MORGANTOWN — The bulk of West Virginia’s basketball schedule for next season now seems set. And once again, it’s not an easy one.
The Big 12 announced Wednesday the pairings for the SEC-Big 12 Challenge, sending West Virginia against LSU at the Coliseum. That game will be played Dec. 4.
With the addition of LSU, West Virginia now has non-conference games against at least four power conference teams. The Mountaineers will play at home against Virginia Tech, on the road at Purdue and a neutral-site game against North Carolina State Dec. 20 at Madison Square Garden.
In addition, WVU is also scheduled to play three games in the Puerto Rico Tipoff tournament Nov. 20-23 in San Juan. Although pairings have not been announced, the other seven teams in that field include defending national champion Connecticut, Dayton, New Mexico, Texas A&M, Boston College, George Mason and the College of Charleston.
Add in the annual game with Marshall in Charleston and the 18 Big 12 games, and that’s 26 of the allowed 31 games. All or most of the remaining games are likely to be against mid-majors at home or in Charleston.
This is the second year the Big 12 and SEC have scheduled a series of games between its members. West Virginia lost its game at Missouri, but the Big 12 won the overall challenge, 7-3.
LSU was 20-14 last season and went 1-1 in the National Invitation Tournament. The Tigers lose their leading scorer from last season, but return two double-digit freshman scorers from last season and have a four-star recruit coming in.
West Virginia and LSU have played twice, in 2004 and 2005, with each winning on the other’s home floor. WVU won 84-69 at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center in 2004, while LSU won 71-68 in overtime at the Coliseum a year later in a game between two eventual NCAA tournament teams. LSU reached the Final Four that year and WVU the Sweet 16.
All of the games in the SEC-Big 12 Challenge will be played Dec. 3-6 and will be televised by one of the ESPN networks. The rest of the schedule includes Auburn at Texas Tech, Arkansas at Iowa State, Baylor at Vanderbilt, TCU at Mississippi, Florida at Kansas, Missouri at Oklahoma, Texas at Kentucky, Kansas State at Tennessee and Oklahoma State at South Carolina.
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ESPN reported Wednesday that former WVU guard Eron Harris has been contacted by Michigan coach John Beilein about possibly transferring to the Wolverines.
Harris was given his release by West Virginia when he completed the spring semester and is free to speak to potential suitors. The guard, who must sit out next season as a transfer, will have two years of eligibility remaining beginning in 2015-16. He averaged 17.2 points per game for the Mountaineers last season, but said he wanted to transfer closer to his home.
Harris is from Indianapolis. He is also expected to get looks from many other top programs.
Harris’ father, Eric Harris, told the Indianapolis Star Wednesday that his son was looking for the right fit, something he apparently didn’t find with Bob Huggins and WVU.
“We respected coach Huggins’ coaching style but it probably wasn’t the right fit,’’ the elder Harris said. “Looking for that right fit as far as a coach goes is the biggest thing.’’
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Harris also used his Twitter account Wednesday to raise some questions with WVU fans when he tweeted that he’d been given his release by the school and that he “Can’t wait until my boy Remi gets his,’’ presumably meaning former teammate Remi Dibo.
Sources Wednesday night, though, said Dibo has never discussed transferring, in part because next year will be his fifth in college, which means he could not sit out a year somewhere as a transfer and still have eligibility without an NCAA waiver. And Dibo has not graduated, so transferring under those circumstances is not an option.
Dibo has discussed the possibility of playing professionally in Europe, but has not told Huggins of any concrete plans to do so.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/dphickman1