Ranking the Big Five, in Every Way Possible

If you’re going to start a blog with the word “Palestra” in the title, what better way to start than arbitrarily ranking the Big Five schools (and Drexel)[i] in a number of categories? That won’t polarize my readership or anger the diehard fans because I said I didn’t like their uniforms or something, right? Yeah, that would never happen. Let’s get to it.

Historic Success

  1. Villanova
  2. Temple

This one is closer than you might think. Temple is 6th on the all-time wins list nationally and has reached two Final Fours and seven Elite Eights. Of course, Villanova has the highest winning percentage (.637) and most Final Fours (4) in the city, and 1985 virtually guaranteed their spot at the top.

  1. La Salle

Yes, La Salle has a national title and Temple doesn’t, but that was 60 years ago. Aside from 2012, La Salle hasn’t been relevant since the Lionel Simmons era. They do have two Final Fours and a championship, earning third best in the city.

  1. Penn
  2. St. Joe’s

Both have been to one Final Four. The Hawks have three Elite Eights compared to the Quakers’ two.  Penn has more tournament appearances, all-time wins, and a higher winning percentage. The Ivy League is certainly easier go of it, though Penn has almost always been one of the league’s best.

  1. Drexel

Only 5 trips to the Big Dance? Never past the Sweet Sixteen? Look forward, Drexel. It should get better.


  1. La Salle

Great color scheme. Nice side piping. Not too flashy, and yet, still original.

  1. Villanova

The dark blue and light blue work well together. The font feels a bit academic. The biggest problem is that they resemble Nike’s plain template a bit too much for me.

  1. Penn

Classy. Exactly what you’d expect out of an Ivy League team with their history. The downside? Wide shoulders. It’s not 2003.

  1. Temple

The cherry and white is great. There’s a lot going on here. What is all this around the armpits and neckline? Unnecessary. I’m really nitpicking at this point. The differences between Nova, Penn, and Temple are pretty negligible.

  1. St. Joe’s

A big drop off here. I think it’s time for an update on Hawk Hill. They’ve upgraded to Nike duds since Jameer and Delonte’s days, but the design has remained basically the same. The front looks cluttered with “Saint Joseph’s” written out in its entirety. “St. Joe’s” or even “Hawks” would work nicely.

  1. Drexel

Easily last place here. Looks like something from a futuristic movie. Wide shoulders again, some seriously odd piping, and GIGANTIC names on the back make the Dragons’ garb the city’s ugliest uniforms.

Team Name

  1. Temple Owls

Great name. It comes from Temple’s days as a night school (which is a cool reason) and is much more creative than another bird of prey.

  1. Drexel Dragons

Alliteration is dangerous game. It’s obvious and always tempting. For Drexel, it works. It rolls off the tongue and is plenty original.

  1. La Salle Explorers

Though it derived from a mistake (The school is named after a saint, not the famous explorer, a fact messed up by a reporter long ago. Thanks, Wikipedia!), it’s still a great team nickname. It has led to a great logo and a great motto/hashtag. Never Stop Exploring!

  1. St. Joseph’s Hawks

If it weren’t such a popular team name, this would be ranked higher. It’s inspired “Hawk Hill” and the always amusing “The Hawk Will Never Die!”. Ubiquity is the only thing bringing them down. Speaking of which…

  1. Villanova Wildcats

Reeeeal orginal. There’s nothing good about being the Wildcats, Bulldogs, Tigers, Lions, Bears, Raiders, Falcons, Eagles, Cardinals, Panthers, Warriors, or Huskies. And maybe Cougars.

  1. Penn Quakers

The only thing worse than a lack of originality is the complete inability to strike any fear into the opponent’s heart at all. I can’t imagine people getting excited to be a Quaker. You’re going to dunk over me? Go build a rocking chair.


  1. St. Joe’s

Clear and obvious winner here. In fact, the others don’t even deserve to be in the same category. Let’s move on.


US News and World Report, whattaya got for me?


  1. Penn
  2. Drexel
  3. Temple


Regional (North)

  1. Villanova
  2. St. Joe’s
  3. LaSalle


Since when is Villanova not a national university? Is #1 in the region better than #97 nationally? I don’t know. Penn wins.

NBA Success

  1. Villanova

Paul Arizin is your all-time Big 5 NBA scoring leader and they’ve had plenty of other contributors over the years. The recent string of guards (Ray, Foye, Lowry, Reynolds, MIKE NARDI) has been less successful than expected, but overall the Cats have a fair amount of success in the pros.

  1. Temple

Eddie Jones had an illustrious career, to the point that you could have made a case for him as a top 10 player for a while in the late 90’s. Aaron McKie and Marc Jackson had solid careers recently. Also Lavoy Allen exists.

  1. St. Joe’s

Jameer and Delonte may not have dominated like they did as Hawks, but Jameer has been a starter for 9 years now and Delonte has played in some huge games. Plus, he might have bedded LeBron’s mom and definitely got arrested for driving drunk on a three-wheeled motorcycle with a bunch of guns in a guitar case. Mark Bantom scored over 8,000 NBA points before I was born.

  1. La Salle

Speaking of before I was born, big careers from Larry Foust and Tom Gola represented the Explorers well. The L-Train was derailed by injuries and Jelly Bean Bryant had more success abroad. There hasn’t been a contributing La Salle alum in the league since Tim Legler retired in 2000.

