UCLA at Colorado Preview

The sometimes out of control Booker will be asked to step up to replace CO Star Spence Dinwiddie. - Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Spor

An unfortunate injury gives UCLA an Opportunity

What the heck is going on in the PAC 12?  While Arizona is living up to their billing, everything else is topsy-turvy.  The injury depleted Cal is in second place and the completely written off before the season UW is in third.  Pre-Conference Season Top 10 Oregon has lost three in a row and apparently defends at a level that would bring many AAU teams to shame.  All this means UCLA's path to repeating as PAC 12 regular season champion is likely being cleared of obstacles other than Arizona.

Tomorrow night UCLA plays what figured to be a top obstacle in that effort, Colorado.  Unlike everyone above, Colorado's potential problems are easily explained.  Colorado lost to a tragic season ending injury its best player in Spencer Dinwiddie.   I thought Dinwiddie was one of the biggest threats to Kyle Anderson winning conference MVP because he was his Colorado's best offensive player and one of the conference's best defense players.  It seems that Colorado will have a difficult time replacing Dinwiddie.

Even knowing what to expect from Colorado is a bit difficult as UCLA will be playing Colorado in their first post-Dinwiddie game.  In the last game when Dinwiddie got hurt, Colorado completely imploded.  They will be over that shock in this one but how they replace him is a different matter.

It was equally tough, Boyle said, for Dinwiddie's teammates: "They're hurting. No. 1, we've got a close, tight-knit team. We've got great chemistry on this team. Guys care about each other. From that standpoint, the team's hurting. There's no question in my mind they're a resilient group of guys, high-character guys. One guy goes down the opportunity for two or three more opens. We're going to control what we can control, which is our attitude and effort every day in practice. That's all you can do in life."

After Sunday's game, sophomore post Josh Scott called Dinwiddie "a big part, not the whole part, but he's a big part of what we do. It's just an adjustment and we're going to have to figure out how to do that without him."

Dinwiddie, of Woodland Hills, Calif., was CU'S leader in scoring (14.7 ppg), assists (64, 3.8 apg) and steals (26, 1.5 spg). He also led the Buffs in 3-pointers (26) and free throw shooting percentage (85.7).

Boyle said the Buffs, who meet UCLA on Thursday at the Coors Events Center (6 p.m., Pac-12 Network), will focus on that game and not how they must adapt to Dinwiddie's loss over the next two months. "What I told the team is that we don't have to beat every team without Spencer," Boyle said. "We have to figure out a way to beat UCLA without Spencer. That's all we've got to do. Nothing changes in our preparation and in what we're going to try to do. We're down a man and everybody else has to step up."

Beginning with the Bruins, the only Pac-12 opponent the Buffs have not defeated (0-2

One thing is for sure, the Colorado fans will be up for this game.  The tip off in this game on the PAC 12 Network is early (5:06 pm, 6:06 Mountain time) and:

The University of Colorado men's basketball team will play host to UCLA at the Coors Events Center on Thursday evening with a 6 p.m. tipoff.

Fans are encouraged to wear white to the game to make it a "White Out" for the all-important game at the top of the Pac-12 standings.  Pepsi will be handing out 8,000 white t-shirts for the occasion.

As to the actual game and match-ups.  Askia Booker will be asked to step up and score more from the lead guard spot in Dinwiddie's absence.  Looking at this from the UCLA perspective, this is, at least on paper, a good thing.  Booker has occasionally shot Colorado out of games (he went 0-9 against UW after Dinwiddie got hurt) and is shooting a pathetic 38% from the field and 28% from the three.  This is not an aberration for the junior as last year he shot 36% and 31%.  Booker averages 2 assists a game but also 2 turnovers.  Booker could decide at some point to play hero ball and right there UCLA is looking pretty good for the win.

Jaron Hopkins is one of the likely players to fill in for Dinwiddie.  The 6'5" top freshman in Colorado is in the Dinwiddie-mold but having to play a crafty player like Jordan Adams for 30 minutes may be a tall order for the raw Freshman.

Regardless of the backcourt, the real way for Colorado to beat UCLA is their front court.  Josh Scott has really stepped up this year for Colorado after last season's all PAC 12 Freshman selection.  He is averaging 9.2 rebounds with over 3 a game at the offensive end and is a threat to do some damage inside against UCLA.  Unlike the very tall but relative nonathletic Jordan Bachynski of ASU, Scott has some athletic ability to go with his 6'10" size.  Was UCLA's good post defense of the ASU a trend or a fluke?  Scott will put that to the test.

Next up at the four spot for Colorado is 6'9" redshirt Freshman Wesley Gordon.  Gordon gives ASU another big body inside and will put UCLA's bigs to the test.

The three spot also has a good rebounder and defender in Xavier Johnson.  Xavier can board and shoot outside.  But really he is the third part of the Colorado front court that averages 39 rebounds per game and more importantly for Colorado a +9 rebounding edge for the season.

Colorado is a good defensive and rebounding team.  However, they lost their star and their other guard has a habit of at times trying to do too much.  Will Colorado step up without Dinwiddie and take advantage inside or will they come apart?

One thing is for sure, UCLA's road game against Colorado is looking much easier than it did last week.  UCLA's guards have a realistic chance to outscore Colorado's by enough to win the game on their own.  UCLA path to make a run for the PAC 12 title is getting easier and this is a game they have to win to stay on that path.

Go Bruins.

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