THE BIG 5 CLASSIC WAS A GREAT IDEA, NO MATTER WHAT ANYONE SAYS!

By Harry Allison

You know the Big 5 Classic was a great idea when the Washington Post rhapsodizes about it:

Zach Spiker was soaked in sweat, but he had no desire to change his shirt. “Holy cow” was about all he could say as he came off the court at Wells Fargo Center on Saturday afternoon. “I mean, holy cow.”

Spiker’s Drexel team had just stunned 18th-ranked Villanova, 57-55, in — wait for it — the fifth-place game of the first Big Five Classic.

“What an awesome day for basketball in Philadelphia,” the Dragons coach said a few minutes later after catching his breath. “It’s a great day for Drexel, for Drexel basketball, for everyone connected to Drexel in any way.”

There were plenty of skeptics about this new format.

The move to Wells Fargo was certainly a logistical help, but the corporate influence was at least as important. Ticket prices were sky-high, from $500 for Spike Lee seats to $150 for lower bowl seats to $45 upstairs.

It wasn’t surprising that the one section that was full for all three games was, as Penn’s Clark Slajchert put it, “the nosebleed seats.” Or, as legendary Philadelphia sportswriter Dick “Hoops” Weiss phrased it, “the place where the real basketball fans sit.”

But any issues were outweighed by the simple act of getting all six schools in the building at once, as well as by the quality of the games.

It began with students tossing streamers on the court after each team’s first basket, a Big Five tradition that had largely gone away in recent years because of the NCAA’s refusal to recognize there’s a difference between celebratory streamers once a game and objects thrown in anger that can hurt people.

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