Now that we know the Colorado men's basketball team will play the rest of the season without its best player, the Buffaloes have to turn their immediate attention to the future.
Losing star point guard Spencer Dinwiddie to a season-ending knee injury, suffered Sunday in a 71-54 loss at Washington, will be a big blow to the Buffs. But, it's not necessarily a fatal one.
Dinwiddie's injury will have a significant impact, both short term and long term, on several of his current and potentially future teammates. How they respond will determine the amount of success CU enjoys the rest of this season.
A quick look at who could be impacted most:
1. Askia Booker. The junior guard now faces the toughest challenge of his CU career. At times, he can be a dynamic player; and at times he has struggled mightily - as he did Sunday at Washington. He's been a great leader and he's his own worst mental enemy. With Dinwiddie now out, Booker might hold the key to the season for CU. Every time he's on the floor the rest of this year, he will be the most experienced player in a Buffs uniform. He may also have the ball in his hands more than anyone. CU will sorely miss Dinwiddie's calming presence, his ball-handling skills, his perimeter defense, his ability to take over a game and, perhaps most importantly, his moxie. Booker has displayed all of those characteristics at different times this year.
2. Jaron Hopkins. So far this season, the true freshman guard has been a solid sixth man for the Buffs. Now, he's likely to take Dinwiddie's spot in the starting lineup. He's incredibly talented and can score in a lot of ways. Among the healthy CU guards, Hopkins is the best at finishing at the rim and the Buffs could use his aggressiveness on offense. Hopkins will need to get more consistent on defense, and he's got to work on his free throw shooting. Dinwiddie made 85.7 percent of his shots, getting to the line seven times a game. Hopkins is, by far, last on the team with a free throw percentage of 40.7.
3. Josh Scott. The sophomore forward isn't likely to see a dramatic change in his role within the system. But, with Dinwiddie out, Scott might be CU's best leader on the floor. Like Dinwiddie, he's even-keeled on the court and keeps his emotions in check. He's also got a quiet, but incredibly strong confidence. He doesn't make excuses, and if he can get the rest of his teammates to follow suit, the Buffs can win a lot of games in the second half. The Buffs would love to see Booker and Scott emerge as CU's top leaders.
4. Xavier Talton and Eli Stalzer. Both sophomore point guards could see significantly more minutes the rest of the season. Talton has been a key player off the bench all season, but his impact on the game has not been consistent. With Hopkins likely moving into the starting lineup, Talton will be the top guard off the bench, and he's got to provide some punch when he's on the floor. Stalzer played just 27 minutes all year before Sunday's loss, but saw 10 minutes against the Huskies. He's a heady player who could give CU an important 8-10 minutes per game.
5. Wesley Gordon and Xavier Johnson. At different times this year, both players have shown great ability to score big buckets. Johnson is a better scorer and his dunks have often charged up the Coors Events Center crowd. Gordon is developing a very good short jumper, though, and learning to finish in the paint. Johnson averages 10.1 points per game, Gordon 7.0. Those numbers could rise as the Buffs look to replace Dinwiddie's production.
6. Dustin Thomas and Tre'Shaun Fletcher. Like Hopkins, they are true freshmen who have, at times, given the Buffs some great minutes. Now that the bench is a little less deep, Fletcher and Thomas will need to grow up in a hurry and become consistent, significant contributors to the Buffs.
7. Dominique Collier. He's still playing at Denver East High School, so obviously he's not feeling the impact of Dinwiddie's injury just yet. But, he might when he arrives at CU in the fall. Dinwiddie was almost surely headed to the NBA before his injury. Now, there's a chance Dinwiddie returns to CU. If he does, the Buffs will get what they hoped for: Collier spending a year playing with Dinwiddie before taking over the point guard duties in 2015-16. If there's a silver lining in Dinwiddie's injury, it's that the Buffs might be much better off at point guard in the next few years.
Regardless of who shoulders the most responsibility in the coming weeks, there is no question that everyone in a Colorado uniform needs to get a little better in a hurry.
"We have to play as a team and just focus on the team and not individuals," Gordon said. "Just play as a team and I think we'll be fine. We've just got to put in more effort because we lost such a big piece of our team. Everyone has to step up now."