No one expected the Buffs to respond well to the loss of Spencer Dinwiddie and now that they have dropped three of their last four without The Mayor, the outlook for the rest of the season looks bleak. With Askia Booker posting an offensive rating of 65 against Arizona St. and Jaron Hopkins combining for a total of six points over the past weekend, it's obvious that the backcourt has failed to mask the loss of Dinwiddie. Back-to-back losses against Arizona schools on the road was not a shock, but it was the way that the Buffs played in each game that left room for concern. Against the Wildcats, there was no urgency whatsoever and the game was essentially over after Arizona went up 18-4. Against the Sun Devils, the Buffs were too careless as they committed 19 turnovers.
The goal of the season still should be to make the NCAA Tournament, but with the way Colorado is playing offensively since Dinwiddie went down, it doesn't seem likely. And it's hard to envision the Buffs winning another road game this year, which is why this three game home stretch in the next two weeks is crucial.
The Utes come first this Saturday and the key will be stopping Delon Wright. Wright has helped fuel the quick resurgence for Utah under Larry Krystkowiak posting the highest offensive rating on the team. Sophomore Jordan Loveridge has improved since last season and he and Wright have been in double figures in every game this year except for one. Both teams desperately need this win. Utah has competed in every game in the Pac-12 this year never losing by more than nine, but they have to prove they can actually get a win on the road and not just keep it close. With a loss, the Buffs would continue their free fall and can start to book their tickets to the NIT.
Against Utah, Josh Scott should produce his usual numbers and will be given looks in the post as much as possible. But a double will likely come, which will leave it up to others on the floor. Xavier Johnson has been in double figures in each game aside from UCLA since the Buffs lost Dinwiddie and he'll need to keep producing, but avoid the high amount of turnovers. He's had eight total in his past two games. It's evident that with the current group the guard play is not going to be an advantage against teams in the Pac-12. But if they can hold their own, there's a chance the Buffs can turn this season around. Askia Booker has been playing very well aside from the Arizona St. game and needs to continue to be patient and pick his spots. Jaron Hopkins, however, hasn't been able to succeed since stepping into the starting lineup. It's not surprising since he's a freshman and was thrown into a tough situation, but he must create his own shot and up his scoring soon. As for the team turnover struggles, they can be stopped with a more patient approach. If Colorado can pace themselves in the half-court and use up the shot clock to find their shot, there's a better chance to get a good look and not turn the ball over. Colorado scored 60 or more points in their first 16 games with Dinwiddie. In the last five without him, they've failed to break 60 except for their home victory against USC. If a team can't score often, the solution is slowing the pace down and giving the other team fewer opportunities to score.
As for the season outlook, Colorado only has five more games at home with two of them coming against the teams that just beat them down this weekend: Arizona and Arizona St. It's conceivable that the Buffs take down Arizona St. at home, but the most likely outcome the rest of the way is 4-6 with home wins over Utah and the Washington schools and a road win at USC. The six losses would come against the Arizona schools at home and road losses to UCLA, Utah, Stanford and Cal. This would put the Buffs at 19-12 overall and 8-10 in the Pac-12. That would leave them hoping for one of the final at-large berths on Selection Sunday. But for now, the focus is on getting a win this Saturday against Utah.