Should the Big 5 just let in Drexel already?

Should the Big 5 just let in Drexel already?

Like many other college basketball teams, Drexel starts its conference season tonight. This is a decidedly good thing because it means the Dragons no longer have to worry about playing a non-conference schedule that was equally grueling and terrible.

Consider: aside from its participation in the NIT Season Tip-Off (a tournament it can only be in every few years at the most), Drexel played five road games, four of which were in California, Illinois, North Carolina and Mississippi. And here are the four powerhouse programs that came to Drexel’s Daskalakis Athletic Center for non-conference games: Cleveland State, Tennessee State, St. Francis (Pa.) and Buffalo.

Average RPI? 220.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with scheduling a couple of cupcakes and making one or two long road trips before getting into conference play. But issues can arise when you have to get on a plane, as the Dragons learned last week. And Drexel coach Bruiser Flint has said time and again how he’d prefer to play big-time programs but has struggled to get them on the schedule for a variety of reasons (which were best chronicled in this excellent article from PhilaHoops’ Kevin Rossi). And he’d also like to play other Philly teams but only St. Joe’s will agree to come to the DAC, Drexel’s tiny on-campus gym.

Which brings us to the main point: Isn’t it time the Big 5 just let in Drexel? Or even more specifically, can’t we all just work something out where Drexel is able to play Penn, La Salle, Temple and Villanova in addition to St. Joe’s every season?

Here’s where some college hoops traditionalists might balk and start talking about tradition. And yes, the tradition of the Big 5 is one of the best and proudest in the city, dating all the way back to 1955. But the Big 5 has also evolved over the years, stopping the round-robin series for most of the 1990s and, most recently, moving most of the games out of the hallowed Palestra.

Would it really be any worse adding Drexel, which has proven to be a perennially strong mid-level Division I program? If anything, having six teams in the Big 5 could lead to the revival of city tripleheaders at the Palestra, one of the cooler traditions the Big 5 has ever done.

But how can the Big 5 include six teams, you say? Well, the Big Ten has 12 teams and the Atlantic 10 has 13 teams, so this wouldn’t be anything different. You might even call it a fun quirk.

The real issues seem to be that the current Big 5 teams don’t want to play at the DAC and Flint doesn’t want to play “home” games at the Palestra before then playing road games at the other school’s arenas.

Here’s where a compromise is needed. First, as others have noted, Flint really needs to get over his pride and play at the Palestra. The gym is practically on Drexel’s campus, and if playing there helps facilitate city games, it should be a no-brainer. Flint might complain about fairness but Drexel didn’t join the Division 1 ranks until 1973, two decades after the Big 5 was formed. Call it an entry free.

Some of the other city teams (and their fans) still might not be keen on the idea of playing Drexel every year – as this article, written by VUHoops.com’s Brian Ewart, plainly shows. But Villanova head coach Jay Wright said recently how he loves playing games around the city because they don’t feel like road games. And replacing a team like Rider with Drexel on Villanova’s schedule would be an upgrade, as well a potential boost to the Wildcats’ RPI.

Sure, scheduling can be tricky when you throw another team in the mix. But if five teams can find a way to play each other every year, all six of Philly's Division I college basketball programs should be able to do the same. And that would be a great thing for the city, for hoops fans and, of course, for Drexel’s non-conference schedule.

So last night's Union game was pretty crazy

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So last night's Union game was pretty crazy

When the Union played in Orlando last year, the game was a relatively dull scoreless draw.

And for most of Wednesday’s game between the two teams in the same venue, it looked like history was going to repeat itself.

That’s when the Kaká hit the fan.

Here’s a quick recap of all the craziness that happened in the second half of the if-you-turned-away-you-probably-missed-something 2-2 draw:

  • Tranquillo Barnetta, inspired by a story I wrote about him a day earlier, scored his second goal this season -- both of which have come against Orlando

  • Warren Creavalle was taken down from behind in the box but no penalty kick was given and no red card was shown, leading head coach Jim Curtin to call the sequence “embarrassing”

  • Orlando City responded with two rapid-fire semi-controversial goals, scoring the first after Philly goalie Andre Blake was wiped out and the second on a shot Blake appeared to make the save on but the ref ruled was in (where’s goal-line technology when you need it??)

https://twitter.com/MLS/status/735641067748360193

  • Ken Tribbett, the pride of Drexel, scored his first MLS goal after early collecting his first MLS assist -- after only being called into the game because of an injury to Josh Yaro

  • Orlando’s David Mateos was shown a straight red card in the final minute but Barnetta couldn’t convert a close-range free kick to win it

  • Fabinho killed a guy with a trident

To think all but one of those things happened in one half is pretty wild -- and that doesn’t even factor in several other cards, calls, no-calls and a pretty cool set piece the Union ran.

