Robert Morris women to face No. 1 Connecticut in NCAA tournament
March 14, 2016 8:05 PM
The tournament appearance will be the final one for longtime Robert Morris coach Sal Buscaglia, who will retire at the end of the season, his 13th at the university and 38th as a head coach.
By Craig Meyer / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Charlie Buscaglia didn’t experience a brush with God in the summer of 2015, but considering Geno Auriemma’s standing in the world of women’s college basketball, it was the next-closest thing.
The Robert Morris assistant women’s basketball coach sat next to the legendary Connecticut coach on a flight to Chicago, where they were both going to watch an AAU tournament. Upon landing, the two went out to dinner, where they stayed out late talking game strategy, practice drills and the nuances of running a program.
Not once did it cross his mind that his team would playing Auriemma’s mighty Huskies in the not-too-distant future. Nearly a year later, it became a reality as the Colonials (20-12), one day removed from capturing a Northeast Conference title, drew a No. 16 seed and a matchup against the three-time defending national champions Saturday in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
With Charlie’s father and boss, Robert Morris head coach Sal Buscaglia, retiring at the end of the season, it’s a pairing that’s equal parts daunting and inspiring.
“It’s only his last game if he loses, right?” Charlie said.
“I think this has been said to him 100 times. After a while he gets to where he says ‘Everyone keeps saying this is my last game’ and we kept winning. So he kept saying ‘This is always my last game’.
“Now, you’re looking at Connecticut and you say ‘Coach, this really is your last game’. I don’t think he’s thought about it.”
The NCAA tournament appearance is the program’s fourth, all of which have come in Buscaglia’s 13-year tenure, and its second in the past three years.
The Colonials’ opponent in the previous trip, Notre Dame, was who many thought they would draw this time around. Instead, they have to play the tournament’s No. 1 overall seed, a program that has won 109 of its past 110 games.
The Huskies (32-0) are seeking to become the first women’s program in NCAA history to win four consecutive titles.
Another championship would give Auriemma his 11th, helping him move past John Wooden for the most in college basketball.
“He’s up there with John Wooden and all the other greatest coaches who have ever existed in any sport,” Sal said. “He’s done unbelievable things I can’t see anyone else ever matching.”
Robert Morris has played on the road against major-conference teams this season, but nothing that could prepare them for having to face perhaps the most overpowering juggernaut in the sport’s history on its own court in Storrs. For a team that battled back from a 14-12 record to get to where it is now, it’s an obstacle it savors.
“We could have gotten a 15 seed and gotten a better game or a better chance, but at the end of the day, we’re playing against the best,” guard Ashley Ravelli said. “Why not?”
Craig Meyer: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @CraigMeyerPG
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