Three keys to Robert Morris’ women’s basketball season ...
1. WORKING BACK FROM INJURIES
Like any projection, Robert Morris’ status as Northeast Conference preseason favorite is based on potential. After two of the Colonials’ top players, forward Jolie Olingende and guard Lou Mataly, missed much of 2012-13 with torn knee ligaments, the assumption is that they will return at full strength and immediately be the players they once were. But that’s not always the case, especially for Mataly, who suffered the injury in conference play and is still in the recovery process. In addition to intense physical rehabilitation, there’s also a psychological component to it, something that essentially makes two of the team’s top players big questions early on this season.
2. OUTSIDE SHOOTING
The Colonials were a solid outside shooting team in 2012-13, fifth in the NEC in 3-point shooting at 30.8 percent. They will need to maintain that kind of success, and likely improve on it, if they want to get the most out of their biggest (no pun intended) asset — center Artemis Spanou, the conference’s preseason player of the year. If Robert Morris is converting its outside shots, that will spread the floor and keep defenses honest, possibly even reducing the double teams Spanou had to go against in 2012-13.
3. THE NON-CONFERENCE SLATE
With a handful of new players and several recovering from major injuries, the first half of Robert Morris’ schedule will be critical for the team to come together and find some kind of identity and rhythm. For a team in a one-bid league for the NCAA tournament, the non-conference portion of a schedule can only mean so much, but Robert Morris went 1-10 in games outside the NEC in 2012-13, putting it behind the proverbial eight ball. If nothing else, a strong non-conference showing can prepare the Colonials for the point when games start to matter more.
AT A GLANCE
• 2012-13: 7-22 overall, 6-12 Northeast Conference.
• COACH: Sal Buscaglia, 11th season, 167-138.
• PROBABLE STARTERS: G — Randi Jackson, So., 5-6 (3.1 ppg, 3.1 apg); G — Ashley Ravelli, So., 5-10 (10.4 ppg, 34.9 percent 3-point shooting); F — Kelly Hartwell, Sr., 5-10 (7.8 ppg, 4.3 rpg); F — Jolie Olingende, Sr., 6-1 (NA); C — Artemis Spanou, Sr., 6-0 (19.1 ppg, 15.6 rpg).
• SCHEDULE (home games in caps)
NOVEMBER — 8, HOFSTRA, 7 p.m.; 12, MARSHALL, 10 a.m.; 17, COPPIN STATE, 5 p.m.; 23, UMBC, 1:30 p.m.; 29, NORTHERN KENTUCKY, 1:30 p.m.; 30, WINTHROP, 4 p.m.
DECEMBER — 7, Niagara, 2 p.m.; 14, COLGATE, 5 p.m.; 18, Duquesne, 7 p.m.; 21, CORNELL, 1:30 p.m.; 29, Virginia Tech, 2 p.m.
JANUARY — 4, Central Connecticut State, 1 p.m.; 6, Sacred Heart, 7 p.m.; 11, BRYANT, 1:30 p.m.; 13, FAIRLEIGH DICKINSON, 7 p.m.; 18, SAINT FRANCIS, Pa., 1:30 p.m.; 20, WAGNER, 2 p.m.; 25 at LIU Brooklyn, 2 p.m.; 27, Fairleigh Dickinson, 7 p.m.
FEBRUARY — 1, Mount St. Mary’s, 5 p.m.; 3, Wagner, 7 p.m.; 8, SAINT FRANCIS (NY), 4 p.m.; 10, SACRED HEART, 7 p.m.; 15, CENTRAL CONNECTICUT STATE, 1 p.m.; 17, LIU BROOKLYN, 7 p.m.; 22, Bryant, 1 p.m.; 24, St. Francis, N.Y.
MARCH — 1, Saint Francis, Pa., 3 p.m.; 3, MOUNT ST. MARY’S, 7 p.m.