A full plate of Thanksgiving college hoops: Drexel at the Garden, Nova in Bahamas, and St. Joe's in Florida

A full plate of Thanksgiving college hoops: Drexel at the Garden, Nova in Bahamas, and St. Joe's in Florida

Through two-and-a-half weeks of the college basketball season, Drexel and St. Joe’s have joined Villanova as the best teams in Philly. Now comes the fun part, as all three teams will take Thanksgiving vacations that are more exciting than yours for some early-season tournament games against quality competition.

So if you don’t feel like watching Scott Tolzien or Matt Flynn try to throw a football against the Lions, or if you heed Tip #1 on the Evster’s guide to playing Thanksgiving football and don’t, um, do it, here are some local college hoops games you can watch while pigging out on turkey and stuffing.

Drexel vs. Arizona

When: Wednesday, 7 p.m.

What: NIT Season Tip-Off Semifinals

Where: Madison Square Garden

How to watch: ESPNU

The lowdown: There are some college basketball tournaments in November that seem silly and meaningless – but not this one. The preseason NIT (as it used to be called and what I still call it because I hate change) has been going on since 1985 at Madison Square Garden with the semifinals the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the championship and consolation the Friday after it. And the games are often previews of future NCAA tournament contests. With wins over Elon and Rutgers, Drexel crashed the Garden Party, joining No. 4 Arizona, No. 6 Duke and Alabama in the NIT semifinals. The Dragons have been playing well so far this season but if they find a way to beat Arizona and Duke in the span of two days, Drexel should erect a statue of Bruiser Flint next to the dragon statue on 33rd and Market. (Or maybe he can sit atop the dragon? We can figure something out.)

Storyline to watch: While the odds are certainly stacked against Drexel winning the tourney, the games will be a homecoming for New York City native Chris Fouch. And it all it took him was six years of college basketball to get to the Garden. But seriously, it’s nice to see Fouch healthy again after multiple injuries allowed him to come back as a sixth-year senior. And if you care at all about college hoops, you should check out this long-form feature on him over at Philahoops.com.

Villanova vs. USC

When: Thursday, 1 p.m.

What: Battle 4 Atlantis

Where: The freakin’ Bahamas

How to watch: Go to the freakin’ Bahamas (or figure out if you get AXS TV)

The lowdown: This Thanksgiving, the Villanova players will give thanks for the fact that they’re staying at a place called PARADISE ISLAND. Not a bad perk of playing college basketball. The Wildcats open against USC (a game they should win) right around when the first Thanksgiving football game kicks off, and will then play twice more over the next two days. The loaded tournament features a bunch of big-time programs, including No. 2 Kansas, who the Wildcats will likely play on Friday night. And if beating the second-ranked team in the nation isn’t enough of a perk, Villanova can use the fact that Kansas is calling a trip to a tropical island in November “a business trip” (is there a worse cliché?) as extra motivation.

Storyline to watch: Through the first four games of the season, Villanova has completely dominated its opponents, with only Delaware this past Friday giving the Wildcats any kind of scare. Now it looks as if Rice transfer Dylan Ennis will make his Villanova debut after breaking his hand in the preseason. The presence of a high-scoring guard like Ennis should make Villanova even more potent and will certainly give the Wildcats a better chance to beat a team like Kansas. But it will also be interesting to see how he fits into a rotation that’s already clicking very well.

St. Joe’s vs. LSU

When: Thursday, 8:30 p.m.

What: Old Spice Classic

Where: Orlando

How to watch: ESPN2

The lowdown: Instead of watching Thursday Night Football, you can flip over to ESPN2 to watch the Hawks’ first of three games at the ESPN World Wide Sports Complex at Disney World. St. Joe’s will then play either Memphis or Siena on Friday at either 5:30 p.m. or 8 p.m., before concluding the tourney Saturday in either the championship or a consolation. Hopefully that still leaves enough time for Phil Martelli to drink some butterbeer at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Storyline to watch: St. Joe’s freshman D’Andre Bembry looks like he’ll be a rising star, having already won an Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Week award. But it will be a good test to see how the freshman handles a vacation-like setting in a competitive tournament that includes elite teams like Purdue, Oklahoma State, Butler and Memphis.

Report: Phillies calling up prospect Jorge Alfaro

Report: Phillies calling up prospect Jorge Alfaro

It appears prized catching prospect Jorge Alfaro is coming to the Phillies.

But not for long.

According to a report late Thursday night by Yahoo! Sports' Jeff Passan, Alfaro will be promoted from Double A Reading to the Phillies and join the team Friday in New York.

Alfaro, already on the Phillies' 40-man roster, is not expected to stay for long. He gets the call now with the Phillies' trade of Carlos Ruiz on Thursday night and veteran catcher A.J. Ellis, a part of the Ruiz deal, not yet with the team but expecting to join it this weekend against the Mets.

Alfaro is a strong candidate to be a September call-up of the Phillies once Reading is finished with the Eastern League playoffs.

The 23-year-old was acquired in the Cole Hamels trade at last season's non-waiver deadline. With the Fightin Phils this season, Alfaro is hitting .279 with 13 home runs, 61 RBIs and 60 runs scored. He's ranked as baseball's second-best catching prospect by MLB.com Pipeline and is known for his big throwing arm and power potential.

Best of MLB: Alejandro De Aza drives in 5 runs in Mets' win over Cards

Best of MLB: Alejandro De Aza drives in 5 runs in Mets' win over Cards

ST. LOUIS -- Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright lost his glove trying to tag out Yoenis Cespedes and lost the game, too, when Alejandro De Aza homered and drove in five runs to send the New York Mets over St. Louis 10-6 Thursday night.