https://twitter.com/KevinKCBS3/status/735820306242232320

Oh, and almost lost in all the commotion, was the fact that Andre Blake gave us another memorable moment in a season full of them when he saved a first-half penalty kick from freaking Kaká.

https://twitter.com/MLS/status/735626554902859776

In the end, Curtin couldn’t get over some of the refereeing decisions, particularly the no-call on Creavalle -- which, as you can see, was in fact quite bad.

https://twitter.com/TotalMLS/status/735636659576930305

Still, the fact that the Union escaped a tough place like Orlando despite the ref and while playing without three of their top playmakers (Maurice Edu, Vincent Nogueria and Ilsinho) is quite a nice achievement that you would never have seen with past Philly teams.

It also moved their unbeaten streak to six heading into Saturday’s showdown between the first-place team in the East (your Philadelphia Union) and the first-place team in the West (the Colorado Rapids) -- who you might recall were two of the worst teams in MLS last season.

See ya in the rockies.

https://twitter.com/KevinKCBS3/status/735653796358049792 

Let the bidding begin for Mike Trout, who Angels must move at some point

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Let the bidding begin for Mike Trout, who Angels must move at some point

Yes, the Angels are going to trade Mike Trout.

It may not happen this year or even next year, but eventually Angels GM Billy Eppler will accept the reality of the bleak future ahead for his franchise. Albert Pujols, who has five years and $140 million remaining on his contract after this season, has taken the baton from Ryan Howard for the worst contract in baseball. Good luck getting out of that deal. Other than the increasingly rare Pujols hot streak, they have nobody equipped to protect Trout in the lineup. 

The starting rotation has been patched together, with both Garrett Richards and Andrew Heaney going down with elbow injuries early this season. Unless one of those guys comes back healthy, there isn’t a No. 1 or No. 2 starter on the roster. Theoretically, the Angels will have money to spend on the free-agent market with both C.J. Wilson and Jered Weaver coming off the books after the season. But with Andrew Cashner and Jeremy Hellickson the likely headliners on the pitching market, a quick fix for the rotation seems unlikely. 

The 2017 free-agent market for hitters isn’t much better. Should Yoenis Cespedes opt out of his contract with the Mets, he could provide a potent presence behind Trout, but there will be stiff competition for his services and he’ll be in line for a massive payday. 

Toronto’s once-dynamic duo of Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista should be available, but both appear to be trending downward. Giving either player a long-term deal is a risky investment at best. 

Building around the young players in the organization isn’t a viable option. By all accounts, the Angels have the worst farm system in baseball. You can check out those rankings here or here. This is a franchise in dire need of an infusion of young talent. 

We’ve seen the Phillies in a similar situation with Cole Hamels. Once there was no way forward to win with him, the only reasonable option was to trade him. Even the most ardent Hamels supporters have to admit now that moving him made sense.  

Yes, Trout is only 24 years old and is the best all-around player in baseball. The Angels should certainly explore every possible option to build a winner around the South Jersey native, who is in the second season of a six-year deal that will pay him $119 million from 2017 through 2020. But the franchise is trending in the wrong direction. If they cannot honestly see a path to contending with him, they should look to move him and jump-start a rebuild. There will be no shortage of suitors. 

So ignore the notion that you never trade an “inner-circle Hall of Famer,” which Trout certainly is on track to become. He is signed through 2019 and the clock is ticking. 

Let the bidding begin. 

Josh Hart discusses NBA draft process, returning to Villanova

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Josh Hart discusses NBA draft process, returning to Villanova

Josh Hart said the decision wasn’t easy.

But he’s happy with it.

After withdrawing his name from the NBA draft to return to school (see story), Hart is excited to focus on Villanova, graduation and then the NBA dream.

“I love the school, I love the teachers, the student body, the support, my teammates that we have coming back,” the 6-foot-5 guard said Wednesday on Comcast SportsNet’s Philly Sports Talk. “So it was a tough one and I just thought at the end of the day, I think going back for my senior year would be in the best interest of my parents and myself.”

As a junior, Hart helped Villanova win its second national championship in program history by leading the Wildcats in scoring with 15.5 points per game while shooting 51.3 percent from the field.

Hart received plenty of feedback from NBA teams. He said shooting and ball handling are what he hopes to improve.

As far as his draft stock …

“There were teams interested maybe in the first [round], and then there were teams that said they would take me in the second,” Hart said. “But there’s a whole month before the draft, a lot of teams didn’t know exactly what they were doing with their picks — whether they were trying to trade up for a pick, trying to trade down, trying to trade a pick for a player. Several teams said that they would take me.”

For more from Hart on the draft and Villanova, watch the video above.