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.