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How losing Spencer Dinwiddie affects Colorado

No injury could have been worse for the Colorado Buffaloes this year.

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Spencer Dinwiddie's season-ending ACL tear resonated on numerous levels. It's a devastating blow to Colorado's chances in both the Pac-12 and NCAA tournament. It may cost the guard a potential slot in the first round of the 2014 NBA draft. It also stalls the progress of a program that entered the weekend at 14-2, looking for its fourth straight season with more than 20 victories. There are few players in the country more directly tied to their team's overall success than Dinwiddie, so this injury is a disheartening blow all-around.

Just take a look at the numbers and it's clear how much Dinwiddie meant to the team. Dinwiddie led the Colorado in scoring, assists, steals, three-point percentage, free throw percentage and offensive rating. He entered Saturday's fateful game against Washington averaging 14.7 points, 3.1 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.5 steals per game in 31.1 minutes. His offensive rating is third in the conference and 41st overall in the nation. His true shooting percentage is second in the conference and 26th in the nation.

Before the injury, the Buffaloes were ranked No. 15. They may have been the best team in the Pac-12 this side of Arizona, and had already knocked off a star-studded Kansas team. As Jeff Eisenberg with Yahoo! Sports pointed out, the Buffalos can no longer rely on their impressive resume of wins over the Jayhawks, Oregon and Harvard. Colorado needs to win big games without Dinwiddie to prove to the selection committee that they belong in the NCAA Tournament.

It's a shame, because the Pac-12 was finally starting to play at a high level. Nine teams are ranked within the top-100 RPI. They have the No. 1 team in the nation hanging out at the top of the standings. California, UCLA and Arizona State are all dangerous teams. Oregon, despite its baffling early conference plummet, was a top-10 team earlier in the season. Now Colorado will have to battle it out against a host of healthier teams, all the while missing their best player.

There are plenty of question marks surrounding Dinwiddie's future beyond this season. Draft Express rated him as the top junior in the NCAA. A deep March run could have done wonders for Dinwiddie's NBA prospects. Now, he'll be a fringe pick at best if he decides to make the jump.

As Buffaloes blog Ralphie Report points out, not everyone has the natural, raw talent of Nerlens Noel. Dinwiddie isn't the sort of player a team would take a gamble on and then stash away while he recovers.

Before tearing his ACL, Dinwiddie would have likely been a first-round pick and left after his third season, but with the injury there's no guarantee he gets drafted in the first-round, which would give him a guaranteed contract in the NBA. It would be surprising to see a team take him in the first-round because he just doesn't have the talent to be kept on an NBA roster while being hurt, unlike Nerlens Noel this season with Philadelphia. There's no doubt that he's going to be a good player in the NBA whenever he gets there, but if he's willing to go in the second round or undrafted, maybe we've seen his last game as a Buffalo.

Perhaps the worst part of all is how promising the Buffaloes season was, as this was a team in recent years that had been finally tasting success in March it hasn't had since the 1960s.

Things didn't get any easier for coach Tad Boyle after it was announced Tre'Shaun Fletcher would miss up to eight weeks with his own knee injury. Boyle's lineup is now down to a seven-man rotation, at least if what the coach was using before the injuries is any indication. It is far from all over for the Buffaloes, but it's a whole lot harder than it used to be.

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