Seth Lugo (1-2) pitched five scoreless innings for his first big league win. The Mets took two of three to win their first series at Busch Stadium since 2008.

Brandon Moss hit two home runs for the Cardinals and Jedd Gyorko and Stephen Piscotty also connected.

The Mets led 3-0 in the fifth when Wainwright (9-8) and Cespedes were involved in a bizarre play.

Cespedes tried to go from first to third on a bloop single by James Loney. When several Cardinals chased the ball, Wainwright covered third base. Cespedes slid and his cleat pinned Wainwright's glove to the bag -- he would've been out, but when Wainwright pulled away his hand, the mitt stayed stuck under Cespedes' foot.

Because Wainwright didn't control the ball, Cespedes was called safe in a ruling upheld by replay. Moments later, De Aza hit a three-run homer to make it 7-0 (see full recap).

Scherzer's arm, Harper's bat help Nats blank O's
WASHINGTON -- Max Scherzer allowed two hits over eight innings and Bryce Harper's two-run double helped the Washington Nationals avoid a four-game home-and-home sweep with a 4-0 victory over the Baltimore Orioles on Thursday night.

Scherzer (14-7) struck out 10 and did not walk a batter. He retired 12 straight after Adam Jones's fourth-inning double and 21 of 22 before Mark Trumbo's leadoff single in the eighth.

Jayson Werth's solo home run staked Washington to a 1-0 lead. Daniel Murphy's RBI double in the eighth came before Harper's second hit helped the Nationals pull away.

The Nationals had lost four straight including three in a row to the Orioles, who won twice in Baltimore before the teams shifted to Washington.

Ubaldo Jimenez (5-11) allowed one run and five hits over six innings (see full recap).

Escobar pushes surging Royals past Marlins
MIAMI -- Alcides Escobar homered and drove in two runs to lead the surging Kansas City Royals past the Miami Marlins 5-2 on Thursday night.

Salvador Perez and Kendrys Morales also drove in runs for the Royals as the defending World Series champions have won 15 of 18 to pull within four games of the second AL wild card spot.

Kansas City starter Edison Volquez (10-10) pitched five innings and allowed two runs, both unearned, and three hits.

The Royals' bullpen, which has been a successful formula for the reigning two-time AL pennant winners, pitched four scoreless innings to push their franchise-record scoreless streak to 38 2-3 innings -- the best in the majors since 2002-03 when San Francisco tossed 39 1-3 straight.

Kelvin Herrera pitched a flawless ninth for his ninth save in 11 chances.

Tom Koehler (9-9) allowed four runs, three earned, and seven hits in six innings for the Marlins (see full recap).

Matt Klentak: Trade was about doing the right thing for Carlos Ruiz

Matt Klentak: Trade was about doing the right thing for Carlos Ruiz

The Phillies’ decision to trade beloved catcher Carlos Ruiz to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Thursday was ultimately made by Ruiz himself.

“This was about doing the right thing for Carlos because he has meant so much to this organization,” general manager Matt Klentak said Thursday night.

“Once Carlos cleared trade waivers last week, we started thinking about it. The Dodgers expressed some interest. Pete [Mackanin] and I talked to Carlos over the weekend. We discussed whether he wanted to finish the year with us or get the chance to chase another championship ring.

"He took a few days to discuss it with his family and got back to us Wednesday in Chicago and said that he'd be interested in exploring the opportunity and we finalized things with the Dodgers today.”

As a veteran of 10 seasons in the majors and five consecutive with the same team, Ruiz, 37, could have vetoed the deal. He chose to accept the deal because he wanted another chance to play in the postseason. He will serve as a backup to catcher Yasmani Grandal with the Dodgers, but is expected to get playing time. Ruiz's .368 on-base percentage from the right side of the plate could be a nice complement to the lefty-hitting Grandal.

The Phillies acquired the Dodgers’ backup catcher, veteran A.J. Ellis, minor-league pitching prospect Tommy Bergjans and a player to be named later in the deal. The Phils will not decide on the player to be named until after the minor-league season ends in mid-September. The Phils also sent an undisclosed amount of cash to the Dodgers. Ruiz is owed about $2 million in the form of salary and a contract buyout for 2017. Ellis, 35, is finishing up a one-year deal that pays him $4.5 million.

"This deal was not motivated by cash,” Klentak said. “It was about doing the right thing for Carlos, giving him the chance to get another ring.”

Klentak said he was "adamant" about getting Ellis back in the deal. The Phillies have two catching prospects in the upper minors in Jorge Alfaro and Andrew Knapp, but the club would like to see them finish their minor-league seasons.

“Carlos has been such an important leader for so long, we knew we had to fill a role on and off the field,” Klentak said. “There is a reasonably good chance one of our young catching prospects will be in the big leagues before the season is over. Both our Double A and Triple A teams are in pennant races and we believe it's important for them to continue to get meaningful at-bats and play in meaningful games.”

Ellis is expected to join the Phillies in New York this weekend. It’s not easy going from a first-place team with legitimate World Series hopes to a rebuilding club.

“I talked to A.J. this afternoon,” Klentak said. “He is a true professional. It's never easy for a guy who has been in one place his whole career to be told out of the blue that it's time to go. A.J. is determined and excited about contributing to the Phillies.”

Bergjans, a 23-year-old right-hander, pitched at Haverford College. He was an eighth-round draft pick of the Dodgers in 2015 and is 3-13 with a 4.98 ERA for Single A Rancho Cucamonga this season. He has 133 strikeouts and just 29 walks in 130 innings.

"Tommy was an excellent college performer,” Klentak said. “He has controlled the strike zone well in a tough league. We're always looking to add starting pitching and we had a chance to do it. He strikes out better than a batter an inning and limits walks which was appealing.”