The Latest on the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament (all times local):
Chuma Okeke’s presence is still being at the Final Four, even though the Auburn standout was forced to stay behind after having surgery Tuesday to repair the torn ACL in his left knee.
Several teammates have written his initials or number on their gear, and Okeke’s locker remained empty when the Tigers arrived Thursday. Samir Doughty took advantage of that fact by lounging in it while dozens of reporters packed into the cramped dressing room.
Okeke was having a big game in the Tigers’ semifinal win over North Carolina when his knee buckled underneath the basket. He was planning to watch his team’s regional final against Kentucky from his hotel room but changed his mind, arriving in a wheelchair to watch the second half near the bench.
Dr. James Andrews performed the surgery this week in Florida.
— Dave Skretta reporting from Minneapolis
Auburn beat the bluest of blue blood programs on the way to the Final Four. The Tigers knocked off Kansas, North Carolina and Kentucky in their last three games. The last team to do that was Arizona in 1997, when the Wildcats won the NCAA title.
The fifth-seeded Tigers have been the lower seeded team in their last three games, embracing their underdog status. Forward Daniel Purifoy said he has had a group of friends letting him know the chances some advanced metrics have been giving Auburn to win throughout the tournament. It was 37% to beat North Carolina, 39% to beat Kentucky and now it’s 7% to win the NCAA championship, Purifoy said.
“We’re not going to go out there and play like we’re a 7% team. We’re going to go out there and play like we’re one of the top seeds in the tournament,” said Purifoy.
Fans at the Final Four in Minneapolis will find a special food item in honor of each team. Aramark, the concessionaire for U.S. Bank Stadium, announced the signature snacks for the games this weekend.
For Auburn, there are “Tiger Paw Pork Skins,” fried and topped with spicy mayonnaise and green onion.
For Michigan State, there’s the “Spartan Coney Dog,” an all-beef dog with onions, mustard and savory sauce.
For Texas Tech, there’s the “Big Tex Nacho,” a bowl of nachos topped with chili, sour cream, guacamole and salsa.
And for Virginia, there are “Wahoo Shrimp and Grits,” with a creamy red sauce.
— Dave Campbell reporting from Minneapolis
Auburn, Virginia, Michigan State and Texas Tech have arrived in Minneapolis for the Final Four.
Teams will practice on Thursday and hold open-to-the-public workouts on Friday. The national semifinals are on Saturday, when Auburn faces Virginia and Michigan State takes on Texas Tech. The championship game is on Monday.
The last time Minneapolis hosted the Final Four was in 2001, when Duke beat Arizona for the title at the Metrodome. That stadium was torn down in 2014 to make room for U.S. Bank Stadium, the $1.1 billion building that opened in 2016.
Michigan State was in the Final Four in 2001, too, one of 10 times the Spartans have made it. Virginia is making its third appearance. Auburn and Texas Tech are first-timers.
More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/MarchMadness and https://twitter.com/AP—Top25