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West Virginia joining Big 12

Associated Press / October 29, 2011

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The Big 12 Conference welcomed West Virginia from the Big East and bid goodbye to Missouri before the Tigers even had a chance to make their move to the Southeastern Conference official.

Now that the poaching of the Big East seems to be over, the beleaguered conference is not backing down. It has been busy courting six schools and says it was braced for the latest loss. And despite what the Big 12 says, the Big East plans to keep West Virginia for two more years - just as it has vowed to keep Pittsburgh and Syracuse away from the Atlantic Coast Conference until 2014.

The Big 12 completed its work yesterday by making West Virginia its easternmost member, joining Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas, Kansas State, Baylor, TCU, and Iowa State.

The Big 12 expects to have 10 schools for the 2012-13 season, listing West Virginia but not Missouri, which is expected to complete its move to the SEC any day now.

The Big 12 leaders voted to add West Virginia, rather than closer Big East rival Louisville, yesterday morning.

Big East commissioner John Marinatto said the Mountaineers will be staying in the Big East for two more seasons.

“West Virginia is fully aware that the Big East Conference is committed to enforcing the 27-month notification period for members who choose to leave the conference,’’ he said in a statement.

It appeared earlier in the week that the Big 12 had settled on West Virginia as its replacement for Missouri. But Louisville briefly re-entered the picture, and the Mountaineers’ invitation to the Big 12 was put on hold.

In the end, the extra time didn’t pay off for the Cardinals.

“I’m not certain how everything went down, but they fought a good battle and won,’’ Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich said.

Late Thursday night, the SEC inadvertently posted on its website that Missouri was joining the league. The conference said no agreement has been reached with the school, but it was yet another sign that it’s just a matter of time before the Tigers follow Texas A&M from the Big 12.

The focus now shifts to the Big East and how it will rebuild. The plan is to add Boise State, Navy, and Air Force as football-only members and SMU, Houston, and Central Florida as all-sports members.

UNC tops AP poll

With five returning starters, North Carolina was the runaway No. 1 in the AP men’s basketball preseason Top 25 poll. It is the eighth time the Tar Heels have received that honor since the preseason poll started in 1961-62, one more than rival Duke.

North Carolina received all but three of the first-place votes cast by the 65-member national media panel and totaled 1,620 points, well ahead of No. 2 Kentucky (1,501). Ohio State, which got one first-place vote, was third and defending national champion Connecticut, which received the other two No. 1 votes, was fourth.

Syracuse, Duke, Vanderbilt, Florida, Louisville, and Pittsburgh rounded out the top 10.

The Big East has six ranked teams, two more than the Big 12 and Southeastern Conference, while the Big Ten and Pac-12 had three each.

Harvard, the preseason favorite in the Ivy League, received two votes.

Drummond injured

Connecticut freshman center Andre Drummond broke his nose and suffered a mild concussion in practice. The school said Drummond would spend the night in the school infirmary as a precaution and would be fitted for a mask, which he could wear for the first two months of the season. UConn plays its first exhibition game Wednesday against American International . . . Louisville freshman swingman Wayne Blackshear will miss the entire season after tearing the labrum in his right shoulder. The McDonald’s All-American practiced with the ninth-ranked Cardinals for the first time Monday . . . Vanderbilt senior center Festus Ezeli will miss 6-8 weeks with the seventh-ranked Commodores after spraining ligaments in his right knee in practice . . . California basketball coach Mike Montgomery said he was diagnosed with bladder cancer and had surgery last week that has left him cancer-free. The school announced Montgomery’s surgery Oct. 19, but didn’t disclose any details . . . UMass-Lowell was voted the preseason favorite in the Northeast-10 men’s basketball coaches’ poll, garnering 12 first-place votes to Bentley’s four.