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Blue bloods to battle underdogs during Midwest Regional in Kansas City

Posted at 10:19 PM, Mar 24, 2019

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The field for the Midwest Regional next weekend in Kansas City, Missouri, is set.

Kentucky and Auburn are Sprint Center-bound after picking up second-round wins Saturday in the 2019 NCAA Tournament.

North Carolina and Houston joined the party with wins Sunday.

Unbelievably, the second-seeded Wildcats (29-6), who will be playing in an NCAA-record 180th tourney game, will be making their first postseason appearance in Kansas City, which has hosted more NCAA tourney games than any other city.

The closest Kentucky previously has come is four appearances in St. Louis, where the Wildcats have won seven of eight previous postseason games in the Show-Me State.

The Wildcats played in the 2005 CBE Hall of Fame Classic, splitting its two games. Coach Tubby Smith’s squad lost to Iowa and beat West Virginia at Municipal Auditorium.

Kentucky will play third-seeded Houston, which is led by former Oklahoma and Indiana coach Kelvin Sampson.

The Cougars (33-3) won the American Athletic Conference title during the regular season and also beat four NCAA tourney teams — Oregon, LSU, Saint Louis, and Utah State — during nonconference play.

Auburn (28-9), which won the SEC Tournament to earn the conference’s automatic bid, reached the regional semifinals at the expense of Kansas.

Coach Bruce Pearl’s Tigers blitzed the Jayhawks in the first half Saturday in Salt Lake City, reaching the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2003.

Auburn’s win prevented a tantalizing blue blood matchup with the Tar Heels, who are led by former Jayhawks coach Roy Williams.

Top-seeded North Carolina (29-6) has played four NCAA tourney games in Kansas City — two each in the 1957 and 2013 tournaments — but this will be the first postseason in which Kansas won’t be an opponent in the City of Fountains.

The Tar Heels and Tigers kick off the Midwest Regional semifinal action at 6:29 p.m. on Friday followed by Kentucky versus Houston around 9 p.m. The winners meet Sunday for a spot in the Final Four.