KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Nobody stepping onto the floor for Auburn in the Midwest Region semifinals on Sunday was recruited by Kentucky, the lone team standing in the way of the Tigers’ first trip to the Final Four.

Nor were they recruited by Kansas. Or North Carolina.

Yet the fifth-seeded Tigers have already knocked off the Jayhawks and Tar Heels during their joyful romp through the NCAA tournament. And if they manage to send Big Blue Nation and its roster loaded with NBA prospects back to Lexington, Coach Bruce Pearl’s plucky bunch of overachievers will have brought down the three winningest programs in college basketball history.

Never has that been accomplished in an NCAA tournament.

“I wasn’t recruited by any of those schools, but I feel like everybody is beatable,” said Tigers forward Horace Spencer, who might best encapsulate the dichotomy between the two programs.

Kentucky (30-6) is led by three freshman starters and a dominant sophomore in P.J. Washington, all of whom are likely first-round draft picks. In fact, Keldon Johnson, Ashton Hagans and EJ Montgomery had offers from Pearl – and strongly considered Auburn – before Wildcats Coach John Calipari swooped into the picture and offered them an opportunity to play at his NBA factory.

The trigger-happy Tigers (29-9), on the other hand, are comprised of overlooked, underappreciated guards and big men like Spencer, who has developed over four long years into a valuable player.

Together, they have the Tigers on the brink of history.

“It’s bigger than basketball for us. Really, we’re doing it for Auburn, because Auburn doesn’t have that historic, winning tradition,” Spencer explained. “It really feels good to see all the happy faces, all the smiles we’re bringing to Auburn, you feel me? It feels good to make this history.”

• The Tigers’ run at history will be hampered by the loss of forward Chuma Okeke, who will miss the remainder of the tournament after tearing the ACL in his left knee late in the victory over North Carolina.

DUKE: Freshman forward Cam Reddish will be a game-time decision for the team’s game Sunday against Michigan State because of a knee injury.

Reddish was a late scratch for the Blue Devils’ Sweet 16 win over Virginia Tech because of the injury, which he says has been bother him for some time.

NEBRASKA: Fred Hoiberg, the former NBA player who coached Iowa State and the Chicago Bulls, was hired Saturday to coach a Nebraska team that had big hopes this season but finished with a 19-17 record and out of the NCAA tournament yet again.

Hoiberg has strong ties to the school, which announced his hiring four days after seventh-year coach Tim Miles was fired.

Hoiberg, dismissed by the Bulls in in December, agreed to a seven-year contract paying a total of $25 million.

The 46-year-old Hoiberg was born in Lincoln and maternal grandfather Jerry Bush was the Cornhuskers coach from 1954 to 1963. His paternal grandfather was a professor at Nebraska and his parents are graduates of the school.


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