The Pac-12 has been wide open all season, leaving a prime opportunity for any team, such as Colorado, to step up in the conference tournament and take home the Pac-12 title.
Colorado held its own in the regular season with key wins over Arizona at home and a season sweep of Oregon. Throw in the controversial loss to Arizona on Jan. 3, and the Buffaloes went 3-1 against the conference's upper tier of teams, and very well could have been 4-0 if the buzzer-beater was not waved off.
The Buffaloes have one regular-season game left against Oregon State and are coming off of a solid 23-point win over Oregon at home.
Colorado has played inconsistently all season but was poised for a strong run in the Pac-12 tournament. Yet, the news of junior forward Andre Roberson's illness that could keep him out of the conference tournament is a sudden blow to the Colorado basketball team.
Roberson is the type of player that every team wants. He is a rebounding machine at just 6'7" and is a total force on defense. Losing Roberson for what could be the whole tournament is a huge loss for the Buffaloes.
According to Nic Reiner of ESPN.com, "Early reports implied Roberson would be out almost assuredly through the conference tournament and possibly beyond. Now that the initial 'Mononucleosis' assessment has been downgraded to 'viral illness' Colorado lists him at day-to-day."
The early fears of mono being the cause of Roberson's absence have tapered, but regardless of the illness, it looks as though Colorado will play without its key player for some time.
Roberson is averaging 10.8 points per game, 11.5 rebounds per game (the best rebounding average in the country), 1.4 blocks per game and 2.3 steals per game. These stats show that Roberson has an all-around impact on the game whether he is putting up points, rebounding on the offensive and defensive glass or shutting down opposing teams with his superior defense.
Any player who averages a double-double throughout the season is a massive loss to a team, and Roberson is especially valuable. His defense makes him a team standout because Roberson is a versatile defender.
Colorado survived its first test without Roberson as it beat the Oregon Ducks in a huge win. Freshman forward Xavier Johnson put up 22 points in the win on 7-of-7 shooting from the floor.
Johnson plays with a lot of energy, but Colorado will be asking for a lot out of a freshman in moments of the season where experience is key.
Roberson provides the experience, consistently high level of play at both ends and the leadership needed to win the Pac-12 tournament, as the Buffaloes did last season.
If he is forced to sit through the entire Pac-12 tournament, Colorado may be headed for an earlier exit than it had hoped. Roberson is that important to his team, especially in the postseason.
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