J’Vonne Hadley will be missed, particularly on defense and on the glass.
Offensively, however, his absence might open up some things for the Colorado men’s basketball team.
That’s not to suggest the loss of Hadley, who will miss the remainder of the season due to a finger injury, will be any sort of addition by subtraction for the Buffaloes. Regardless of some diminished returns lately in Pac-12 Conference play, a Buffs team that has struggled offensively certainly will feel the sting of the removal of the 8.3 points per game Hadley was averaging when he was injured.
Still, with Hadley and Lawson Lovering together in the starting lineup, the Buffs have begun games with two players who do not need to be accounted for by opposing defenses beyond more than a few feet from the rim. Adding a bigger wing to the starting mix — likely Jalen Gabbidon when the Buffs host Stanford on Sunday afternoon (5 p.m., FS1) — gives the Buffs another player able to test opposing defenses from the 3-point arc and off the dribble.
“Theoretically, our spacing should be better,” CU head coach Tad Boyle said. “But we still have to have movement to get that. Especially against Stanford. Because Stanford, they’ve won five straight. They’re switching all ball screens. They’re switching one through five. And they really, really gap up. There’s nowhere to drive it.
“Having another wing in there when J’Vonne Hadley’s not in there, we should be able to space the floor better. But we still have to have great movement in order to that.”
Gabbidon will likely play a bigger role as the Buffs learn to live without Hadley, so it is somewhat fitting the graduate transfer from Yale is getting stronger from a recent knee injury.
Gabbidon missed six games after suffering a knee injury during CU’s first game against Stanford, a 73-70 road win on Dec. 29. Gabbidon scored only three points in his first two games after returning, and he didn’t score any while playing a season-low four minutes at Oregon State last week. Yet he turned in one of his strongest performances of the season in Thursday’s win against California after Hadley was injured, recording nine points and four rebounds in 23 minutes.
“I’m ready to go. One hundred percent,” Gabbidon said. “If they need me to play 30, great. If they need me to play 10, great.”
Making minutes count
One player who quietly has given the Buffs better minutes lately has been senior guard Ethan Wright.
Wright played 15 minutes against Cal, his second-highest total in Pac-12 games. He recorded two rebounds, one assist and two steals, and last week Wright went 3-for-3 on 3-pointers during CU’s two losses in Oregon.
“He’s practiced better,” Boyle said. “He had a great week of practice this week. Especially Monday and Tuesday, he was terrific. He made some shots for us on the Oregon trip when we needed it. I think Ethan’s mindset, I had some individual meetings with guys (Friday) and I think his mindset is good. It’s maybe a little changed from what it’s been. Ethan’s just got to go play with instincts and not be afraid to make mistakes, not be afraid to miss shots. I think mentally he’s gotten to that point now. Hopefully he can give us a lift down the stretch. We need him.”
CU is forcing an average of 15.8 turnovers in Pac-12 games, the top mark in the league…Buffs guard KJ Simpson has shot .143 on 3-pointers (4-for-28) over the past eight games…In Pac-12 games, Stanford ranks second in 3-point percentage (.344)…The Buffs began Sunday at No. 75 in the NET rankings and No. 61 at KenPom.com. Stanford is at No. 107 in the NET and No. 91 at KenPom.