Feb 2, 2013, 2:23 PM EDT
It’s the most-played rivalry in the Big 5 — spanning 154 games — and for the first time in 31 years, it’s about to change.
Temple and Saint Joseph’s have played in the the Atlantic 10 since 1982, but, this coming July, Temple will finally make the jump to the Big East for all-sports, after re-joining as a football-only member last summer.
That makes tonight, barring a A-10 tournament meeting, the last time Temple and St. Joe’s will play each other as members of the same conference.
Saturday night, 6 p.m., the Hagan Arena at Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse on Hawk Hill (CBS Sports Network / 610 AM — Martucci-Lunardi / 1210 AM — Donahue-Baum).
It’s not a bad to way to go out, especially with something on the line. Neither Temple (14-6, 3-3) nor St. Joe’s (12-7, 3-3) want to fall below .500 in a deep league when both have fallen short of their preseason expectations to date. Another win or loss will teach us something about both of these teams and bolster or weaken their respective NCAA hopes. The A-10 is the strongest its been in years, but its members seem to be doing more to beat each other up than to strengthen the tournament bids of the best teams, at least in the early going.
And that brings us to the bigger picture, just when the league is its most formidable, the most change is on the way. Temple — a program with five straight NCAA tournament appearances that has won the conference tournament or regular-season title in four of the last five seasons — is on its way out. But so too — it appears — is Xavier, and possibly Butler, and possibly Dayton, and possibly who knows who else might defect to the Catholic 7′s new basketball conference, expected to begin play in 2014. (Charlotte, for the record, is going to Conference USA in 2013. I didn’t forget. It’s just meh.)
No matter who goes where, local fans will always have the Big 5 games. But tonight is the last time it’ll mean something extra in the standings. To a lesser degree — the two haven’t shared the same conference for as long — we’ll be saying the same thing about Temple-La Salle on Feb. 21.
Paint the rollouts and maybe throw a streamer or two. Tonight isn’t the end. It’s just the end of what we’re used to.
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