With No. 25 UCLA, USC, and No. 1 Arizona next on Colorado's agenda, it looks like the Buffaloes will have to dive into the meat of their Pac-12 schedule without their star guard or freshman Tre'Shaun Fletcher.
On Monday, junior guard Spencer Dinwiddie underwent an MRI to determine the extent of the non-contact knee injury he suffered during Sunday's game at Washington. The doctors confirmed head coach Tad Boyle's and the team's worst fears: Dinwiddie had a torn ACL that required surgery.
But that wasn't the only bad news the team received this week. On Tuesday before practice, Boyle announced that freshman forward Tre'Shaun Fletcher will also be on the disabled list for six to eight weeks.
Shortly after Dinwiddie went down during the game, Fletcher slipped on the floor on the other side of the court and clutched his knee in pain upon hitting the floor. Although Boyle did not specify the nature of his injury, he did confirm that he is scheduled to undergo surgery soon.
"Having 'Fletch' down--you know, it happened within a minute, basically, of Spencer's injury," Boyle said. "Didn't think it was serious at the time. I actually played him in the second half, thinking he had just kind of bumped it. So his being out will obviously put one less perimeter player."
With Dinwiddie out of the rotation for the rest of the year, Boyle will look to freshman forward Jaron Hopkins to fill his role in the starting lineup.
"Well, I expect him to step up, like the same thing I expect from all of our players," Boyle said. "They all just have to give a little bit more. But what Jaron can give us is a defensive presence on the perimeter with being able to guard somebody with size. A guy like Jordan Adams is the prime example on Thursday night with UCLA coming to town."
Boyle added that, "Jaron gives us great length, great athleticism, size, strength. Offensively, he can distribute the ball, he can shoot the ball, he can get the ball around. A lot of things that Spencer did, he's just got to be more consistent with it." But one player alone can't replace Dinwiddie.
"It's going to be a group effort; it's not going to be one guy," Boyle said. "We're not going to say, 'Hey, this guy's got to do this to replace Spencer.' It's not going to work like that."
"We're going to have to rely on each other, because Spencer was so talented," he added. "He's a big guard, he can get his shot, he can get shots for others, he made great decisions off of ball screens. It's not to say other guys can't do that, but we're going to have to rely on each other more.
Offensively, however, the Buffs' approach to the game won't change much.
"We still want to be aggressive," Boyle said. "(Askia Booker) needs to be 'Ski.' He needs to be aggressive, he needs to take good shots, he needs to be a threat. But we don't change anything in terms of our approach of getting to the free throw line and attacking the basket and playing inside-out. I think now our margin for error is much less."
Since one of Colorado's most talented players will not be able to contribute on the court, the Buffs will have to rely on the system and their fundamentals more to generate shots well on offense.
Now that the Buffaloes have two less players in the rotation, they will be facing more of a challenge going into the heart of the conference schedule.
"It's part of athletics; I don't care what sport you play--basketball, football--everybody goes through it," Boyle said. "Unfortunately, we're going through it right now. We're down two guys, two athletic, long, good basketball players. So yes, we're all challenged. I think our players are challenged and our coaches are challenged. And guess what, our fans are going to be challenged too.
Now, Boyle believes that the fans will be an even bigger part of the team's success at home.
"We're going to need their energy, and these guys on the floor are going to need to know that they believe in them, which I know that they do. There's been a lot of well wishes for our program and for Spencer, but that all goes away when that thing's tipped up on Thursday night. It's game on, and we better be ready to fight and scratch and claw and do whatever we got to do to get a win." The Buffs tip off against the UCLA Bruins at home on Thursday, Jan. 16 at 6:00 p.m. For those not able to attend the game, it will be broadcast on the Pac-12 Networks.