No more Pac-12 Title aspirations. No more Final Four possibilities. This Colorado basketball season had the potential to be one of the greatest ever and the Buffs had a real chance to become one of the top ranked teams in the nation. But then Spencer Dinwiddie tore his ACL on Sunday against Washington and the Buffaloes lost their top scorer, assist and steal leader, overall leader on the court and the best perimeter defender on the team. Unsurprisingly, Dinwiddie had the highest offensive rating on the team and the 38th best in the nation and was also top 30 in the country at getting to the free-throw line. Before Dinwiddie got hurt, Colorado was playing very well against Washington and had a great chance to start Pac-12 play with four straight wins. Now, however, the team will have to regroup quickly.
UCLA, which was already going to provide a difficult matchup for the Buffs with Dinwiddie, comes to Boulder on Thursday and Colorado will have to show what they're made of. The absence of Dinwiddie is crucial, but the Buffs still have playmakers. Josh Scott becomes Colorado's best offensive player and needs to step up in the post. Askia Booker, who has been much more efficient this season than seasons past, will have to become even more efficient. Jaron Hopkins or Xavier Talton will likely be placed into the starting lineup and they'll be forced to create more opportunities. And this also represents a great chance for Xavier Johnson to step up and become a dominant player for the Buffs.
But the bench becomes much thinner now especially with the injury to Tre'Shaun Fletcher and missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time in three years is now a possibility. The Buffs don't have many opportunities for victories aside from their two games against USC and home games against Utah and Washington St. Road contests with UCLA and Cal and both games against Arizona seem like they'll be losses. That leaves games against UCLA, Washington and Arizona St. at home and games on the road against Arizona St., Utah and Stanford as toss-ups. With Dinwiddie, you would be trying to figure out what seed the Buffs would get in the NCAA Tournament. Now, you're hoping they can just get there.
The lone bright spot out of all of this, however, is that Dinwiddie still has a promising future ahead of him and now there's a chance he may return for his final season. If he did come back, the Buffs would have a legitimate shot to win a national title next year. Before tearing his ACL, Dinwiddie would have likely been a first-round pick and left after his third season, but with the injury there's no guarantee he gets drafted in the first-round, which would give him a guaranteed contract in the NBA. It would be surprising to see a team take him in the first-round because he just doesn't have the talent to be kept on an NBA roster while being hurt, unlike Nerlens Noel this season with Philadelphia. There's no doubt that he's going to be a good player in the NBA whenever he gets there, but if he's willing to go in the second round or undrafted, maybe we've seen his last game as a Buffalo.
Injuries are the worst part about sports, but they happen. If the Buffs can get by UCLA and show some resolve going forward, there's a good chance they still end up in the field of 68. But if they fail and a string of losses is ahead, this year could go from potentially amazing to terrible.