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.

On verge of Super Bowl, Eric Rowe responds to Eagles, Roseman

On verge of Super Bowl, Eric Rowe responds to Eagles, Roseman

The Eagles' season ended a few weeks ago with a 7-9 record. 

In a couple weeks, Eric Rowe might be playing in the Super Bowl. 

Rowe, of course was the Eagles second-round pick in 2015 and went on to have a promising rookie season. But in 2016, the change of head coaches brought a new defensive coordinator and a new scheme, which Rowe apparently didn't fit. So a few days before the season began, he was dealt to the New England, where he has become a big part of their defense. 

In his after-the-season press conference on Jan. 4, Eagles vice president of football operations Howie Roseman was asked about the trade and gave a somewhat curious answer. He said the team made the move because the front office had already determined they were not going to give Rowe an extension, even though he wouldn't have been eligible for two more seasons. 

If that sounded weird to Eagles fans, they weren't alone. It sounded weird to Rowe too, when the Wilmington News Journal's Martin Frank caught up with him this week. 

“That’s a long time away," Rowe said. "If that’s the reason, that’s really, really weird. You know, it’s whatever. If he thinks that, then I guess that’s what it was. They’re thinking way down the line.” 

Rowe, 24, ended up starting seven games during this regular season for New England, but played just 43 percent of the Patriots' defensive snaps. If Rowe played 50 percent of defensive snaps in 2016 or if he does it in 2017, the fourth-round pick the Eagles get back in the trade will turn into a third-rounder, so there's still a chance next year. 

While a third-round pick wouldn't be bad, the Eagles gave up on a young, talented corner just a year after drafting him because he didn't fit what they wanted to do. 

Shortly after the trade, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz called Rowe a good cover corner but cited the development of Jalen Mills as a reason why Rowe became expendable. Schwartz said he appreciated Rowe, but the personnel staff "decided to use him as an asset, and as coaches, we just deal with that and keep playing." 

It was pretty clear during training camp that Rowe had fallen out of favor with the Eagles. He was buried behind Mills and others on the depth chart, so maybe the trade was the best thing for him. 

"That was frustrating, just kind of like thinking, 'What am I doing wrong?'" Rowe said to the Wilmington News Journal. "Yeah, I made mistakes, but everybody makes mistakes. I'm not making bad mistakes. I'm making plays. Why am I sliding down? That was frustrating times. I would just go home and my girlfriend's there, and I'm telling her all this stuff. I'd tell my parents, and they're like, 'Just keep your head up, just keep working because you never know. Then boom, the trade comes up." 

And now he might get a chance to play in the Super Bowl, while the Eagles desperately need to fix their cornerback position before next season. 

Sixers-Trail Blazers 5 things: Streaking Sixers meet tough stretch

Sixers-Trail Blazers 5 things: Streaking Sixers meet tough stretch

Sixers vs. Trail Blazers
7 p.m. on CSN, CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App; Pregame Live at 6:30

Coming off of an impressive win over the Raptors Wednesday, the Sixers (14-26) welcome the Trail Blazers (18-26) to the Wells Fargo Center on Friday night for the first game of a back-to-back. 

Here’s what to watch for the matchup:

1.  Streaking Sixers
What a new year it’s been for the Sixers.

Winning seven of their last nine games has Joel Embiid thinking playoffs. The Sixers are 5½ games out of the eighth seed in the East, and should get even better if (or when) Ben Simmons makes his debut.

With five teams ahead of them, it seems unlikely the Sixers get in, but why not enjoy the streak while it lasts and give Embiid and the youngsters a taste of their first success in the NBA?

2. Heating up
Speaking of enjoying the streak while it lasts, the schedule gets tougher from here on out.

With five sets of back-to-backs over the next two weeks, the team will be forced to play at least five games without Embiid. And the difference with "The Process" on the floor and off is staggering. The Sixers are 12-17 with Embiid, but a putrid 2-9 without the rookie sensation. Much of that can be attributed to Embiid’s stellar defense and Jahlil Okafor’s um, less than stellar, whatever he calls what he does on the defensive end.

3. Super Dario
Dario Saric’s improved play has been another catalyst for the hot streak. Saric has elevated his game during the 7-2 run, raising his numbers in points and rebounds, giving the Sixers a solid second unit. In fact, Saric is second (behind Embiid) among rookies in points (9.7) and rebounds (5.9) per game. 

“If Joel Embiid weren’t in the league, you’d have to talk about him in consideration for Rookie of the Year,” head coach Brett Brown said after Wednesday’s win.

4. Another one
After slowing the Raptors' All-Star backcourt of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry on Wednesday, the Sixers face another dynamic backcourt in Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. The duo averages a combined 49.5 points per game, nearly half (46 percent) of the Blazers' total points per game.

Luckily for the Sixers, the Blazers are an abysmal 7-17 on the road this year, including 5-10 vs. the Eastern Conference. 

5. This and that
• The Blazers have given up an average of 114 points over their three-game losing streak. The Sixers have scored 114 or more points in five of their 30 games this season. 

• The Sixers are 3-4 in the first game of back-to-backs and 1-6 in the second leg. The Sixers face the Hawks Saturday.

• After signing a four-year, $70 million contract with the Blazers in the offseason, former Sixer Evan Turner is averaging 9.4 points, 3.2 assists and 4.2 rebounds per game, all down from his four-year average while with the Sixers. 

• Nearly every Sixer received a player vote for the All-Star Game: Embiid (43), Sergio Rodriguez (8), T.J. McConnell (4), Okafor (4), Simmons (3), Jerryd Bayless (2), Robert Covington (2), Nerlens Noel (2), Gerald Henderson (1), Ersan Ilyasova (1), Richaun Holmes (1), Timothe Luwawu-Cabbarot (1), Saric (1).