Robert Morris will face undefeated Notre Dame in Women's NCAA Tournament
The Robert Morris women's basketball team gathered for the NCAA Tournament Selection Show viewing party at Sewall Center on Monday, and the Colonials cheered when they learned they would not face undefeated Connecticut.
That was at the beginning of the broadcast, however, and the longer they waited, the more apparent it became that their opponent would be every bit as daunting.
A No. 16 seed, Robert Morris (21-11) will face top seed Notre Dame (32-0) at 1:30 p.m. Saturday in Toledo, Ohio. The Fighting Irish are ranked No. 2 in the country.
“We watch Notre Dame on TV all the time, and now we're actually going to play them,” senior forward Artemis Spanou said. “It is exciting.”
Robert Morris, which beat St. Francis (Pa.) to win the Northeast Conference Tournament on Sunday, isn't the only team from the region with a spot in the tournament.
West Virginia (29-4, ranked No. 7 in the Associated Press poll) earned a No. 2 seed — highest in school history — and will face No. 15 Albany (28-4) in Baton Rouge, La., in the first round at 3 p.m. Sunday. The other matchup in Baton Rouge will be No. 7 seed LSU versus No. 10 Georgia Tech. This is the Mountaineers' 10th tournament appearance and fifth consecutive.
“Without a doubt, we're the highest seed we've ever been since I've been here. But that doesn't absolutely mean you're going to win,” coach Mike Carey said. “We're going to have to go there and play well. I don't know anything about Albany, but by midnight tonight, I'll know everything about Albany.”
No. 14 Penn State (22-7) received a No. 3 seed and will host No. 14 Wichita State (26-6) at 12:30 p.m. Sunday at Bryce Jordan Center. No. 11 Florida will face No. 6 Dayton following the Penn State game.
In addition to Connecticut and Notre Dame, the other two No. 1 seeds are Tennessee (27-5) and South Carolina (27-4).
This is the Colonials' first appearance in the tournament since 2008, the second of back-to-back seasons. As a No. 15 seed in 2008 they lost to No. 2 Rutgers, 85-42. In 2007, as a No. 13 seed, they lost to No. 4 N.C. State, 84-52, in their first appearance in the tournament.
Spanou, who is from Greece and is one of six international players on the Colonials' roster, said she didn't know anything about the tournament when she arrived on campus.
“After my freshman year was done and I was watching all the games on TV, I was like, ‘Wow, that would be a great experience to be part of,' ” Spanou said. “All these celebrations and everything. I wanted to make it and finally, senior year, we're at the Dance.”
Freshman Anna Niki Stamolamprou, also from Greece, said she knew about the tournament before she got to the United States.
“But I couldn't imagine, when I came here, that we're going to play against Notre Dame in the NCAA Tournament,” she said. “It's unbelievable.”
Coach Sal Buscaglia said it is a David versus Goliath situation. Notre Dame, which has Mt. Lebanon graduate Madison Cable on its roster, averages 87 points, second in the country, with a scoring margin of plus-25.6.
“You have to play who they give you,” Buscaglia said. “It's certainly a big challenge. There's no question. Their goal is a national title and anything short of that, I'm sure, they're going to be disappointed.”
Spanou said that as underdogs, they shouldn't have any pressure.
“When you get on the court you can't say, ‘Ooh, it's Notre Dame, we can't do anything,' ” Spanou said. “Otherwise we wouldn't even go out there. It would be like, ‘OK, you win the game. We're not going to show up.' We're going to go out there and do whatever we can and just play and enjoy it.”