It could be a crazy night in Big 5 women’s basketball on Wednesday when Villanova plays Penn at the Palestra.
If the 3-0 Wildcats win, they will finish undefeated in the round-robin and win the Big 5 championship outright. 'Nova has won 15 Big 5 titles, including nine outright.
Things, however, will get a lot more interesting if the Quakers (2-0) come out with the victory.
If Penn wins, it will be the only remaining undefeated team and could wrap up its first undefeated Big 5 title with a win over Temple on Jan. 23 at the Palestra.
If Penn beats Villanova but loses to Temple (2-1), the Quakers, Wildcats, and Owls will all be 3-1 and share the title.
“It’s a big deal,” Penn coach Mike McLaughlin said. “Some of the challenge we have is that we don’t have a whole lot of Philadelphia-area kids, so explaining to them the importance and history of the Big 5 is something we always do. But they get it.
“We’ve been successful in the Big 5 the last couple of years – winning in 2015 and last season – and that’s obviously helped. We talk about what it means to the program and what it means to a lot of people who watch Philadelphia basketball.
“When I first got here, the Penn women had not had a lot of success in the Big 5. It’s a big deal for where the program has come for us to compete for and be able to win the Big 5.”
Last season, Villanova had a chance to clinch an undefeated Big 5 title, but lost, 79-77, to visiting Penn at Jake Nevin Fieldhouse. The Quakers then beat Temple to grab a share of the title.
“Our players were really upset about losing to Penn,” Villanova coach Harry Perretta said. “They were heartbroken when Penn came in here and won. We wanted to win the Big 5 outright.”
The benefit for all the teams during Big 5 competition is that the opposition is going to push you to play at your highest level – no matter the disparity in talent.
“The Big 5 competition matters,” Perretta said. The intensity of the games are like playing in the postseason. I’m an old-fashioned coach. The Big 5 is important to me, and it’s important to my players. They want to win it, and I want to win it.”