  1. Drexel

Malik Rose Malik Rose Malik Rose Malik Rose Malik Rose Malik Rose Malik Rose.

  1. Penn

Matt Maloney! That’s your last Quaker in the pros. Yikes.


  1. Fran Dunphy (Temple)

Recent tourney games (Oladipo/Zeller and Indiana stands out) have proved that regardless of talent, Dunph can keep the Owls in any game. They should have lost that game by 15 or more, yet it took a dagger from Victor Oladipanddots to put the Hoosiers over the top.

  1. Phil Martelli (St. Joe’s)

Over the years, Phil has proven to be a force on the bench. He’s always gotten the most out of his talent and he showed what he can do when he’s able to rope a couple great recruits during the “undefeated” season.

  1. Bruiser Flint (Drexel)

Every Drexel game I watch reminds me how well Bruiser uses his players. His system, both offensively and defensively, always fits the talent on the court perfectly. When Drexel gets into an NCAA Tournament, Flint can outcoach anyone and sneak the Dragons into a few wins.

  1. Jay Wright (Villanova)

Recruiting counts as coaching, which is why you’ll find Jay so high. He gets the best talent in the nation to the Main Line. Game planning, on the other hand, has never been his strength. His “motion” offense is a dribble-drive scheme that has been saved by great guard play.

  1. Dr. John Giannini (La Salle)

Until 2012, the Doc was building a program. He saw some success and I’ll be excited to see if builds on it.

  1. Jerome Allen (Penn)

Last merely by default, Jerome is fairly new to the coaching game, relative to his competition here. His Quakers have mostly down since Allen took over.

Famous Fans/Alumni

  1. Temple

Bill Cosby is the biggest Temple fanboy (or fanoldman) out there. (UPDATE: So…maybe that’s a bad thing. At least Cliff Huxtable, fictional character/not a sexual predator, also likes them). Sportscenter’s Kevin Neghandi is a great Philly guy to follow on Twitter and loves his Owls. More importantly, Ray Didinger, Marc Zumoff, David Brenner, Adam McKay, Bob Saget, Tom Sizemore, and Paul F. Tompkins are all grads. Hall and Oates met while studying at Temple, as did Tim and Eric of Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! So if you’re a creative type looking for the perfect match, head up Broad St.

  1. Penn

It’s an Ivy League school. The amount of academics, businessmen, and politicians who attended is obscene. A few fun ones that I wasn’t aware of: Law & Order creator Dick Wolf, SNL’s Vanessa Bayer, ELIZABETH BANKS, John Legend and Tom Rinaldi.

  1. Villanova

Tobey Keith, Bradley Cooper, and Don McLean all attended briefly and chose to leave. Minus points.

  1. Drexel

Rap group Chiddy Bang met as Dragons and will often mention the school in their songs. The person who invented the Campbell’s green bean casserole went to Drexel, too. Somewhere an entire family is rich because of this.

  1. La Salle

The dad from “Everybody Loves Raymond”. Bill Raftery. Anne Hathaway’s parents. Not very impressive, La Salle.

  1. St. Joe’s

I expected better from Hawk Hill. That Wikipedia page is a mess. Jamie Moyer can’t be the most famous St. Joe’s grad, can he? PERHAPS THE HAWK IS DEAD.

Annoying Fans

  1. Villanova

Easy call. The Nationers are smug and think they are much better than they actually are. The Wildcats weren’t one of the most powerful teams in the Big East in the years before schools started fleeing the conference, but that doesn’t get in the way of their fans always thinking they are. Don’t throw your V’s up. Put them down. I don’t like them.

  1. St. Joe’s

The “undefeated” season is just about enough to put St. Joe’s this high. You weren’t undefeated. You lost TWICE. If you own a piece of apparel that says both “St. Joseph’s” and “Undefeated”, rethink it..

  1. Drexel

I think the heart of Dragons fanhood is an inherent jealousy of the Big 5, which is in-and-of-itself an annoying underdog, sad sack place to be as a fan.

  1. Penn

Ivy League weirdos.

  1. Temple

Any Temple fan can be gauged by asking what they thought of Pepe Sanchez. Mention his name. If someone replies with something to the effect of, “He should have gotten more playing time in the NBA,” you can write that person off. Don’t be friends with them.

  1. La Salle

Any Explorers fan under the age of 35 can say or do whatever they want in my mind. Go nuts. If the school burned down during their Sweet Sixteen run last year, I could defend that.


  1. The Palestra (Penn)

Obvious. Should be the home of every Big 5 game. End of story.

6 (tie). Not the Palestra.

What did you expect? Scroll up and checkout the name of the site.

[i] I want to go on the record as supporting Drexel being considered part of the Big Five. I get that they aren’t a part of the history, but they are just as much a part of Philadelphia’s basketball scene now as most of the other schools. I think “City Six” has always been a cop-out. Just sneak them in there. If the Big Ten can have 14 schools and Creighton is in the Big East, then the Big Five can welcome the Dragons.

Shane McNichol is the founder, editor, and lone contributor of PalestraBack.com. Follow him on Twitter @OnTheShaneTrain.

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