The Gophers men’s basketball team is a few weeks away from the start of the regular season, but the first true game test will come Saturday in a secret scrimmage at Creighton.
Aside from being a chance for Minnesota to compete against an opponent other than teammates in practice, it is expected to be the first game action for big man Eric Curry in more than a year.
The 6-foot-9, 240-pound redshirt sophomore could be fully cleared to play in the scrimmage, sources told the Star Tribune. Last August, Curry tore his ACL, MCL and meniscus in a pickup game before the fall semester forcing him to miss the 2017-18 season.
Curry made a full recovery and was ready to be cleared this fall, but a calf strain caused him to be sidelined for the start of practice this season. With the departure of centers Reggie Lynch, Bakary Konate and Gaston Diedhiou, the Gophers will likely look to Curry to start in the middle alongside All-Big Ten senior forward Jordan Murphy.
Murphy and Curry played together in the frontcourt two seasons ago when Curry was a freshman on the NCAA tournament team in 2017. The Memphis native averaged 5.5 points, 5.2 rebounds and shot 70 percent from the foul line in 20 minutes per game.
“For him, it’s mental,” Pitino said last week about Curry. “Whenever you’re wearing a knee brace you’re going to think about it a little bit. So I think the more game reps he gets, the more comfortable he’ll feel. The calf strain set him back two weeks, but he’s starting to look really good. If we can get him by (the Nov. 6 season opener against Nebraska Omaha) mentally feeling great, the physical will take care of itself.”
On Saturday, freshmen Daniel Oturu, Gabe Kalscheur, Jarvis Omersa and transfer Brock Stull could make their Gophers debut.
Many Division I basketball programs play one exhibition against a lower division opponent at home and also schedule what’s known as a secret scrimmage vs. an opponent from their level. Box scores and recaps can now be released after the game, but the teams can’t announce the scrimmage or open it for fans and media to attend.
Big Ten secret scrimmages for 2018-19 (per WatchStadium.com's Jeff Goodman):
Illinois – 10/27 vs. Vanderbilt
Indiana – 10/28 vs. Loyola Chicago at Bankers Life in Indianapolis
Iowa – 10/28 vs. Missouri at Quincy University (Illinois)
Maryland – 10/20 at George Mason
Michigan – 10/27 at Toledo
Michigan State – 10/27 vs Gonzaga in Minneapolis
Minnesota – 10/20 at Creighton
Nebraska – 10/21 at Iowa State
Northwestern – 10/28 vs. Marquette
Ohio State – 10/27 vs. Xavier
Penn State – 10/27 vs. Temple in Harrisburg; 11/3 at West Virginia (Charity game)
Purdue – 10/27 vs. West Virginia in Columbus, Ohio
Rutgers – 10/20 at Towson; 10/27 vs. Yale
Wisconsin – 10/28 vs. Iowa State in Platteville