An actual live Big 5 basketball game was played today. The La Salle Explorers hosted the 7th ranked Villanova Wildcats at the fabled Palestra. This is as real as it gets for Big 5 basketball. I searched for over an hour, but I couldn’t find Channel 17 or Prism on my YouTube TV, so I had to settle for the ESPN2 broadcast.
I was geeked… I don’t know why… I should know better by now… Mike Brooks, Stevie Black, Truck Butts, Lionel Simmons, Randy Woods and Doug Overton don’t live in dorms at 20th and Olney these days.
This is 2021… And, Nova has absolutely ruined one of greatest traditions in all of sports. They are just too good and have been too good for far too long… So much so, they have fucked up the the Big 5. The fact of the matter is the Big 5 is not really a “thing” anymore. It doesn’t really exist in the minds of young ballers and college basketball fans. It only exists in the minds of 45+ year old Philadelphia hoops heads that can recall a time when truly anything could happen in a Big 5 game. Their frame of reference is a long ago and distant time when the games were actually competitive.
The youngins can’t even name the schools that make up the Big 5.
They do, however, know Villanova basketball… Nova is like Michael once he left the Jackson 5. Jermaine, Jackie, Tito and Marlon were fine musicians in their own right… But they couldn’t fuck with Michael.
They knew it, Michael knew it, the fans knew it, everybody knew it. Mike was on another level… The world just had to let him go and do his own thing.
So it is with Nova…
Once a year, we try to put the Jackson 5 together again. Mike tries to play 4 sets with his brothers. We try to take post-Off the Wall, post-Thriller Mike and put him on stage with the guys he made ABC with and it just doesn’t work anymore. They can’t keep up with Mike… Mike’s on a different and much higher level. Michael is just better in all aspects of musical production and performance than his brothers. As a result, the show is less than enjoyable when they try to make music together. Nonetheless, we watch…
Going back to the 2013-14 season, Villanova has lost exactly 1 Big 5 game.
Today, Mike had a set with Tito… Tito couldn’t keep up with the new music… Actually, looked like he forgot the words to some of the songs…
Nova jumped out to a 9-0 lead to begin the game. Then, things got worse… Much worse…
With 4:25 left in the first half, Villanova was up 39-9. For the first 16 minutes of the contest, La Salle Freshman PG Khalil Brantley was only Explorer able to score against the Villanova defense.
Brantley had all 9 Explorer points. Clearly up for the challenge of facing Nova’s All-American candidate, Collin Gillespie, Brantley was digging deep in his bag. Crossovers, step-backs, in and outs… He put it all on display in an effort to get a clean look at the rim. Once he got the space he was able to calmly drain some jumpshots, but his efforts were too few and too far between.
At the 4:09 mark, Brantley again broke down a defender and splashed another 3-pointer…. 39-12.
Finally, at the 3:27 mark, Jhamir Brickus tipped in an offensive rebound. Those were the first points scored by an Explorer not named Brantley.
On the other end of the court, it looked like Justin Moore, Collin Gillespie, Jermaine Samuels, Eric Dixon and Brandon Slater were playing against their little brothers. The Nova players would dribble and back Explorer defenders straight down the driveway and into the garage door. If another Explorer decided to help his teammate, the ball would immediately find the Wildcat left alone. That player would then either ball fake the close out defender and blow by him to attack the middle of the Explorer defense or immediately pass the ball to a player in better position.
Real simple… Real effective…
If the Explorers chose to play straight up man to man, the Nova players took their chances in the post, even the guards. More often than not, they were able to come away with a field goal or a trip to the free throw line.
La Salle had absolutely no answers. Tito was offbeat all night, he looked bad, real bad, on stage next to Mike.
Of course, you always relish an opportunity to see Mike in his prime… The moonwalk was crisp, he hit all of his high notes just right and he played his biggest hits. But, damn Tito needs to get his shit together if he’s gonna keep getting on stage with Mike.
Tito and Jermaine are linking up for a low key set on Wednesday night at the Liacouris Center. They usually look better when Mike is not on the stage and the show must go on… I think I’m gonna go…
You are a breath of fresh and honest air. I am a lifetime Villanova fan, alum, and season ticket holder. My freshman year was when Villanova went to the National Championship game in Houston with Howard Porter, Chris Ford & Tom Inglesby in 1971. I lived through 4-23 when Coach Massamino arrived just 3 years later. Hope springs eternal for a revival if there is a will to do it. I still say as a Nova fan, the best college ball player I ever saw in person was LaSalle’s Ken Durett. I loved to root against him, Mike Bantam, Tony Price, Lionel Simmons, and Jameer Nelson. Penn has the Palestra, Temple has Liacouras, and LaSalle and St. Joe’s have joke gyms.
Here is my take on what needs to happen. The other 4 schools need to be like Gonzaga and schedule all non-conference games against Tier 1 programs. They need a gauntlet. They will get killed for the most part the first couple of seasons, but they must be willing to take on all comers. Second, they need to play their games at a marquee venue. Pay Penn to use the Palestra, Hell, do double headers with the St. Joes or the others at Wells Fargo. The A 10, and the geographically insane AAC are not close in the competition to being enough to attract recruits. But instead have them reach out to play home and home games with Syracuse, Providence, West Virginia, Duke, UNC, Tennesee, Penn State or whomever is a tier 1 program. LaSalle and St. Joe’s then need to build a better venue in the next 5 years,
Restore hope that when I pay $50 a seat for games like last night for the pleasure of sitting on hard bleacher seating, the games will be worth it.
Thx for reading Mr. Murphy… Appreciate the kind words and the interesting suggestions… I don’t understand how thy let the Big 5 die without putting up a fight