His message is to win just like it was any other game.
The Frogs will travel to Canada without one of their best players, Amric Fields, who continues to recover from an ACL tear last November, but Johnson said the remainder of his roster has made significant improvement this summer.
"Our commitment in the weight room has been good. We're bigger. We're stronger," Johnson said. "Kyan [Anderson] has done a good job in that regard, and he has also done a good job being more vocal in his leadership."
"So far through seven days of practice, the intensity has been good, and the freshmen have adapted to the speed of play and the speed of practice."
The Frogs will be in Canada to play four games in four nights.
"We will go up there and play the ninth through the twelfth. Then we will come back, and it will be October 1st when practice starts before we know. Our concentration in practice so far has been on the defensive end. We will go up to Canada with just a few offensive sets because so far we have focused on defense and individual skill development. My philosophy is let's be good at one thing first."
As a result, Johnson wants his team to move from thinking to reacting mode.
More competitive in practice
"As coaches, we have to remember that we have a lot of teaching to do. However, there were times last year when I would have to get at the top of the zone to pass it around because we didn't have [enough healthy guys] to practice," Johnson joked. "Fortunately, I don't have to do that anymore."
Accompanying the Frogs to Canada will be transfer Chris Washburn who has filed a waiver request to the NCAA to play immediately. With now four big men to practice with and a full complement of scholarship players, Johnson believes players are now more accountable for how they compete in practice.
"What has been good about practice is we have better players, so even if Chris Washburn's waiver doesn't come through, in practice we'll have him and Amric at the four, Devonta and Karviar at the five, and Aaron Durley is making progress."
"On the wings, you'll have Hudson [Price], Brandon [Parrish] and Ziegler. We can now guide them to challenge each other, and that is how you get better."
Johnson explained that the keys for his team in Canada are the same keys for any game in which they play.
"We're in a situation where we haven't put in everything, and there are some good teams up there that have been playing together for a while, but to me, that doesn't mean anything. You're always going to have to go up there and compete to the best of your ability. The key is how hard you're going to play, how you're going to take care of the ball, and if we play mentally tough, we'll have a good chance to be successful."
"We will never put ourselves in a situation where we make excuses."
Johnson, Brent Scott and the entire coaching staff have a reputation of being good developers of big men, and returning junior Devonta Abron is one of the players that Johnson is excited to see improve this season.
"Last year early on, Devonta was nursing a hip injury, and in his case, he was adjusting to a new system where the ball goes inside-out. He's stronger, and he has a good understanding of what he has to do, but what is going to help him is, he goes against Karviar every day who is 6'11 with a length, and the competitiveness of practice is going to make him a better player."
When the Frogs hop on the plane Thursday, it starts a season of heightened expectations but also uncertainty as the coaching staff and Frog fans look forward to seeing what type of talent they have in their freshman class.
Johnson has reloaded his roster, and he hopes his team finds some cohesion on the court in Canada.
The Frogs will kick off their first international trip since 2007 on Friday night with a game against the University of Ottawa.