The past of Philadelphia basketball feels greater than the present.
Look at the Final Four banners in the gyms of Villanova, La Salle and Penn and you’ll see most of their greatest accomplishments happened decades ago. And it’s true. The last several years of March have not been nearly as successful for Philly’s “City 6” teams of La Salle, Villanova, Penn, Drexel, St. Joseph’s and Temple.
Here’s a look at how Philadelphia has fared in terms of getting into the tournament and success in the tournament the last few decades and which teams have done the best.
Is March as magical as it used to be for Philly?
The short answer is no, at least not usually. In 1985, the NCAA Tournament went to its modern format, where 64 teams made the Big Dance (it’s now 68 because of the play-in games nobody likes). That year Villanova, Temple and Penn made the dance, with Villanova pulling off upset after upset and winning the championship.
From 1985 to 2000, Philly had three teams make the tournament five times and four teams make it twice. The average number of teams in the tournament was 2.4. From 2000 to 2015, Philly had three teams in the tournament just twice and didn’t have four teams make it any year. The average number of teams in the tournament was 1.9.
That’s worse than in the ’70s into the mid-’80s, when the tournament was much smaller. From 1970 to 1984, when the tournament grew from 22 teams to 53 teams, the average number of teams in the tournament was two.
We’re seeing fewer wins by Philly teams in the tournament, too. Here’s how the average number of wins in the tournament by Philly team breaks down by those three periods.
- 1970-1984: 1.9
- 1985-1999: 2.2
- 2000-2015: 1.6
This year could buck recent trends, with Philadelphia possibly getting three teams in the NCAA Tournament this year. Villanova is a lock and will likely get a No. 1 seed for the second straight year. St. Joseph’s should be in for sure if it defeats George Washington today. Temple, despite being slightly on the bubble, is expected to make it, too.
Which Philly teams do the best job of advancing?
As you can see by the statistic about Philly wins per tournament above, wins are hard to come by. Philadelphia is unlikely to see however many teams it gets in the tournament combine for more than two victories each year in the tournament.
Some of the City 6 schools do a better job than others at advancing, though. Here’s how they rank in this category, wins per appearance, based on number of tournament victories divided by the number of times they’ve made the tournament.
- Villanova: 1.5
- La Salle: 1.2
- Temple: 1.1
- St. Joseph’s: 0.9
- Penn: 0.6
- Drexel: 0.3
The average performance in the NCAA Tournament for Temple, St. Joseph’s and La Salle is basically a first-round win. Villanova teeters in the middle of a Sweet 16 berth and a second-round exit.
The Wildcats may do a better job of winning than the other Philadelphia schools, but they don’t compare to college basketball’s blue bloods. Teams like Kansas (2.2), Duke (2.7), North Carolina (2.4) and Kentucky (2.2).
For them, the Sweet 16 and beyond is the average. For Villanova, it’s been the second round and hopefully the Sweet 16.
Correction: Numbers in this article have been updated to reflect the omission of having St. Joseph’s and a total of three teams in the NCAA Tournament in 2008 and 2013.