With a national ranking of No. 10 and two victories already over top-25 teams, Villanova could be considered the choice to win the Big Five championship this season.
But who's No. 2? La Salle and Temple are hoping that transfers can combine with talented holdovers to help them win more games. St. Joseph's has some veteran players but a lot of youth. Penn has a terrific player with a supporting cast of mainly promising but inexperienced underclassmen.
You may not be able to successfully pick an order in the Big Five considering how unpredictable the venerable city institution is. One thing for sure is, Villanova coach Jay Wright isn't buying the favorite's role so early while preparing the Wildcats (6-0) for Wednesday night's Big Five opener against La Salle at Tom Gola Arena.
"It's always difficult to figure out who's the best team in the Big Five," Wright said Tuesday. "The best team sometimes is different from who plays the best in Big Five games. Sometimes you'll have a year where you play really well in Big Five games and not be the best team at the end of the year. You're always worried about these games."
La Salle coach John Giannini, whose Explorers (4-2) are 3-1 in City Series play in each of the last two seasons, said he agreed with Wright and that it's difficult to handicap the Big Five race at this stage.
"I am a huge believer in the fact that when you win the Big Five, you almost always go to the NCAA tournament," he said. "Everyone in the country sees Villanova as a highly likely NCAA team.
"Because it's early, you have to base a lot of it on what you've seen so far. Villanova has most of their guys back so that gives them a clear edge. La Salle, St. Joseph's and Temple are packed right in there with good returnees and new faces. I think everyone needs to see more of them before you can evaluate them. Penn has a terrific player in Tony Hicks and a bunch of young guys."
Giannini likes the Wildcats, their team defense, their passing, their hustle on the boards and the fact that "while they don't have great size, they use that to their advantage."
But he also likes his own team, especially after the Explorers cut a 20-point second-half deficit to four in the final 1 minute, 12 seconds before losing Friday night to No. 8 Virginia.
"They've got good seniors and now they've got [Jordan] Price, who can just take over a game," Wright said.
Price, a transfer from Auburn, averages 17.7 points per game, No. 2 in the Atlantic 10 Conference.