Monday, July 21, 2008

The 2008 Philly Classic

While scanning a message board last week I ran across a thread that linked to a story posted on Jeff Goodman's Good 'n Plenty Blog. The Villanova-related nugget was located near the bottom of post (why don't some of the Gang of 500 do their Big East Roundup stories in reverse alphabetical order once in awhile?), "Big East Offseason Roundup". Goodman located the field (and dates) for the 2008 Philly Classic, the exempt tournament that Villanova was rumored to have committed to play in for the 2008-09 season. Although Goodman posted last Thursday, I held off on this because the field had been the subject of an Aprils Fools joke on the Penn State athletic department website. The prankster formatted an official-looking announcement that identified (along with Penn State and Villanova...) Duke as one of the eight participating teams. The "announcement" was pulled later that day, but rumors of a Villanova-Duke game persisted for weeks afterward. I have not been able to independently confirm the field that Goodman announced, so the actual field may have other changes before the season opens in November. Goodman list, sorted by RPI, turns out to be:

Rhode IslandA1021120.63610782
Penn StateB1015160.484157108

Like last season, this year's tournament field has a decidedly local flavor, as all teams are located in the Northeast and New England. While the Palestra no doubt offers the tournament a certain historical cachet, lack of a television contract and a venue with large seating capacity have probably worked to hold down the tournament budget, which in turn has probably worked to limit the pool of potential participants. According to discussions during last year's tournament, the hosting responsibilities will rotated among members of the Big 5.

The original exempt tournaments of the 1980s and 1990s, brought 8 teams to a host facility and played 4 games over a 4 - 5 day period. The Philly Classic follows the format favored by later exempt tournaments like the Legends Classic (and the CBE, etc.). The eight team field will play two rounds at host school locations before coming into Philadelphia to play the last 2 rounds, to be played at the Palestra, over the 4 day Thanksgiving Weekend. Unlike the Legends format results from the preliminary rounds will not affect the seeding of the later rounds. In the inaugural Philly Classic, the organizers seeded the higher ranked (by RPI?) teams, along with Big 5 host Penn, together in the "Independence Bracket", while the other four teams were seeded in the "Liberty Bracket". Liberty Bracket teams played Independence Bracket teams in the preliminary games. Six of the eight preliminary round games were hosted by Independence Bracket teams. If the organizers decide to use the same format for this year's Classic, expect Villanova, Rhode Island, Penn State and Niagara to be bracketed together for the Friday and Sunday games, while Hartford, Monmouth, Towson and NJIT will be bracketed together for their last two rounds.

I think the 2 preliminary round teams that would do the least violence to Villanova's SOS would be Hartford and Towson. Too bad the 'Cats played Hartford last season, a rematch with Leibovitz might be interesting (and given Leibovitz's tenure as an Assistant Coach at Temple) a great idea for local appeal in getting fans out to games in the other bracket...). Monmouth might be a good choice. The (Monmouth) Hawks were 7-24 last season with, like Villanova, a "senior-less" team. They are bound to improve this season. NJIT should be avoided, the Highlanders will be (at best...) only modestly better than last season. Even with improvement however, they will still have an RPI in the 300s.

A point of interest for Villanova fans is that two of the teams in the field, Penn State and Niagara, have former Wildcats on their rosters. Depending on the seeding and results of the first game in Philadelphia, Villanova may well face Andy Ott's (Penn State) and Bilal Benn's (Niagara) new teams. Andy Ott will not dress for any fall games, as he does not become eligible until the end of the fall semester. Nevertheless I am sure Ott and his former teammates will enjoy catching up on old times.


Anonymous said...

One question -- What does it mean that the Philly Classic is an "exempt tournament"?

greyCat said...

Back when these early season tournament first started, their promoters had problems building a field because every game counted against the NCAA limit on the numer of games a team could play during the regular season. Those promoters appealed to the NCAA for exemptions from the game limitation. The NCAA reviewed those appeals case-by-case, and granted the exempt status to a handful (the Alaska Shootout, Top of the World Classic, Maui Invitational, etc.) of those invitationals. The exemption comes in the form of a 2-for-1 exchange. The four games in the tournament will only count as 2 games against the mandated limit. When the NCAA revised the number of regular season games 2 - 3 years ago they also gave up control over mandating which tournaments were exempt and which weren't. All 4 game tournaments were "granted" exempt status.

deal said...

FYI - This tournament was a two day tournament in 2007, not a four day. Friday and Saturday. There was an early session and a late session, with the lower four playing early and the higher four playing at night. So If they keep that format I would expect Villanova to play Friday and Saturday Night.

A year ago it was a pretty easy ticket to get and it is an opportunity to catch Villanova at the Palestra.