There are a lot of things the Colorado men's basketball team misses about Spencer Dinwiddie.
His scoring, passing, perimeter defense and court awareness are certainly missed. Perhaps more than anything, however, the Buffaloes are missing the leadership of their star point guard, who suffered a season-ending knee injury on Jan. 12.
Three times in recent games, including Saturday's 75-64 loss at Utah, the Buffs have been unable to slow down an opponents' second-half run.
Utah used a 23-2 run to seize control of Saturday's game and CU (20-9, 9-7 Pac-12) never recovered.
"That's where the mental toughness and the leadership and the coming together has to take place on the court," CU head coach Tad Boyle said. "It hasn't happened. We've got to figure out how to make that happen."
Freshman Jaron Hopkins said he believes the Buffs have a tendency to get selfish at times, rather than the team coming together in the tough moments.
"I don't think (the leadership) is showing up right now," Hopkins said. "Some guys are trying to pick up the slack and getting on each other about certain things, but we just have to go out there and do it. We just have to get out there and compete and play as best as we can."
Sophomore Xavier Talton said he doesn't believe the Buffs lack leadership, but they lack consistency with it.
"I think we have it for the most part, but sometimes we'll have a mental lapse and we don't come together in huddles as much as we probably should," he said.
Boyle said the Buffs need players to step up and keep the team focused on the defensive end, particularly when the offense struggles.
Against Utah, the Buffs led 30-22 before Utah's game-changing run. Offensively, the Buffs went 1-for-11 from the floor with 10 turnovers during that run, and they also played miserable defense during that stretch.
Similar situations played out in recent losses to UCLA and Arizona, as well.
"The offensive struggles bleeding over into the defensive part of the floor has got to stop," Boyle said. "Our mental toughness when things don't go well for us on offense has to get better."
NCAA Tournament talk is heating up now that we're in March, and CU is an interesting case.
Many pundits believe the Buffaloes are sure to make the Tournament at this point, while others believe they have some work to do.
Working in the Buffs' favor is that, as of Sunday, they ranked No. 30 in the country in CBS Sports' RPI rankings (No. 26 by realtimerpi.com). CBS rates CU's schedule as the 13th-toughest in the country, with their opponents winning 60.1 percent of their games.
ESPN's BPI rankings had the Buffs at No. 50 on Sunday, but rates CU's schedule as the seventh toughest in the nation.
CU is 3-7 against the RPI Top 50, 7-9 against the top 100. Those numbers are as good asor better than a lot of teams considered to be "on the bubble."
However, most of CU's quality wins (Harvard, Kansas and Oregon) came with Dinwiddie in the lineup, and all of their best wins came at home. Those factors could work against the Buffs.
CU has a chance to solidify its place in the NCAA Tournament this week when it visits Stanford (RPI No. 43) and California (No. 50).
The Buffs attempted just 18 free throws (making 15) against Utah. They fell to 0-5 in Pac-12 play when attempting 20 or fewer shots from the line. The Buffs are 9-2 when attempting more than 20 free throws. ... Against Utah, 16 of CU's 32 missed shots came from within three feet of the rim. ... CU has been out-rebounded in four consecutive road games.