Mountaineers Move Forward Without Their “Truck”
The West Virginia Mountaineers received some devastating news yesterday for their Tournament chances, when they found out that starting point guard Darryl ‘Truck’ Bryant will miss the rest of the season with a broken foot. Bryant was the Mountaineers 4th leading scorer during the regular season and has been an integral part of the team since he arrived on campus fall of 2008. He was one of coach Bob Huggins top recruits his first year, and one of two true point guards on the roster.
Now the responsibility of the team will fall back on veteran Joe Mazzulla who had the starting job last season until he went down with injury. Mazzulla has been a solid player for the Mountaineers for years, but he’s never been a star. He is an okay ball handler, but I’d expect forwards Da’Sean Butler and Devin Eubanks to handle the ball quite a bit given their overall talent. While Mazzulla can offer a good option around the 3-point line, and be a solid defender, he lacks Bryant’s quickness and athleticism, as well as his ability to drive to the basket.
Now West Virginia fans will be quick to point out that Bryant hadn’t really made an impact in either Tournament game, and the Mountaineers did fine. While that is true, it does make me wonder if Bryant’s foot had already been bothering him and it was affecting his game. I’d also point out that WVU is about to play the Washington Huskies, who rely heavily on guard play. I don’t like the match up of Mazzulla guarding Huskies star point guard Isaiah Thomas, who is a dynamic scorer off the dribble.
And remember if West Virginia gets past Washington, they will likely face a Kentucky, with their two star point guards, in the Elite Eight. You would be fooling yourself to think Bryant won’t be missed. He sometimes gets overlooked given the talent on the WVU roster, but he is a very good player. He might be the fourth scorer on this team, but that’s because West Virginia has so much talent inside. On a more average team Bryant would likely be the second scoring option.
I’d expect the Mountaineers to try to play big with 4 or 5 forwards on the floor at all times. They won’t be able to match the quickness of Washington and Kentucky on the perimeter, so they might as well play big and dominate in the paint (that could be a bit tougher against Kentucky), and try to force them to play their game. Despite the loss of Bryant, I still think WVU will make it to the Elite Eight, but I’m no longer too sure of their ability to get past Kentucky.