A day after West Virginia had reportedly been told that it would be accepted into the conference, The New York Times' Pete Thamel is now citing sources saying it's "too close to call" and a "50/50" race between WVU and Louisville to land the highly sought-after Big 12 seat that will likely be left unoccupied by Missouri.
U of L has essentially pulled out all the stops and is now in a dead-sprint with the Mountaineers for what would appear to be the final spot in a conference content to stay put at 10 teams.
So let's take a quick look at the timeline:
--Louisville is the runaway No. 1 choice to replace Missouri in the Big 12 (The fourth-seeded Cardinals are heavily favored to dispatch of No. 8 West Virginia in the Elite Eight).
--New reports state WVU has slightly nudged ahead of U of L for that title (Mike Gansey and Kevin Pittsnoggle get off to an unexpectedly hot start from beyond the arc).
--West Virginia to the Big 12 is a done deal (The 'Eers lead by 20).
--New reports say that efforts by Louisville have stalled the once-imminent announcement of West Virginia to the Big 12 (Larry O'Bannon and Taquan Dean are hitting everything).
--It's now a dead-heat between WVU and U of L ("O'Bannon to the buccckkkeetttt. Tie game!!").
So now we head to overtime. Francisco Garcia may have fouled out (football program isn't back yet), Taquan's groin injury might be flaring up (some high-profile Big 12 folks obviously favor the 'Eers), but we've got the momentum.
I could've also gone '06 blackout here. Either way, the ending's the same.
I hate this. But I hate it a lot less than I did 24 hours ago.
A late push by Louisville has put political pressure on the Big 12 and opened the possibility of Louisville’s being the university that is admitted instead of West Virginia. Two people with direct knowledge of the situation said that lobbying by the Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, including to David Boren, the president of the University of Oklahoma and a former senator, helped slow West Virginia’s admittance to the Big 12.
West Virginia officials, who called the deal "solid" late Tuesday afternoon, declined comment Wednesday.
"I think it’s 50-50 right now between West Virginia and Louisville," one of the people with direct knowledge said. The other added that it was "too close to call."