There is not one single culprit when it comes to the final analysis of why the Gophers men's basketball program has tumbled so far in such a short amount of time.
It takes a group effort to go from a program that fired head coach Tubby Smith in 2013 after winning its first NCAA tournament game since 1997 to an NIT title in Richard Pitino's first season in 2013-14 to last year's disappointment to this year's bottoming out.
Similarly, it will take a group effort to pull the Gophers out of this — one led, presumably, by this year's freshmen and next year's incoming class.
Those two groups won't get much help from the recruiting class from 2014, Pitino's first "real" class after he scrambled to put together a group in 2013 shortly after being hired. If we want to look at a starting point for why the Gophers have tumbled this year, that's a good spot.The incoming class of 2014 featured a whopping six players — three who signed in the early period and three who signed late. They were: Gaston Diedhiou, Bakary Konate, Zach Lofton, Josh Martin, Carlos "Squirrel" Morris and Nate Mason. Lofton was a transfer who had to sit out a year. Morris was a transfer who was immediately eligible. The other four were freshmen. Of the six:
Lofton: Was dismissed from the team in late October of 2014 — before he had played a single game — for failing to meet the expectations and obligations of the team, according to a news release issued by the program.
Martin: Announced in December of 2014 that he was going to transfer, effective immediately. He had appeared in seven games and played a total of 38 minutes to that point.
Morris: Made it through most of his two years of eligibility before being dismissed from the program Wednesday for what was deemed "conduct detrimental to the team" in a news release.
Diedhiou: Was originally denied admission to the University because of an English proficiency test but was cleared in the middle of the 2014-15 season. He's played sparingly in the past year-and-a-half, compiling 20 total points in his Gophers career.
Konate: Has appeared in 50 games as a Gopher with 22 starts (all of them this year) but still is very much a work in progress. He's contributed 4.9 points and 4.5 rebounds per game in 21.2 minutes on average this season.
Mason: The one out of six who has both produced in a meaningful way and remains on the roster. Mason leads the Gophers in scoring 13.7 ppg) as a sophomore this season and figures to be a key player going forward.
In a perfect world, all six of those players would be contributing right now. In a reasonable world, three or four of them would be. But just one? That has left a major mark on the program.