When Minnesota coach Tubby Smith reeled in a top-25 recruiting class last year featuring the two top prospects in the state, the group was hailed as the talent influx the Gophers needed to contend in the Big Ten.
Only a year later, however, that optimism has turned to disgust.
McDonald's All-American Royce White quit the team in February without ever suiting up for a game as a result of legal trouble. Highly touted junior college prospect Trevor Mbakwe is expected to follow White out the door, leaving after sitting out all of last season waiting for felony battery charges against him to be resolved. Justin Cobbs is already back home in California looking for a new school closer to home after an underwhelming freshman season as a backup point guard. And that leaves reserve forward Rodney Williams as the Gophers' only returnee from the class next season.
The Minnesota class' only competition for 2009's biggest recruiting bust comes from Oklahoma, which had two players arrested for shoplifting and a third leave school this spring amid allegations he accepted money from an agent. At least the Sooners did get a productive freshman season from Tommy Mason-Griffin, though that is tempered somewhat by his ill-advised decision to turn pro.
It's too soon to label any other 2009 classes as busts, but we can go back and evaluate the recruiting rankings from previous years. Here's a look back at the schools whose highly touted classes turned out to be the biggest disappointments from the previous four years:
2008: UCLA (No. 1)
The failure of UCLA's top-ranked recruiting class to live up to expectations is the biggest reason the Bruins suffered through a 14-18 season last year. Jrue Holiday turned pro after an unspectacular freshman season. Drew Gordon clashed with Ben Howland and transferred to New Mexico. Once-elite prospect J'mison Morgan was dismissed from the team this spring after two lackluster seasons. Of the two remaining players, Malcolm Lee has shown more spurts of competence than Jerime Anderson. Anderson struggled so much after inheriting the point-guard role from Darren Collison last season that the speedy but turnover-prone Lee had to play out of position and take over for him.
Dishonorable mention: Oregon, Rutgers
2007: USC (No. 2)
Instead of ushering in a new era of basketball success at USC as they promised, members of this recruiting class failed to produce an NCAA tournament victory and left the program in worse shape than it was before. O.J. Mayo's moderately successful freshman season is far outweighed by the allegations he accepted money from an agent that led USC to implement a self-imposed postseason ban last year. Davon Jefferson contributed one decent season before turning pro. Big man Mamadou Diarra was a bust and point guard Angelo Johnson hasn't distinguished himself, meaning that unheralded reserve wing Marcus Simmons will probably go down as the most productive contributor from this star-studded class.
Dishonorable mention: Cincinnati
2006: Florida (No. 20)
Florida's inability to sustain its success from back-to-back national titles was at least in part a result of the lack of productivity from this class. The highest-rated signee, Doneal Mack, left for Memphis without playing for the Gators. Highly touted small forward Jon Mitchell started one game in two seasons before transferring. Marreese Speights at least gave Florida a productive sophomore season before turning pro a year earlier than expected. The only player to remain at Florida all four years was tough, hard-working power forward Dan Werner, who lacked the talent to make any real impact.
Dishonorable mention: Washington (Quincy Pondexter's senior season saves this otherwise disappointing class)
2005: Duke (No. 2)
There's no better example of interest from Duke inflating the ranking of a recruit than this highly touted class. Would you believe Greg Paulus was the top-rated high school point guard in 2005? Or that Eric Boateng was a McDonald's All-American? Or that little-known Martynas Pocius was a top-50 recruit? Paulus had a solid four-year career at Duke but failed to live up to the hype, while Boateng and Jamal Boykin struggled to find playing time and left for Arizona State and Cal. Josh McRoberts did give Duke a solid sophomore season, but he turned pro without really validating the can't-miss label he arrived with.
Dishonorable mention: Georgia