With Ricky Kreklow and Jabari Bird both injured, the California Golden Bears are finding itself without a couple of solid players for the month of January. January is the month when conference play begins, and, as we’ve seen, the PAC-12 is going to be one of the most difficult conferences in the country (if not the most difficult). Despite the loss of Kreklow and Bird, the Golden Bears should still do fine.
It won’t be like in the Maui Invitational, where California lost both of its game that Richard Solomon was injured. Solomon plays a position where there are few other people on the bench to replace him at all. Against Syracuse and Dayton, the Golden Bears played with four guards instead of the three it usually puts on the floor. There are other people who can play Kreklow’s and Bird’s positions, and play it well. Justin Cobbs still leads the point, and Tyrone Wallace can put up solid numbers any given night (he put up 20 against Stanford). Jordan Matthews does alright as well. Obviously this isn’t the ideal situation, but California can still manage.
The California Golden Bears were able to pull a win against Stanford without Bird or Kreklow. Stanford has a good team, recently beating the then-No. 10 Connecticut Huskies. This proves California can win games without its injured players. That being said, they will have to face other strong opponents in the upcoming month, starting with the tenth ranked, and undefeated, Oregon Ducks on Thursday night.
The Golden Bears might have both Bird and Kreklow back in February. Kreklow’s last update said he’d be out four to six weeks, so if it’s the four weeks, he might be back in the lineup while there are still a good number of games to be played (possibly even in time for the Februa. 1 game against No. 1 Arizona). Jabari Bird is out indefinitely. He could be out for as long, or longer, than Kreklow, or he could be back much sooner. Either way, both players should be back in the lineup by the end of the season, meaning the Golden Bears will be back to full strength.
The main thing Cal has to do is keep its head above water by winning as many games as possible. The Selection Committee should take injury into consideration when selecting who goes to the NCAA Tournament, but The Golden Bears will still need to show they are still competitive. They can do that by having other players, mainly Mathews, step up. Also, keeping fouls to a minimum is going to be big. California has other guards to play Bird’s and Kreklow’s positions, but there is a limited supply.