which compares to $6 million annually spent by UConn or by UNC. And yet $5 million annually isn’t even close to the top in the Big East.

However, because Villanova does not have a Division I football program that earns a lot of money, Villanova’s sports programs run an annual deficit of around $16 million which have to be picked up by NCAA revenues, boosters, and the like. It’s hard to believe that Villanova has continued to stay committed at this level, given their size and endowment.

At the same time, we can now more easily see why Temple, St. Joes’s, LaSalle and Penn are not competing at the same level as they used to ten or twenty years ago vis-à-vis NCAA competition—it now takes $5 million annually to really ramp up a program to final four viability.

That St. Joe’s made the Final Four a few years back with Jameer Nelson and Delonte West for a fraction of that budget is a testament to the recruiting and coaching skills of Phil Martelli.

That Temple got to the elite eight so many times with John Chaney and almost to the Final Four for a fraction of that budget is likewise a testament to the recruiting and coaching skills of Chaney, a hall of fame coach.

A school that has a big time football program—like Penn State or Michigan State—should be able to afford to spend on their basketball program—and Michigan State has been successful in basketball, as has Penn State to a lesser degree (they’re doing well in the NIT this year after being a bubble team that didn’t get an at-large bid with the NCAA). Those schools don’t have to deficit spend on basketball, they can take plus side monies from football and invest them in basketball.

I think this explains why, for so many years, President Liacouras of Temple, who was instrumental in getting the Liacouras Center built in North Philadelphia where Temple Basketball now plays its home games, was so interested in putting together a Division I Temple Football program which would be a money maker. He wanted a football program that would make enough money that basketball would be able to share revenues from football, rather than having the university deficit spend on basketball.

Given today’s economics of big time NCAA basketball, this was a far-sighted view of the situation. Temple today remains in Division I football, though they’ve dropped down a conference, and can still be a profitable football team. That dream is still alive for them. Al Golden is doing a good job as football coach.

To summarize, Villanova had a magnificent run in the NCAA this year, capping off a four year run by these seniors that was nothing less than magical. Kudoes and cheers to Villanova and to coach Jay Wright. For a long time I was a Steve Lappas guy, and I always thought he got a bum deal from Villanova, and I was very slow to come around to Jay Wright, I will admit I have a bias there. At first I thought Wright was glib and not too bright, and that he couldn’t coach in tough games. He’s proven me completely wrong. He’s both a good recruiter and an excellent coach.

Art Kyriazis Philly/South Jersey
Home of the World Champion Philadelphia Phillies

Collectively, the Big Five of Temple, LaSalle, Penn, Villanova and St Joes have made more than a dozen final four appearances since the NCAAs began in 1939; Villanova was in the first NCAA tourney back in 1939, and in every decade of the NCAAs, one or more of the big Five has had an impact on the tournament each and every decade the Tournament has been running, whether it was Temple getting to the Final Four twice in the fifties, St. Joe’s to the Final Four in the sixties, Villanova and Penn to the Final Four in the seventies, Villanova winning the NCAA in the 80s, Temple dominating and getting #1 rankings and seedings in the 80s and 90s and getting to the elite 8 three times, and Villanova getting #1 seeds and reaching the elite 8 in recent years, and St. Joes getting to the final four in the last decade and getting a #1 seed.

Folks, we have the best college basketball in the country, bar none. Collectively, the Big Five does better in NCAA than almost any other region or school, excepting possibly Duke, UCLA, Kentucky and a handful of other such bigtime programs–and yet Duke has only won three NCAA titles in 14 Final Four trips, etc. The Big Five is not doing so badly.

I really like the underdogs of the NCAA–Marquette in 1977 with Al McGuire, the late Jimmy Valvano and North Caroline State (who can forget the triple overtime opening round win over Pepperdine?) in 1983, Rollie Massimino and the Villanova Wildcats upending Patrick Ewing and Georgetown in 1986, and so on.

My personal favorite big five upset of all time has to be St. Joe’s beating #1 seed and #1 in the country DePaul and Mark Aguire in 1981 in the first round of the NCAA (maybe it was the 2d round).

This brings us to 2009. Villanova and Temple are in. Villanova had a very good season, but lost to Louisville in the semis of the Big East tournament. Nova’ had a good RPI and a good strength of schedule, but still, they got a #3 seed, which I thought was pretty generous for a team that really hadn’t won anything–they were third or fourth in their conference, and finished third/fourth in the tournament of their conference. Even if it’s the best conference in basketball, does finishing fourth in that conference make you the 12th best team in all of college basketball? I think a #4 seed would have been more appropriate. The NCAA worships the big east a little too much.

