There’s no question that the California Golden Bears have some very good players on their bench. It seems like every night there’s another player putting up big numbers for coach Montgomery’s squad, someone we didn’t expect. Despite the talent from the other players on Cal’s bench, I’d have to say Richard Solomon is the most important player of them all.
As to why that is, we don’t have to look any further than the Maui Invitational. During the tournament, Solomon took Ian i inadvertent hand to the face in California’s game against Arkansas that resulted in a scratched cornea and not being able to play for the next two games. The 6’10 forward was able to finish the game against Arkansas (at least until he fouled out), and the Golden Bears were able to pull out an 85-77 victory over the Razorbacks.
I was home for the holidays for the Maui Invitational, watching the tournament with my father. He asked me what my prediction was for California’s game against Syracuse. I said “California by less than ten.” That was before I found out Solomon was not going to be playing due to the injury that didn’t seem that serious the day before. After that, I knew it was going to be tough for the Golden Bears to pull a victory over the then-ranked #9 Orangemen. Unfortunately, despite putting up a good fight (through some questionable calls), Syracuse proved to be too much for the shorthanded Golden Bears.
Don’t get me wrong, I thought California played great with the players they had available, but the Golden Bears started four guards and one forward against a team starting three forwards and two guards. California could’ve really used an extra big man down low, especially to try and crack Syracuse’s zone defense. The game against Dayton was a similar story. Cal’s guards had trouble scoring, with the exception of Cobbs. It would have been nice to have more of a presence down low.
It’s no coincidence that California won when Solomon played and lost both games he didn’t. Kravish played great ball throughout the tournament, but he definitely could have used the help Solomon would’ve provided. In the game against Arkansas, we saw that Solomon’s 11 points didn’t take away from Kravish’s scoring. Kravish scored 19 points that game; he scored 15 against Syracuse and 12 against the Dayton Flyers. The total points by big men was only about half of what it was with Solomon in the game, and that makes a huge difference.