On how Mbakwe has grown as a player over the years :
"He's more patient in the post. We have really seen him become patient this year in getting what he wants. He's a difference maker, and we knew he would become one since high school. He missed so many games his first year at Marquette due to injury but he still impacted the game once he got on the floor. He's got real maturity on the court along with his patience and he's playing extremely hard. He's adding things to his game, especially the pick-and-roll--sometimes he slips, sometimes he rolls, he spreads out and seals. He has always been a tough-minded, very physical player, and now he's just that much more so. I've always thought he would be a professional and nothing's ever changed my mind on that, even with the injury. I have no doubt he will play in the NBA for a long time, and deservedly so. He's as hard a match up as there is in the league."
On how good an offensive rebounding team Minnesota is:
"They're the best in the country according to the statistics. They're relentless. They're very, very aggressive. They do it off transition, they do it off their regular half-court offense, and they are incredible off the free throw line, and we have got to be locked in fully to all those aspects. They lead the league in rebound margin by a long shot so they're rebounding on both ends. When they go to the bench the guys they put in know their role- they have to get rebounds.
(Joe) Coleman is an outstanding rebounder and it helps to have two guys like Trevor Mbakwe and Rodney Williams that are averaging a little over six offensive rebounds between the two of them. There are not many teams in the country that have two guys at that level. A team might have players with four and two, but three and three is a lot of offensive boards in a game. They just never stop going. If you don't meet them first they are going to put you under and out of bounds. They are very, very aggressive. It is a complete fist fight when the shot goes up when they're playing and we have to be the same way."
On how Minnesota's depth is a challenge:
"That's what they had last year. Even without Trevor, they played a lot of guys and it served them well in the season and it served them well in the NIT. They are a team that always improves. I thought for a long time that, even before he got to Minnesota, Tubby Smith was a Hall of Fame coach. I don't know when he would be up for the ballot but there should be no question. Tubby impacts the game in a lot of ways. I don't think Tubby's teams get as much credit as they should for how much they improve from both year to year as well as in the season.
"There is not a huge drop off when they go to the bench. Their starters do such a great job of scoring the ball but when it comes to hard play, effort, and transition offense and defense, there is not a big difference between the starters and those coming off the bench."
On if Minnesota's athletic frontcourt won't be as advantageous against Indiana because of the athleticism of IU's frontcourt as well:
"We would like to think that we are similar. Cody is seven-foot but he is pretty aggressive. In college basketball, Minnesota might not have prototype size in their frontcourt, but when you take the height out and you look at their length, their leverage, and their quickness, their frontline doesn't take a backseat to anyone. Trevor's wingspan is incredible and I don't know Rodney William's off the top of my head but I'm sure it's pretty big. They have a real relentlessness to them and there's no doubt that Mbakwe makes such a huge difference in their lineup. If you take what he is doing and combine it with how improved they all are and the commitment level they have to rebounding, it's incredible. They're really good at helping each other on defense, not only on their one-on-one match-ups, but in their help defense as well. They have really grown as a team and I like watching them because they play so hard. We fully know what we are in for tomorrow. That was the only home loss we had a year ago and we've had some great battles with them. I don't think our freshmen are quite aware of what they're in for yet and that might play into it. They don't have a freshman playing and we're going to play three of them so that will factor into the game. That's not something we can worry about though, we just have to go out and play."
On whether he saw at the beginning of the year how good Minnesota was going to be:
"Absolutely, and not because I'm a prophet, but because you can just tell. Trevor Mbakwe is too good of a player. The improvement of those guys, however, has been a huge factor. When you look at the confidence that Hollins has and the way that Rodney Williams has continued to develop and add it with the fact that Coleman is so tough, aggressive and athletic, it makes them such a deep team. They are not deep just because they are older and have numbers, they are deep because they have an understanding of what it takes to win at a high level. They've been through some battles. It's not like anybody in this game can say that they have an advantage in one area. They've been in a few closer games and are a little older than us but we are both deep, both play good defense, both want to get out in transition, and it's going to come down to shot selection, rebounding, and decision making."
On the challenges that Minnesota presents:
"It's going to be one of the toughest games all year. Obviously, with the teams they've beat already they've already proved themselves, they're a very tough team. They have a lot of guys that can hurt you in a lot of different ways. We got our work cut out for us."
On what last year's game in Assembly Hall means to the team:
"Not a whole lot, they had it on in the locker room today. They aren't going to be afraid of the atmosphere here. We play well at home but they beat us here last year, so it's not going to be too much of an advantage for us."
On what makes Trevor Mbakwe so good:
"He's very talented. I have heard he's one of the strongest guys we will face this year, just from talking to these guys that have played against him. He's very strong, athletic, he posts up really low. He's talented. They definitely missed him last year."
On staring conference play with two road games:
"The Big Ten is tough no matter where you play. We just take the hand that is dealt to us and try to work with it. Every team is good, whether you're playing home or away. Every game is good."
On Minnesota being a strong rebounding team:
"They're relentless on the glass. Not only (Rodney) Williams and Mbakwe, but their guards rebound well. They hurt us a lot last year in here on offensive rebounds. They're one of the best in the country at rebounding, offensive and defensive. They have a lot of guys that can rebound, they go every time. It's definitely one of their strengths."
On the size that Minnesota can bring in off the bench:
"It does help them a lot. With having Mbakwe out last year, those guys have played good minutes just because he was out last year. They have three or four guys that could start on that basketball team and it definitely helps them out."
On how Minnesota has improved from last season:
"They've gotten a lot better since last year. The point guard, Andre Hollins, is doing a great job. He had a forty point game this year. Austin Hollins hit five 3-pointers against Northwestern. (Joe) Coleman had 29 the other night against Illinois. That just shows you that they are all capable of scoring at a high level and we're going to have to do a great job at slowing them down on the perimeter."
On the anticipation for this game with two Top 10 teams playing each other:
"You know, probably a little bit. It's a huge game, it's a big game for us and it's a big game for them. Like you said, its two top ten teams and it's in the Big Ten. It doesn't get any more high level than that."
On playing a big game like this at home:
"It helps us a lot. We're going to have the crowd; the students are here, it's not break anymore. Even though the crowds were still pretty cool over break. But we have the students and they're just as anxious as we are to get the game rolling. It's going to be a fun atmosphere; It's going to be the first Big Ten home game for our freshmen and they are going to see how intense it is and how fun it is. I know they're looking forward to it and so are we."
On playing games more frequently now that conference play has started:
"Oh yeah it's nice. We get to play and get ready to play and all these guys are excited to play. It seems like we have two long of weeks getting prepared for these games. It's all been fun now it's starting to get rolling for real so we are looking forward to it."