Next, Temple. Temple got an #11 seed, which puts them against Arizona State, a #6 seed. Now Temple actually won something–they won the A-10 Tournament. Second year in a row, in fact. Also, best player in the conference, Dionte Christmas, plays for Temple. Also, Temple has by far the toughest non-conference schedule of any A-10 team. But they beat all of those teams too, except maybe Villanova, and they gave them a tough time. Maybe if Nova’ didn’t insist on playing at the Pavilion, but at the Palestra, it would be a fair game.

Temple’s RPI is very good, and their strength of schedule is very good. In fact, if you look at most of the teams seeded from around #7-#10, Temple’s RPI and strength of schedule are BETTER than most of those 7-10 seeds. Take Michigan for example, a team that didn’t win anything, lost 13, won only 20, and was an at-large from the big 10. Michigan has a higher seed than Temple but why? Michigan’s RPI is worse, their strength of schedule much worse, and they have a much worse record than Temple.

I could pick out many more examples (UCLA?) of this, but the point is that Temple plays a big-time schedule, has been in the elite eight in three of the last twenty years, and has been ranked #1 more than once in the last twenty years, including most of 1987-88. They’re a good ballclub, and deserved at least an 8-9 seed matchup in the first round.

Frankly, i would have given Temple about the same seeding as Xavier, and higher than Dayton, a team Temple dominated during the season.

I believe Temple and Villanova will both win. Arizona State is a fine team and that game could go either way, but Temple will win this year. Villanova has a ridiculously easy first round game. Their second round matchup will be much tougher

Also, I really like the fact that the new President offered his own “bracketology” on ESPN. that was pretty cool. I don’t think we’ve had this sports minded a president since Jack Kennedy, an old football player, was going to the harvard-yale and army-navy games. A lot like Teddy Roosevelt, too.

–art kyriazis philly/south jersey
home of the world champion phillies

A very unusual thing happened the other night–something that hasn’t happened in a long time–the Sixers beat the Lakers, with Kobe Bryant playing, in LA, 94-93 on a three point buzzer beater by Andre Iguodala. I’m pretty sure some of the many celebrities that watch Laker basketball were stunned and sullen as they filed out of the building into their ferraris and maseratis and hybrids. This win capped off a four game win streak for the sixers, who have looked very fine indeed without Elton Brand weighing them down.

Coach Tony DiLeo has finally woken up to the fact that he has a three point shooter on his bench named Donyell Marshall, and has been deploying Marshall in key situations in games lately to, uh, shoot the three ball, something I’ve been lobbying for all year long. Notably, this strategy has been working quite well. When Marshall and Royal Ivey hit the three, Young and Iguodala and Speights can go to work inside without drawing double teams, or else Marshal and Ivey get free looks from the three line.

Even thought the Sixers lost in Phoenix last nite 125-116 and have three more games on the road this western trip, the Sixers are now 34-32, hold the 6th seed in the NBA east, and project to a 98% chance of making the playoffs. They are five games ahead of the Bucks who are 9th in the NBA east with 16 games to play, and 3 1/2 games ahead of the Chicago Bulls who are in the 8th seed, and 1 1/2 games ahead of Detroit, which continues to struggle without Iverson, who is hurt and out.

Speaking of the Bulls, ex-Sixer John Salmons dropped 38 points on the Celtics the other night in beating the Celtics. Even though he only scored 14 as the Sixers beat the Bulls in Philly, Salmons has become quite a much better player, and the Sean Webber trade is beginning to look worse and worse in hindsight. Salmons has become a great player and Webber was just a bust. Salmons could have been the two guard the sixers are now needing, and all we had to do was do nothing but hold onto him and let him develop. The Sixers have let a lot guys like Larry Hughes and John Salmons get away from them over the years, and after a while, you have to wonder, who is evaluating the talent around here? Would you keep Willie Green and Lou Williams and trade away John Salmons and Larry Hughes and Kyle Korver????

i don’t think so….but yet that’s the way this franchise has gone the past few years. They’ve let some explosive scorers leave for very little in return.

In addition, Eddie Stefanski, the GM, does not seem anxious to re-sign andre miller the point guard, who right now based on win shares and everything else, is the most valuable sixer on the team other than Iguodala.

If you take miller away from the sixers, the team cannot run the floor as well or as effectively, and they will need an entire season to adjust to a new point guard. It would be wiser to just re-sign Miller and let him play here until he can’t play anymore, and then work a new guy into the mix. Miller deserves it.

