There are a lot of ways to look at Villanova's 84-81 win over La Salle at Tom Gola Arena.
You could call it a Wildcats comeback, or you could call it an Explorers collapse. You could look at the fact that Tyreek Duren, Ruben Guillandeaux and Earl Pettis shot a combined 10-for-35, or you could look at the fact that La Salle made a higher percentage of their field goal attempts than Villanova did.
If you are a La Salle fan, you have to be crushed by having had a signature Big 5 win in your grasp - one which could potentially have propelled the Explorers to the City Series championship this season.
If you are a Villanova fan, you have to be relieved at having escaped a test the likes of which many of your Big East rivals would never have dared taken. Jay Wright loves the Big 5 as much as Jim Boeheim hates leaving the state of New York before February. Plenty of other major-conference teams would not have dared played an Atlantic 10 team in their own 4,000-seat gym.
I have said before that I think Wright is the single biggest reason why the Big 5 exists in its current form. It helps that the Wildcats have had record-breaking success in the City Series, but Wright said after the game today that last season's loss at Temple served as a real wake-up call to his players heading into conference play.
So what happens now? Villanova has one major non-conference test left before starting its Big East schedule: Temple at the Pavilion on December 30. If the Wildcats win, they will win the City Series title outright; if they lose, the title could end up split in many different ways.
As for La Salle, they've now lost tough games against Missouri, Baylor, Oklahoma State and Villanova. That is a pretty good non-conference slate, but it's still an 0-4 record. Is there a game left on the schedule that can probe the Explorers' ability to get over the hump?
There certainly is. It won't come from any non-conference opponent, but La Salle could make a big statement by winning one of its two games against Temple this season.
And how's this for a scenario: If Temple wins its first three Big 5 game (including at Villanova) and the Explorers beat the Owls at the Liacouras Center, the Big 5 title will be split three ways.