On Sunday afternoon against Washington, Colorado suffered a crushing blow to their promising season: Spencer Dinwiddie tore his ACL in his left knee and will miss the rest of the season.
If that wasn't enough, more bad news was announced the next day. Tre'Shaun Fletcher, who hurt his left knee in the same game, will miss 6-8 weeks as a result of the injury.
Colorado is still very talented without Dinwiddie, but losing your star 6-foot-6 point guard just as Pac-12 play started is demoralizing. Dinwiddie is the consummate point guard, the type of player that can create for himself and his teammates. Dinwiddie leads Colorado in numerous categories: points, assists, steals, minutes, free throws made and free throws attempted. Dinwiddie is also a standout defender, who regularly defends the opponents top scoring threat.
Losing Fletcher for 6-8 weeks will also be difficult to overcome. The freshman forward is a part of Colorado's rotation, averaging 10 minutes per game as a reserve. His loss will force Head Coach Tad Boyle to have to dig further into his already depleted bench.
After Chris Jenkins transferred prior to the start of the season, it brought down Colorado to 12 scholarship players. With both Dinwiddie and Fletcher out, Colorado is down to 10 healthy scholarship players.
It's time for Colorado's reserves to step up since plenty of playing time is now available. Can Dinwiddie's production be replaced? It's not very likely. Going forward, a committee of players will have to step up and attempt to fill both Dinwiddie and Fletcher's void. Here are the candidates:
Hopkins started the second half as Colorado's point guard against Washington, which should be a good indicator that he'll replace Dinwiddie in the starting lineup going forward. He finished with a modest 7 points in 20 minutes played. Hopkins features similar size to Dinwiddie and is a better athlete, but isn't a polished point guard yet. Hopkins does give Boyle flexibility because of his ability to play either guard role or the wing, which could lead to him to take some of Fletcher's minutes in addition to Dinwiddie's.
Booker is an excellent playmaker with solid ball-handling abilities, so he could assume some of the point guard duties because of his skill set. He's second on the team in assists and would sometimes allow Dinwiddie to play off the ball when they played together. But Booker is a scorer first, it's how he's wired to play. He'll have to do a better job of creating for his teammates and running the offense when he's called upon.
Talton has been apart of Colorado's rotation all season, averaging just under 15 minutes per game. He's a player that looks to score from the perimeter, as its been his main role as a reserve. Talton can be viewed as a scoring guard but he'll also need to work on setting up his teammates. Talton has recorded 23 assists on the season, compared to 18 turnovers. His assist to turnover ration will have to improve drastically.
The freshman guard/forward can expect to see his 5.1 minutes per game increase while Dinwiddie and Fletcher are out. King has played sparingly this year, but he's shown brief flashes of excellence in limited play, especially his strong rebounding on the defensive glass. Against Jackson State, King corralled seven rebounds in just 11 minutes. When Colorado faced Arkansas State, he scored 11 points (2-2 from three) and added 4 rebounds in 15 minutes. And against he had 10 points and 5 rebounds in 18 minutes. But he's only logged four minutes in three conference games thus far. With more time available, expect King to come in and rebound well, and if his 3-point shot is falling, his playing time could soar.
Prior to Sunday's game against Washington, Stalzer had only played 27 minutes. The entire season. Once Dinwiddie left the game, Stalzer played ten minutes. He finished with 2 points, 2 rebounds and 1 assist. He even drew a charge. Stalzer is a true point guard and a competent ball-handler, and he's more concerned with running Boyle's offense than looking to score. He isn't flashy, he's just steady and looks to set up his teammates.