Also, Miller is durable. He has played something like 530 consecutive NBA games, the longest such streak in the NBA. Right now, he is more durable than Allen Iverson, or at least as durable as AI was when AI was in his prime. Miller is the youngest 32 year old I’ve ever seen play, he’s fast, he’s durable, he doesn’t get hurt, and he plays about five years younger than his age, and his game is beautiful to watch.

This signing is a no brainer. Dump elton brand, re-sign andre miller. please. please please.

–art kyriazis, philly/south jersey
home of the world champion phillies

Big Five Basketball has been dying a slow death in Philadelphia the past few years, unnoticed and unmourned by the schools involved and by the sportswriters, telecasters and other media figures who once celebrated it so ardently. At its height in the 1970s and 1980s, all of the Big Five games were at the Palestra of Penn, a neutral site, many of those games were locally televised, and often there were doubleheaders, meaning you could see two basketball games for the price of one, perhaps a non-Big Five matchup paired with a Big Five Game.

The unraveling of the Big Five has been well-documented. It started with Villanova’s demands after it’s national title in 1985 for Big Five home games at the Pavilion and to be released from its contractual obligation to play all of the required Big Five Games. Once all the dust settled, the restructured Big Five agreement no longer required the games to be played at the Palestra, but rather alternated to home and home series between each school involved, and even that was negotiated by the schools involved, e.g. Villanova might want two home games for every away game.

Consequently, for example, although Villanova recently won a “Big Five” game against Temple this year, it really wasn’t a “Big Five” game in the traditional sense of the term. The game was a home game for Villanova, held at the Pavilion at Villanova, meaning it was a home game for Villanova with few or no Temple fans. Temple has a good team this year, but there’s an enormous difference in playing a Big Five Game at a neutral site like the Palestra in front of a crowd of half your fans and half their fans, and playing the same game at the Villanova Pavilion in front of a hostile audience.

Villanova has completely dominated “Big Five Play” as we now know it in recent years, but they’ve done so by playing two or more of the annual Big Five games at Villanova’s Pavilion each year, thus giving Villanova home court for two of those Big Five games plus a large gate share. The main reason for this is that Villanova is more concerned about their national ranking and Big East ranking than they are about the Big Five.

Well, I have a modest proposal to salvage the Big Five as we once knew it and put it back on the road to what it once was. It will involve a bit of radical surgery, but it might be the best thing overall.

My proposal is as follows; expel Villanova from the Big Five for the next five years and replace them with Drexel. All Big Five games will once again be at the Palestra, a neutral site. The new Big Five will be Temple, LaSalle, St. Joes, Drexel and Penn. Drexel will be delighted with the arrangement and Villanova might actually come crawling back asking to be let in on the new/old terms of playing at the Palestra at the end of five years. Then you could have a six team league of Big Five teams.

The situation is pretty clear; since 1985, Villanova has gotten too big for its britches. Unfortunately, they mistook a Cinderella season in which they overcame unbelievable odds to win an NCAA championship for a sign from the heavens that they were better than everyone else in the big five, and ever since, Villanova has been spending more money on recruiting, coaching and building a big-time program, all in an ill-conceived quest to be a nationally ranked team each and every year, oblivious to the fact that the odds against Villanova ever winning another NCAA title again are stratospheric (especially with Jay Wright, a great recruiter and great regular season coach, but a poor NCAA tournament coach at the helm).

The rest of the Big Five is under no such illusions. St. Joes’s even after it’s national run with Jameer Nelson and Delonte West under Phil Martelli remains a locally minded program that aims to field a good team every year without having its head in the clouds; Temple with Fran Dunphy has continued the tradition set by his predecessor of attaining A-10 excellence and making the NCAAs each year and building from there, and Temple continues to put out more good NBA pros than Villanova does year in and year out; Penn continues to be the class of the Ivy League, though currently they are going through a rebuilding time; while LaSalle is struggling they have shown signs of coming around again; and finally, Drexel has really shown signs that they are truly a major college program to be reckoned with.

At this point in time, Drexel is a better fit for the Big Five than Villanova. Drexel is better suited to playing its Big Five games at the Palestra by geography and location, and Drexel would benefit by joining the Big Five in every way. Villanova can continue to have home and home series with any and all of the big five schools—they just won’t be Big Five games.

Finally, it should be incumbent upon the new Big Five to get a TV or cable contract to televise the new Big Five locally so that the new Big Five games are televised locally in the region. A new generation of fans should be built up loyal to philly college basketball.

These are modest proposals, but necessary ones. The Big Five must be saved.

–Art Kyriazis, Philly/South Jersey
Home of the World Champions Philadelphia Phillies
Happy New Year 2009