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 — Smith, if you haven’t noticed, just led Texas Tech to its third win over a ranked opponent in a little over a week and has his team in the hunt for a tourney bid — to an NIT title in Richard Pitino’s first season in 2013-14 to last year’s disappointment to this year’s 0-13 Big Ten start.
But if you’re looking for a good place to begin, let’s go back and check on the Gophers’ incoming recruiting class of 2014. That was Pitino’s first “real” recruiting class after he scrambled to put together a group in 2013 shortly after being hired.
The incoming class of 2014 featured a whopping six players — three who signed in the early period and three who signed late. The six players 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. “While decisions like this are always difficult, we felt it was in the interest of our program to move forward at this time,” Pitino said in the release.
Martin: Announced in December of 2014 that he was going to transfer, effective immediately. The touted recruit had appeared in seven games and played a total of 38 minutes to that point. “Guys are dropping,” then-senior guard DeAndre Mathieu said at the time. “And we haven’t made it to Christmas yet. But the guys in this locker room, we’re going to stick together and continue to fight.”
Morris: Made it through most of his two years of eligibility before being dismissed from the program Wednesday for “conduct detrimental to the team.” Pitino expected Morris to take a step forward in Year 2 in the program, but instead his scoring average (9.8 ppg) and shooting percentage (38.9) were down from a year ago.
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. The big man remains a raw project. He’s played sparingly in the last 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 as the Gophers prepare to face Maryland tonight. In a reasonable world, three or four of them would be. But just one? That has left a major mark on the program.