Vin Parise of College Basketball Talk caught up with Minnesota head coach Richard Pitino, whose Golden Gophers visit No. 14 Iowa Sunday afternoon.
CBT: You guys were picked to finish at the bottom of the Big Ten. Are you surprised your team is 14-4 and just beat No. 11 Ohio State?
Pitino: Honestly, I really thought we were close to getting a signature win – we took Michigan State to overtime on the road and our three losses were against great competition. For us to break through vs Ohio State in front of that electric crowd was tremendous for our guys.
CBT: At what point this season did you think the team may exceed expectations?
Pitino: Early in the year, the Syracuse game in Maui showed our staff a lot. We showed a lot of heart and a ton of potential chemistry moving forward. But the Florida State win at home was our first breakthrough win. They’re a good team that has size at every position and we played great – that’s when I though we had a chance.
CBT: We’ve heard a lot about “The Barn” recently. What is like to coach and play in front of your home crowd?
Pitino: To me it’s like playing your games at Wrigley Field. There is so much tradition that is associated with the building. So many people kept telling me that I hadn’t seen the “real” Barn yet – and they were right. Our Ohio State game the other night showed what I had hoped for. This is one of the best home court atmospheres in the nation.
CBT: Describe the relationship between you and your father during the season?
Pitino: We talk all the time. He watches us play as much as he can. He even made it out here for the South Dakota State game which was great. I’m always picking his brain and asking for honest critiques of our team and that will never change.
CBT: Lastly, your thoughts on Sunday’s matchup with Iowa.
Pitino: They are easily one of the best offensive teams in the country. They have size and strength at every position and cause matchup problems for everyone they face. They’re as good as any team in our league and we’ll have to play a great game Sunday afternoon.
With the July Live Period coming to an end, it’s time for schools to starts deciding who they’re going to target, who they’re going to offer a scholarship to and who they’re going to cut bait with.
At the same time, we’re going to see a flurry of players starting whittling down the number of schools they’re actually considering.
D.J. Harvey was once considered a top ten prospect in the Class of 2017, and while the DeMatha product has seen his stock slide a bit in the last year, he’s still a top 50 player that has a number of power programs knocking on his door.
Over the weekend, he announced that he has cut his list to ten schools: Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Duke, Texas, Villanova, UConn, UCLA, Maryland, Arizona and Louisville.
Rick Pitino hopped on the air with 93.9 in Louisville recently and discussed the stuff you expect to hear a coach discuss on the radio in July.
He talked about the players that are improving (Jaylen Johnson). He talked about how he’s worried about how his team is going to score next season. He talked about the glut of big men on his roster and how none of them have done much to separate themselves from the pack.
It was all fairly typical.
But this line did catch my eye:
“Defensively, we’re going to press more than we’ve ever pressed,” Pitino said. “We’ve pressed a lot in the past but this team is very long, very athletic. I’m very bullish on this basketball team.”
Pitino’s teams have always pressed but he hasn’t been mentioned with the likes of Shaka Smart (Havoc) or Bobby Huggins (Press Virginia) because it isn’t an all-out press. Typically, the Cards run a 2-2-1 zone press that drops back to a half-zone/half-man amalgam that’s designed, in part, to confuse opponents as much as it is to force turnovers.
Is that going to change this year?
It would make some sense. This team is as athletic, long and versatile as any that he’s coached in recent memory. Think about the kind of physical tools that Ray Spalding and Jaylen Johnson and Deng Adel have. Think about what Donovan Mitchell can do if he’s allowed to ball-hawk the way Peyton Siva and Russ Smith did in the past.
This group can cause a lot of problems if they’re allowed to fly around the floor, and it sounds like Pitino may let them do just that.
Yesterday, when we released our July Live Period Superlatives, we listed Malik Williams as being the biggest stock riser in the country.
He went from being a kid that wasn’t playing in a shoe-company affiliated league in the spring to a five-star lock that has a bright future and NBA potential.
And on Monday, he announced that he has trimmed his list to eight schools:
N.C. State, Georgetown, Louisville, UCLA, Michigan State, Purdue, Iowa and Indiana.
In two seasons as a member of the Southern Miss basketball program from 2011-13, forward Jonathan Mills made an impression based on how hard he played the game. Monday afternoon it was reported that Mills was shot and killed in Chicago, not too far away from his alma mater of North Lawndale High School.
Before attending Eastern Utah CC and Southern Miss, Mills plied his trade at North Lawndale where he helped the school win a state title in 2008 and the Chicago Public League title as a senior in 2009. North Lawndale HS coach Lewis Thorpe told the Chicago Tribune that he and Mills had plans to work out at the school Monday afternoon, only for Thorpe to receive a phone call from his nephew informing him of Mills’ death.
Mills was going through workouts with his high school coach in preparation for a move overseas to play professionally.
The coach said he heard from witnesses at the scene that Mills had gone to a corner store with some friends and, when they came out, a car drove up and someone inside shot him.
“I’m so messed up. I am so shocked,” he said. “When I say he was well liked…everybody loved him.’’
Thorpe said Mills called him “Pops” when he coached him in high school.
After word of Mills’ death made the rounds many paid tribute to him via social media including Donnie Tyndall, who coached Mills at Southern Miss.
With the NCAA allowing college basketball programs to take one trip outside of the country every four years, some coaches look at it as an opportunity to get a head start on preparations for the upcoming season. Chris Mooney’s Richmond Spiders are one team taking a trip this summer, as they’re due to leave the United States for Europe on August 8 with three exhibitions scheduled for their 12-day tour.
The trip was originally scheduled to begin in France, with the Spiders spending their first week there before making stops in the Netherlands and Germany. Monday afternoon the program announced a change to the itinerary, with the Spiders now spending their first week in Ireland and not France.
“We continue to be excited about the opportunity to travel abroad this summer,” Mooney said in the release. “We were able to make some changes to our travel itinerary, and we believe that this new itinerary will give our team a great opportunity to grow together and see other parts of the world.”
It isn’t stated as the reason for the change in the release but this news comes just over a week after a man drove a truck into a crowd of people celebrating Bastille Day in Nice, claiming the lives of 84 people and leaving more than 200 others injured.
Richmond, which returns two of its top three scorers from a season ago in forward T.J. Cline and guard ShawnDre’ Jones, is schedule to return to the United States August 20. Per NCAA rules they’re also afforded the opportunity to practice for two weeks leading up to the trip, and heading to Europe can help the team build stronger connections in unfamiliar surroundings.