The Villanova Wildcats (2-0) will travel to the Palestra to take on the Penn Quakers (2-1) in a rematch of the Big 5 on Monday night at 7 pm EST. This season marks Drexel’s first time participating in the Big 5, resulting in a change from the traditional round-robin format to a tournament-style setup for football.
The New-Look Big 5
With the addition of a sixth team, the Big 5 now includes a tricky six teams, necessitating a new moniker. The teams are divided into two pods, each team plays with two other teams in their pod on their campus grounds. The Big 5 Classic, a three-header event at the Wells Fargo Center scheduled for Dec. 2, will feature all six teams. The first seed in each pod will compete in the tournament, the second place teams get third place, and the third place gets fifth place in the Big 5.
This season, Villanova’s pod includes Penn and St. Joe’s. The big 5 game started with St. Joe’s 69-61 win over Penn at the Hawks’ Nest. St. Joe’s took the lead 10 minutes into the first half and kept it, as they led by 19 points in the second half. However, the Quakers mounted a comeback, cutting the deficit to just two points with less than four minutes remaining.
Guards Guards Guards
Penn’s top six scorers are all listed as guards, marking a shift to a more balanced team following the departure of Jordan Dingle, who averaged 23.4 points per game, to St. Louis. John’s. The Quakers’ offense, characterized by its free flow, is led by senior guard Clark Slajchert, who is averaging 17.3 points per game through the first three games.
While Slajchert leads the team in scoring, freshman Tyler Perkins could be the Quakers’ most versatile player. Despite playing in only three NCAA games, Perkins averaged 15.7 points, 8.3 rebounds, 3.7 assists, and 2.3 steals per game, while leading the team in all of these categories except for points. .
Transfer Portal Magic
Following a challenging season last year, the Wildcats have made a remarkable comeback, largely due to their success on the transfer portal. The four players they acquired not only integrated easily with Villanova’s style of play but also integrated the team’s culture well.
Tyler Burton and TJ Bamba were the standout players among the transfer additions. Burton, in his final year of eligibility, has been relentless for Villanova. Averaging 12.5 points and 10 rebounds per game through the first two games, Burton seems to be on every rebound or loose ball.
Bamba, who has an additional year of eligibility remaining, is currently the team’s second leading scorer with an average of 14.5 points per game. His presence on the court as the general of the floor is very important, proven by his seven assistants and nothing has changed so far. Additionally, his impressive 67% shooting from three-point range (6-9) has been a significant boost to the team. One can only hope that Bamba will stay hot throughout the season.
Bring on the Quakers
Villanova’s season started on a high note with two comfortable wins over American and Le Moyne, winning by an average margin of 26.5 points. This strong start is a big change from last year’s struggles, showing that the team is complete, healthy, and able to defend and control the offense. Based on their first two performances, despite facing relatively weak opposition, it may be premature to make snap judgments. However, considering the way they played, even acknowledging the level of competition, I am ready to declare that Villanova basketball is BACK.