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“You hear of Tobacco Road, but this region is as powerful and basketball-committed as any in the country. It’s there for everybody to see at this point based on how the tournament has played out.”

Ohio’s still-standing schools may seem so dissimilar, but there’s less than six degrees of separation between them. Xavier has a hand in much of that.

Buckeyes coach Thad Matta emerged as an up-and-coming coach at Butler _ which plays in Hinkle Fieldhouse, where “Hoosiers” was filmed _ with John Groce as an assistant. They moved on to Xavier together, then to Ohio State. Groce then made the 90-minute trip to the southeast corner of the state to become the Bobcats’ coach.

Current Xavier coach Chris Mack and Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin grew up in the city, attending Catholic high schools that play in the same conference.

At various times, they’ve all shared a path.

“The fact that so many have come through Xavier at some point of time _ there’s a lot of pride in that, honestly,” Bobinski said. “We feel good for their success. We appreciate what they added to Xavier while they were here. The fact that they’re running their own programs and are doing a great job is terrific.

“This week’s unique success is validation for how talented those guys are. They’re proving it.”

At least one of them will be gone on Thursday. Ohio State plays Cincinnati in Boston, a rematch on the 50th anniversary of the Bearcats beating the Buckeyes in the national championship game for the second year in a row.

Just as Ohio provided a memorable start to the tournament, it’ll get the second weekend going in a fitting way.

“I have great respect for their program,” Cronin said of Ohio State. “Other than that, they’re the next team we play. You know, these guys have a goal. We have a goal: We get in the tournament to win it. I want my guys thinking that way because I believe in them.

“It’s important that they know that I believe we’re capable of winning the whole tournament.”

At this point, no one would be shocked if an Ohio team is the last one standing.