Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Villanova coach Jay Wright optimistic about future of Big 5

Plus a few thoughts on Saturday night's game against Penn.

Villanova coach Jay Wright optimistic about future of Big 5


If you're a fan of the Big 5, there's a decent chance that you have a reasonably high tolerance for bad basketball.

But as legendary Associated Press writer Jack Scheuer declared to press row during Saturday night's Villanova-Penn game, the action at the Palestra was "VBH."

Very Bad Hoops.

Consider these numbers:

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- There were a total of 133 possessions in the game. 52 of them ended in a foul, 32 of them ended in a turnover and 31 of them ended in a made field goal. Yes, that's right: there were more turnovers in the game than made field goals.

- Those 31 made field goals were accompanied by 54 missed attempts. Which means there were almost as many fouls as there were missed field goals.

- There were 48 made free throws from 71 attempts. The charity stripe accounted for more points than were scored from two-point range (36) or three-point range (39).

No one in the postgame press room felt especially inclined to get too deep into what had just transpired. It was hard to blame them.

But at least for Villanova, there was one storyline worth pursuing. Because St. Joe's moved its Holy War home game to Hagan Arena last season, the Wildcats had not set foot in the Palestra since facing Penn there two years ago. In fact, it was exactly two years to the day: December 8, 2010.

Everyone knows the factors involved in scheduling the City Series by now, and everyone has an opinion as to what may happen in the future. Yet for all of the upheaval in the college sports landscape, the coaches in the Big 5 want to keep the thing going. And they all enjoy coming to the Palestra, even if it's just once a year.

(Drexel fans will note how I said "the coaches in the Big 5" enjoy coming to the Palestra. I'll leave it at that, even though you can fit the entire student body and a lot more in... oh, never mind.)

Anyway. I took the opportunity to ask Jay Wright what he thinks will happen to the City Series in coming years, especially with Temple joining the Big East next season. Here's his answer:

Really, it's going to be easier now for Villanova, because it's only three [non-conference] games. I don't want to say this as an excuse, but it was always hardest for us, because we had to schedule four games. Everyone else [in the Atlantic 10] only had to schedule two.

Penn had to schedule four, but Penn has a lot more games to work with. So one of the toughest things about keeping this alive was Villanova giving up four games when Villanova only had a few non-conference games. Now we're only giving up three, so I think it's going to be even better.

The Temple game is going to be a Big 5 game, and Penn has got plenty of non-conference games. So that's not going to be a problem.

I really think all of this conference realignment, now that there's not so much tradition anymore, this is going to be even more traditional as a thing that has stayed the same. I think it's going to be bigger and better. I really do.

I think I've written this on here before, but if not, I've definitely said it on Twitter and elsewhere: I honestly believe Jay Wright is one of the most important people when it comes to keeping the Big 5 together.

He gets what it means for the region and he gets what it means, and can mean, for his program.

Yes, it can be a hassle getting everything scheduled; and yes, everyone knows Villanova's history in the City Series. But whether you're a Wildcats fan or not, I think you should at least give Wright credit for making sure that the tradition continues.

At a time where the only constant in college sports is upheaval, it's nice to know that a Big 5 game on a Saturday night at the Palestra still means something.

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Soft Pretzel Logic is Philly.com's college sports blog, with a primary focus on the University of Pennsylvania. You'll also see coverage of the Big 5, other major college sports events in the region, and the annual Penn Relays track and field meet.

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