MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The Gophers are back in the NCAA Tournament, and what a matchup it is. They’ll face Louisville in Des Moines, Iowa, on Thursday in the opening round.

What do you do when you get great news in the worst possible way? You smile and cheer and clap.

Louisville is probably the last team Gophers coach Richard Pitino wanted to play. His father is Louisville’s former head coach, and Pitino himself used to coach there as an assistant. Pitino’s father is currently suing Louisville for $44 million dollars alleging breach of contract.

But Pitino said he’ll never complain about getting to play in the NCAA Tournament.

“I don’t get to choose. If I did, I’d want a 1 seed in Minnesota. I’m grateful to be a part of this. I’m lucky. I’m 36 years old, I’m the head coach at a great place,” Pitino said. “There’s not going to be one complaint from me, you’ll never hear it because I’m really grateful to be a part of it.”

“To me, the story is about our players and our program. And how the adversity they fought through,” Pitino added. “I don’t think too many people would have picked them to go to the NCAA Tournament this year. There was a lot of uncertainty.”

Indeed, the Gophers were picked to finish 9th in the Big Ten this season. They’ve outperformed that.

Minnesota, of course, is still seeking its first NCAA Tournament win since 2013, the year before Pitino took over as coach.

Thursday’s game tips off at 11:15 a.m. central time – a game you can watch right here on WCCO.

David McCoy

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