West Virginia Taking Country Road Home?
It's probably a bit premature to declare the West Virginia men's basketball team dead in the water just yet, but today's news probably didn't help their chances of beating the Washington Huskies.
Starting point guard Darryl Bryant went for x-rays yesterday after complaining of pain in his foot, and it turns out he broke the fifth metatarsal in his right foot. The team doesn't know when exactly the injury occurred, but it most definitely brings an end to his season.
What does it mean for the Mountaineers? That remains to be seen. His starting spot will be taken by junior Joe Mazzulla. Mazzulla has plenty of experience, and the two had actually been sharing minutes to this point thusfar in the tournament. There should be very little drop-off in production from Bryant to Mazzulla.
The big change comes from the trickle-down effect. Mazzulla is now the top guard on a roster that features seven (minus Bryant). The next two guards down the line are Casey Mitchell and Dalton Pepper, who have totaled 130 minutes of playing time in the last two months. The four guards below them have played all of 100 minutes all season.
That's not a lot of firepower, and it shouldn't be a problem initially. A similar injury to one of the other four starters - Ebanks, Butler, Jones or Smith - would see serious consequences on both the offensive and defensive end. However, this could create problems in the second half.
Mazzulla's offensive production has been nearly identical to Bryant's in the tournament, and he should be just as capable at distributing the ball to the prime scorers on the court. What about the other end, though? Mazzulla will be charged with guarding the Huskies' Isaiah Thomas, who is averaging 17 points per game and has shot 44% from the field as well as 58% from behind the arc in the tournament.
WVU has to hope that Mazzulla can handle defending Thomas without fouling out, because the drop-off in both experience and ability behind him is quite noticeable and the Mountaineers don't have the margin of error to not lock down Thomas for a full game.