DAYTON, Ohio (AP) — When the Buckeyes board their bus at University of Dayton Arena and make those two quick right turns to get on Interstate 75 north, they'll either be on their way home for good or heading off to someplace entirely new for them.
The second-seeded Buckeyes (27-7) are one win away from reaching the NCAA tournament's round of 16 for the fourth year in a row, something they've never done in their storied basketball history. In their way is 10th-seeded Iowa State (23-11), a team that will test all areas of a defense that has been Ohio State's strength down the stretch.
The winner heads to Los Angeles to face whoever is left in the West Regional and its upset-filled bracket.
"All we've talked about this week with our guys is the two games in Dayton," coach Thad Matta said Saturday. "Hopefully on the bus ride home, we're saying, 'OK, this is the next opponent, and these are the four teams that are there.'"
The West already has provided several of the tournament's double-take moments. No. 3 New Mexico, No. 4 Kansas State and No. 5 Wisconsin lost their opening games, wiping out the top of the bracket. No. 1 Gonzaga and Ohio State are the top two still standing.
It wouldn't be a shock if the Buckeyes failed to make the trip West. They've been knocked out during Matta's two tournament appearances in Dayton, which is only an hour and 15 minutes away from their Columbus campus. Even though they had thousands of fans providing a home-court feel, they couldn't survive the first weekend.
They were a No. 2 seed — just like this year — when they lost to Georgetown in the second round in 2006 on a day of upsets in Dayton. Defending national champion North Carolina also lost in the blue-and-red arena that year. The Buckeyes lost a double-overtime game to Siena in 2009, when they were an eighth seed in Dayton.
Neither of those teams had the versatility and defense that this one brings into Sunday's game against the nation's top 3-point shooting team, which spreads out and tries to attack from everywhere on the floor. The Cyclones were at their best during a 76-58 win over Notre Dame on Friday night, taking only 21 shots from behind the arc. With the Fighting Irish concentrating so much on those perimeter shooters, Iowa State took the ball inside and dominated from the outset.