CORVALLIS, Ore. -- The pitches must've been completely opposite.
Just imagine it, Geno Auriemma sits a player down in his office and the (then) seven NCAA national title trophies and countless All-American banners seem to suffocate the room with excellence. The 2010-11 team -- which was playing while Auriemma recruited this year's batch of seniors -- would lose just one game during the regular season and when it ended in the Final Four it would be considered a major disappointment. Because Connecticut is Connecticut. It is Diana Taurasi. It is Maya Moore. It is a place where perfection has not only been discovered but farmed consistently. That was what Auriemma could sell.
And then there was Oregon State coach Scott Rueck, whose office contained no banner or titles that he had won in his one year at the program. For the 2012 signing class, his first class for which he had the full recruiting cycle, he could only sit in his office pitching a vision. Because there were no results to give recruits and their families. And the Beavers' 2010-11 team? They were fast on their way to a nine-win season (just two in conference play). Yes, come here, come to this place.
"In recruiting you have to find all those little niches and you're looking for anybody who's a) interested, b) capable, and c) wants to share your vision," Rueck said. "Fortunately there was talent in the Northwest that year that was willing to listen to us."
That Northwest talent that listened -- Oregon State's senior class -- has now taken the Beavers to their first Final Four appearance in program history. On Sunday, they'll match up with UConn seniors who are 149-5 during their college careers, have won three consecutive national titles and are on a 73-game win streak.
Oregon State's seniors once lost eight games in a single month.
But this, they say, is their greatest strength. This is their fuel. That they have brought their team and their coach, in his sixth season at the helm of the program, to this place that as recruits they said they would. Not despite their 10-win freshman season and the constant building, but because of it.
"We've been through it all and all those losses are all lessons that have built us to this point," senior Ruth Hamblin said. "If we didn't have those, we wouldn't be here today."
On signing day in 2012 Auriemma inked three of the top six players in the country in Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck. Stewart and Jefferson were the Nos. 1 and 2 recruits, respectively.
Oregon State signed two players outside the top 100 -- Jamie Weisner and Samantha Siegner. Rueck says he got his foot in the door with both because of family connections -- both Weisner's father and Siegner's aunt went to George Fox University, where Rueck had previously coached and won a Division III national championship in 2009. Deven Hunter was a local kid who played with Siegner. Hamblin, who has become the Beavers' star center, was a player who Rueck jokes "didn't know how to play coming in. She didn't. She was just big."
The Beavers' biggest signee -- Weisner -- couldn't garner national interest. She had "maybe five" offers outside of the Pac-12, she said.
During Oregon State's freshman season -- as Connecticut went on to win its eighth national title -- the Beavers won just 10 games. Weisner admits that there were moments when she questioned whether the distance between Rueck's vision and the reality of where the program was could be possibly be too great to cover in just three more seasons.
"That was definitely challenging as far as coming in as freshmen," Weisner said. "We had all this hope and we didn't think our season was going to be like that. ... It did seem kind of far out."
The following year the Beavers made the NCAA tournament, their first appearance in nearly two decades, and as juniors, with Rueck's first true recruiting class leading the way, the Beavers won the Pac-12 title, the first in program history.
Now, Oregon State is a program mentioned among the elites of the sport. Just three seasons after the Beavers ended their 2012-13 campaign on a 12-1 skid they've built up a program that has won its 34 games this season by a margin of 19 points. So far in this NCAA tournament they've taken down a 15 seed, a No. 10 seed, a 6 seed and No. 1 seed.
On Tuesday, following their Monday night win over Baylor, the group was welcomed back to Corvallis at an event that hundreds attended. Community members crowded the tent to get a peek at the Dallas Region trophy and the nets hanging around the necks of Hamblin and Hunter. University president Ed Ray and athletic director Todd Stansbury both spoke as fans held up signs with players' faces.
"Scott had a vision on what this could become and then he got these seniors to see the vision with him," Stansbury said during his speech to the crowd. "They have set the foundation for what will be the West Coast dynasty in women's basketball."