You won't find any boxscore on the Gophers men's basketball team's only game so far this fall against a high-major opponent. It was supposed to be secret. Shhh.
The closed scrimmage — a common preseason measuring stick for college basketball teams — took place at Oklahoma on Oct. 23. There were no spectators and no official stats or game result.
Word is it was a one-sided affair in the Big 12 team's favor, but first-year Gophers coach Ben Johnson saw the game as "exactly what we needed" to help a newcomer-laden team with almost no high-major experience face competition similar to the Big Ten.
"I wanted these guys to see that," Johnson said. "This is what Power Five, high-major basketball looks like. This is what it sounds like. This is what it feels like. … They needed to see it early."
After a 5-0 start this year, the Gophers now officially play their first power league foe Tuesday at Pittsburgh (2-4) in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
On a rebuilt roster filled mostly with mid-major transfers, there are only two Gophers players who have ever played for one of the six high-major conferences before this season: Seniors Eric Curry and Payton Willis.
"It's going to take a max effort for 40 minutes," Johnson said. "It's going to have that Big Ten feel, that Big Ten intensity."
With a strength of schedule ranked 319th nationally by ESPN.com, the Gophers will be the only Big Ten team that hasn't played a power conference opponent Tuesday night when they take the court at Pitt's Petersen Events Center. It's obviously not a headlining matchup in the challenge.
The Panthers were picked to finish last in the ACC. The Gophers were projected bottom feeders in the Big Ten, but they are treating this as the biggest game so far on their schedule.
"I know a lot of guys are excited because it's the Big Ten/ACC Challenge," said sophomore Jamison Battle, the Gophers' leading scorer and a transfer from George Washington. "I think it's a good test of where we are. We're all ready for it."
The Gophers' best victories this season were against Western Kentucky and Princeton to win the Asheville Championship in North Carolina. But now the team begins a stretch of four consecutive games against power conference opponents, including three on the road (also Sunday at Mississippi State and Dec. 11 at Michigan). Early Big Ten play starts Dec. 8 vs. Michigan State at home.
The The Big Ten has a 12-13 record against other high-major programs — the others being the ACC, Big East, Big 12, SEC and Pac-12 — after Iowa beat Virginia and Illinois beat Notre Dame on Monday. Michigan (0-2), Ohio State (1-2), and Michigan State (2-2) have multiple such losses.
Purdue, the class of the Big Ten, has marquee victories over North Carolina and Villanova. But even the projected bottom-tier teams in the league have beaten struggling Power Five opponents. Penn State defeated Oregon State. Northwestern beat Georgia.
Pitt has already lost three home games by an average margin of nearly 14 points per game, including 78-63 against Citadel and 87-77 Saturday vs. Maryland Baltimore County.
"We don't worry about records," Johnson said. "To us they could've won four in a row or lost two in a row; we know they're a very good team. They're going to be hungry to get back on the winning [track]."
Curry, a 6-9 starting center, is the Gophers' only returning player from last season to see the court, so he has been coaching up his new teammates who transferred from a lower level.
"I'm always think about things in practice like we're playing a Big Ten team," Curry said. "Any mistake I see I always compare it to [the Big Ten]. Saying that's not going to work against Illinois."
The Gophers have remained undefeated with a stingy defense and playmaking down the stretch against opponents from the Summit and Ivy Leagues, Conference USA and others from smaller leagues.
But the Oklahoma scrimmage in October was an eye opener that everything feels different against players superior in size, talent, and athleticism from power conferences.
"We emphasize the details," said Willis, who started his career at Vanderbilt in the SEC. "The margin of error is so low in the Big Ten. Any little thing like [not] diving on a loose ball or missing a box out that can cost you a game."