Evidently, Cal teams under Mike Montgomery are just destined to have a 6.5 player rotation. Some seasons, that's just the reality of the roster. Some seasons, there's a semblance of depth before a few guys get injured.
A staple of the Monty years is to tune into the game and find out a player isn't playing when the announcers tell you. I think it happened twice last year with Ricky Kreklow, and it's happened again as the unluckiest man on the team has a fractured hand. He's out 4-6 weeks.
With five minutes left in the first half and Cal trailing by just four, Jabari Bird went up for a rebound and his plant foot came down right onto David Kravish's foot, leading to one of the most painful looking twisted ankles I've seen. Jabari left the court under assistance from Cal trainers and was immediately fitted with a boot. He has a sprained ankle with no immediate prognosis for a return to the court.
Cal needed Ricky Kreklow because he's one of the few players on the roster with a shot at guarding Doug McDermott. Cal needed Jabari Bird because they don't have the offensive depth to lose anybody capable of putting up double digit scoring. Cal needs everybody healthy right now, because the start to conference play is brutal and they didn't do enough in the non-conference schedule to afford extra conference losses.
Would Cal beat Creighton with both Kreklow and Bird healthy? I dunno. Cal's defense did reasonably well and it's not like Jabari Bird was dominating the game when he left. But Cal had to give 37 total minutes to three freshmen who aren't quite ready for such a large role. Sam Singer, Roger Moute a Bidias and Kameron Rooks didn't do anything wrong, but they combined for 2 points. They're just not ready to score a ton yet, and it's not fair to expect that from them.
Statistically speaking, what did Cal in was awful shooting from 3 point range. The Bears made just 5-24, good for 20.8%. Cal probably shouldn't be taking so many shots from deep, but if the Bears make their season average, then that's another nine points, and maybe this game goes down to the wire. Still, the more relevant question is why the offense was forced to settle for so many deep shots against a solid but not elite Creighton defense?
At least Cal's defense was solid. Richard Solomon and David Kravish took turns against McDermott, and the Bears shaded extra defenders towards him frequently. McDermott still got his points, but he had to work hard for it, and Cal played him tough without letting any of his teammates go crazy. As a few in the gamethread noted, the defensive effort would have been enough to win on many other nights.
These are dangerous times for the Bears. Without Kreklow, it's going to be very tough to play a four guard lineup. Without Jabari Bird, Cal won't be able to get by if any of their main offensive options have off nights. Even Richard Solomon appeared to hurt an ankle late in the game, but I'm going to assume that he's fine because if Solo is out along with the other two, it's a reality too cruel to even contemplate.
Essentially, Cal's other freshmen are going to have to grow up, and fast. Jordan Mathews, are you ready to score double digits a night? The Bears need it. Roger Moute a Bidias, are you ready to play 5-10 minutes per game as a stretch four in Pac-12 play? Guys are going to have a step up. Hopefully Jabari Bird's injury isn't as bad as it appeared on the replay, but I'd prepare for bad news.
10 days until Pac-12 play. 10 days to get ready for a new season. I still think this team can impress, but the margin for error keeps getting smaller and smaller, and if the injury news isn't good it will be microscopic.