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’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.

Report: Nerlens Noel expected out 3-5 weeks after left knee surgery

Report: Nerlens Noel expected out 3-5 weeks after left knee surgery

It appears the Sixers' frontcourt logjam may not be an issue early on.

Nerlens Noel, who is having surgery Monday for an inflamed plica in his left knee, will miss the first three to five weeks of the season, according to Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Noel suffered a left groin injury in the first preseason game against the Celtics and missed the rest of the preseason. While undergoing treatment, Noel reported left knee soreness, which led to the discovery of the inflamed plica.

It's been an odd start to the season for Noel. The big man was outspoken about his displeasure with the Sixers' frontcourt situation early in camp. With the deadline for Noel's rookie contract extension approaching on Oct. 31, the team has not had conversations about it, according to a report.

The Sixers are already without No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons as he recovers from surgery to repair a Jones fracture in his right foot. The team will also be without their starting point guard Jerryd Bayless who is dealing with a ligament issue in his left wrist. Bayless won't require surgery and will be reevaluated in two weeks.

Eagles-Vikings Week 7: What they're saying

Eagles-Vikings Week 7: What they're saying

Riding a two-game losing streak, the Eagles (3-2) return home Sunday for the first time in nearly a month and welcome a familiar face to the confines of Lincoln Financial Field. 

Sam Bradford and the Vikings (5-0) will come to Philadelphia fresh off a Week 6 bye and, most notably, as the league's lone unbeaten team. Minnesota boasts one of the league's top defenses, ranking first in points allowed (12.6 per game) and second in yards allowed (287.6 per game), and is looking to improve to 6-0 for the first time since 2009.

The last time these two franchises met was back in December 2013, when Matt Cassell and the Vikings put up 48 points in a win over Chip Kelly's Eagles.

To get a better handle on this year's Vikings, here's what they're saying about the Eagles' Week 7 opponent.

Brian Robison poses yet another challenge for Big V
Making his NFL debut in a start against the Redskins last week, Halapoulivaati Vaitai struggled mightily. Ryan Kerrigan beat Vaitai and got to Carson Wentz for 2½ sacks, all of which came in the first half.

It won't get any easier for the rookie right tackle this week either, as he'll likely be lined up against Brian Robison for most of the afternoon. Robison has four sacks and two forced fumbles on the season and, according to Andrew Krammer of the Star Tribune, the versatile 10-year defensive end could be difference maker on the defensive side of the ball Sunday.

"Whether his hand is in the turf at left end or he’s standing over a guard or center as the defensive tackle, Robison could be dropping back to cover a tight end or running back," Krammer wrote. "At the line, he’s given responsibilities to call stunts or twists depending on their own play call. Sometimes he’s setting the pick to free another teammate. ... And on Sunday against the Eagles and their rookie right tackle, keep an eye on Robison when he lines up at his traditional spot of left end. All four of his sacks this season, including two strip-sacks, have come from there."

Makeshift offensive line remains a question mark
The Vikings may be undefeated, but by no means are they made up of perfect parts. As the midway point of the NFL season approaches, Minnesota's injury-battered offensive line is still a work in progress. 

Starting tackles Matt Kalil and Andre Smith are both sidelined with season-ending injuries. Starting guard Brandon Fusco suffered a concussion Week 5 against the Texans, but is expected to return against the Eagles. Center is the only position on the line the Vikings haven't had to replace because of an injury at some point this season.

But despite the constant changes up front, Minnesota has been stout overall in protecting the quarterback, allowing eight sacks and 27 quarterback hits across five games. According to Brian Murphy of the Pioneer Press, the performance of that makeshift offensive line is going to be key in the Vikings' potential success down the road. 

"What’s best for Bradford and the Vikings’ standing as the NFC’s top dog is better pass protection," Murphy wrote. "He was sacked twice when Houston defenders turnstiled Clemmings and hit hard in the pocket other times. ... Offensive line intrigue never is a sexy storyline, but how well the Vikings manage the unit week to week figures to be an underlying factor to their continued success."

Strong away from home
The Vikings are a just a few years removed from going winless on the road, finishing 0-7-1 away from home in the 2013 season. Minnesota secured wins in only two of its first 10 away games under the tutelage of Mike Zimmer, but have since gone on a tear.

Minnesota has won seven of its last eight road games dating back to last season and, in their most recent game away from U.S. Bank Stadium, the Vikings took down the Panthers, 22-10, in Week 3. A testament of a true contender is having the ability to win consistently on the road, which holds true with the Vikings.

According to Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press, the Vikings' vast improvement over the past two-plus seasons has contributed to them becoming a stronger team away from home.

"Facing a tough opposing crowd once was a tall order for the Vikings, but it’s much less of one now. After being one of the worse road teams in the NFL earlier this decade, they’re now one of the best," Tomasson wrote. "Overall, the Vikings have improved, having gone from 7-9 in 2014 to 11-5 last season to 5-0 this year. That’s the main reason the road record has gotten so much better. Still, players say the continuity the team has had has especially helped when entering rugged road environments."

While Vegas has the Vikings as light favorites on the road, national experts have them heavily favored straight up to hand the Eagles their third straight loss.

ESPN: All nine experts picked the Vikings

CBS Sports: Seven of eight experts picked the Vikings

FOX Sports: Three of five experts picked the Vikings