Spencer Dinwiddie going down with a season-ending knee injury on Jan. 12 was difficult for the Colorado men's basketball team to watch.
It wasn't a pretty sight for Arizona head coach Sean Miller, either.
"It made me sick when I saw him get hurt," Miller said. "Spencer Dinwiddie, in my estimation, is one of the best guards not only in our conference, but in our game of college basketball."
Miller and his top-ranked Wildcats (18-0, 5-0 Pac-12) will host Colorado (15-4, 4-2) on Thursday night in Tucson. While the Buffs won't have Dinwiddie, they are still a quality opponent, Miller said.
"There's no question they're an NCAA Tournament team," Miller said of the Buffs. "There's probably no doubt that losing somebody of his magnitude and talent hurts any team and it definitely hurts Colorado.
"Every week that goes by where they have more practices and game experience, they'll reinvent themselves to a certain degree. But, we respect Colorado a great deal and I have no doubt, based on the other talented players they have, and Tad and his staff. They're going to be fine, and no question one of the five or six, hopefully, teams from our conference that gets an NCAA bid."
Key to the Cats
Freshman Aaron Gordon has received more attention than anybody on the Arizona roster this season. He's one of the hyped-up freshmen around the country, and he's backed it up by averaging 12.4 points and 7.8 rebounds per game.
It's junior Nick Johnson, however, who has been the Wildcats' glue. The 6-foot-3 guard averages 16.3 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game.
"I think the key to their team is Nick Johnson," CU head coach Tad Boyle said.
Johnson has taken his game to a new level this year, but it's a level he began to hit toward the end of last year, Boyle said. The CU head coach said he saw a different player when the Buffs and Wildcats met in the Pac-12 tournament in March.
"At the end of the year last year I thought he was the key to their team," Boyle said.
"I see a maturity, I see a guy that takes what the defense gives him; I see a guy that can make a 3; he can make a play in transition, he can drive and kick to a teammate. He's playing like an upperclassman now."
Offensively, Johnson has increased his scoring nearly five points per game this year. He's also connecting on a career-high 49.7 shots from the floor and 81.9 percent of his free throws.
It's Johnson's defense, however, that has impressed Boyle.
"The biggest difference, I think, that I see between Nick Johnson today and a year ago today is a commitment on the defensive end," Boyle said. "I think he's a very, very good defender."
Backing the Broncos
Boyle was asked on Tuesday if, as a Colorado native, he is a fan of the Denver Broncos. Boyle admitted he grew up rooting for the Kansas City Chiefs, but said, "I'm on the (Broncos) bandwagon.
"I love the organization, I love what it stands for," he said. "I'm pulling for the Broncos, there's no question about it."
The Broncos will take on the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl on Feb. 2.
CU is 0-15 all-time when facing the No. 1 team in the country. ... Arizona has been ranked No. 1 for seven consecutive weeks, the longest streak in program history.