Earlier in the week, I was thinking about each team's respective chances, and I started to go down memory lane and think about the great players I have had the pleasure of watching in the Palestra. I decided to pick the most outstanding players for each school and an all-time team from all of the the Big 5 schools. I know this list might spark the ire of some of you Big 5 fanatics, and others might applaud it, but regardless, I hope you enjoy reminiscing about these great players as much as I did.
I know most people would disagree on nearly every part of this list, and even I had second thoughts. For St. Joe's, it was hard to leave out Billy Hoy, Joe Gallo and Bernard Blunt.
For my beloved Quakers, it seems impossible to leave out Phil Hankinson, current Penn AD Steve Bilsky, Jeff Neuman and the great Joe Sturgis.
La Salle was easiest, although it would have been nice to include Tim Legler, the greatest outside shooter in Explorers history.
For the Temple Owls, the toughest part was putting Aaron McKie, who had a great pro career with the Sixers, on the second team.
And for the Villanova Wildcats, it seems impossible to leave out John Pinone and Scottie Reynolds, the latter of whom led in an improbable team of Smurfs to the Final Four in 2009
Although picking each school's best players seemed difficult, it was relatively easy, compared with picking an all-time team. Here's what I came up with:
I'm certain every Big 5 fan will disagree with this list in some respects, and I'm not even sure I like it.
The reason I chose McNeil over Nelson is because, as a 16-year-old kid in New York, I went to Madison Square Garden and saw this little Catholic school from Philadelphia play the Cincinnati Bearcats with Oscar Robinson. Robinson was hailed as the greatest player in college basketball, and Cincinnati eventually prevailed in a tense struggle, but McNeil outscored and outplayed the "Big O."
I never saw Beck play, and I'm sure some purists would probably argue he deserves to be on the first team ahead of Anderson. It's also very hard to pick a first team without a Villanova Wildcat on it. In any event, it's time for me to stop writing before I change my mind.
PS: The All-Time MVP is an easy choice: The late, great, Tom Gola who was almost as great a basketball player as he was a person!
PSS: In compiling this list I used the Daily News' Dick Jerardi, one of the country's best college basketball writers, as my sounding board.