‘Eers A Question: Mazzulla Or Bryant?

Posted by jstevrtc on March 30th, 2010

And now…quiz time!

Here’s your vignette.  You have 35 seconds to take a shot:

A week ago, the news went out that West Virginia point guard Darryl “Truck” Bryant had fractured the fifth metatarsal bone in his right foot and that he’d be out for the season. There was even talk that he’d need surgery to fix the break instead of the usual regimen of ice, rest, and a bulky, annoying stabilizer boot.

Then, the Mountaineers beat Kentucky. Bryant is now medically cleared to play in the Final Four.

Using your knowledge in each of the fields of cybernetics, Bob Huggins‘ black warm-up suit collection, and the “High Risk Zone” of the fifth metatarsal bone, how do you account for the change in Darryl Bryant’s status for the games this weekend?  Please select one answer only:

  • a) Darryl Bryant’s right pinkie toe is an orthopedic and osteologic wonder.  It heals even FASTER than that stoic but awesome liquid robot from Terminator 2, and the words “Bryant Metatarsal” will now be added to our language as something representing a person’s/object’s strong point —  the diametric opposite of “Achilles’ Heel.”  As in: “That’s right, Greg Gumbel, Kentucky’s Achilles’ heels are their 3-point shooting and their perimeter defense, but the ability of Wall, Cousins, and Patterson to get close looks in the lane is their Bryant Metatarsal,” *
  • b) the injury wasn’t as bad as originally thought, and the Truck should never have been parked,
  • c) the “rest of the season” part was added because whoever sent out the press release assumed WVU would lose to UK, thereby rendering their prognosis about Bryant correct…or,
  • d) Bryant’s going to try to tough it out…because it’s the Four.

Time’s up.  If you selected a), then, like us, you’re probably hoping that this really is the case. If you chose b) or c), you’re just cynical and wrong and may show yourself out.  If you chose d), we think you’re right.

Bryant (historically) scores more, but is Mazzulla the better option? (David Smith/AP)

Bryant’s change in status should surprise nobody.  It’s easy to wonder how a guy can go from possibly needing surgery one day to being medically cleared to play the next, but there are three reasons why you could see Bryant on the floor this weekend.  First, in athletes, fixing this type of fracture with surgery instead of the ice/rest/boot combo is gaining popularity as the ideal treatment.  Second, Bryant was fitted for a special orthotic shoe-and-insert on Monday — in Durham, North Carolina, of all places — which could help to allow him to play.  Assuming the insert does not, at some point in the first half, emit a strange royal blue-colored sleeping gas to which all Blue Devils are immune (we’re kidding, Durham-area foot doctors), the device is designed to take some weight off the broken bone and reduce Bryant’s level of pain.

Third…it’s the Final Four.

Bryant’s availability presents Huggins with a little quiz-question of his own.  Whom do you play?  Is Truck Bryant with an orthotic shoe better than a rejuvenated (and further rehabilitated) Joe Mazzulla?  There’s been no word on how Bryant moves with this thing or if it alleviates enough pain for him to be effective.  To be honest, though, we feel the spot is Mazzulla’s no matter what.  Mazzulla is the preferred player at this position anyway, but had to sit out last year after injuring and having surgery on his left shoulder (his dominant side) in a game in December.  Bryant was moved to point guard and has filled in admirably for over a year, but Mazzulla’s mobility and confidence have increased during the course of this season.  Since the Big East Tournament semifinal game against Notre Dame, Mazzulla has been the more effective point guard, and Huggins has recognized it.  Mazzulla has played more minutes, scored more points, and dished more assists than Bryant.  A full-strength Bryant.

Mazzulla flexed some muscle against Greg Paulus and the Devils on that night in 2008. (Jim Young/Reuters)

The most compelling reason we feel that there’s no contest here is what happened in 2008.  In the NCAA Tournament’s second round that year, #7 West Virginia knocked off #2 Duke, 73-67.  Mazzulla, then a sophomore, was the point guard on that team.  His line that night?  How about 13 points, 11 rebounds, and 8 assists.  True, some of their roles were less than what they are now, but Jon Scheyer, Kyle Singler, Nolan Smith, Brian Zoubek, and Lance Thomas all played on that Duke team.  We know that game predates Mazzulla’s injury, but the guy almost dropped a triple-double in a tournament win over a Duke team that contained many of these players in the tournament two seasons ago.  That’s no guarantee that he’ll do it again.  But does it make him a better option right now than Truck Bryant with a weird shoe and questionable mobility?  We think so.  Combine that with how he stepped up against Kentucky with the game of his life, driving to his left on that repaired shoulder and into the paint numerous times with the looming prospect of running into the billboard known as DeMarcus Cousins, and we need no further evidence that this guy can bring it in big games when he’s got his confidence.

We’re not piling on Darryl Bryant.  We love the guy, and not just because he’s nicknamed “Truck.”  We’re extolling Mazzulla, not trashing Bryant.  Darryl Bryant stepped in for an injured teammate as a freshman and did what was asked of him longer and better than his coach probably expected.  If he’s able to play this weekend, we hope he does.  No matter the Mountaineers’ fate, the guy deserves to play in the Final Four now that they’re here. Right now, though, we’re  just not sure how much he should be playing if Joe “The Schoola” Mazzulla is the other option.

[* = The equity partners of RTC will reward any CBS announcer/analyst…let’s see, here…five dollars for every time they use “Bryant Metatarsal” in this fashion during broadcasts this weekend.  Yes, five dollars.  Don’t judge us. It’s been a long season, and gas is expensive.]

jstevrtc (547 Posts)

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4 responses to “‘Eers A Question: Mazzulla Or Bryant?”

  1. Eers4Years says:

    Truck’s injury will still need surgery and require a screw. They have said that it will do no additional damage to play on it. He will wait until the off-season for the surgery so that he can play* in the Final Four. A similar situation occurred during West Virginia’s 2007-2008 football season when Reed Williams held off surgery for torn labrum cartilage in his shoulders. He went on to dominate Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl and received the Defensive MVP for the game. He then got the surgery and couldn’t play again until a season later.
    As far as playing time goes, Truck will be there to provide depth. Mazzulla is a tenacious player. He is an unrelenting pest. He will get some ticky-tack fouls because of his playing style. He fouled out of the kentucky game due to this playing style. Both Truck and Mazz can sink their free throws. So at the end of the game if WVU is ahead and Mazz has fouled out, Truck can take care of the ball and sink free throws if they need him. Mazz got healthy just in time for this run. Very lucky.

    * Huggins will have to see how effective Truck can be in practice this week before a decision is made as to whether or not he can play.

  2. porkchopexpress says:

    Why does everyone make the Greg Zoubek mistake? Was there ever a Greg Zoubek in sports that everyone slips up on? Seriously, this happens in almost every ESPN game telecast.

  3. rtmsf says:

    It’s because there was a Greg Koubek who played for Duke in the late 80s/early 90s and most of us old farts still remember him. We’ll make the change, though.

  4. Tom Hager says:

    That part about Bryant was one of the funniest things I have read in a long long time. haha

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