West Virginia will be without starting sophomore point guard Darryl “Truck” Bryant for the rest of the NCAA Tournament. X-rays taken on Tuesday revealed that Bryant has fractured a bone in the fifth toe of his right foot. It’s not exactly clear when Bryant sustained the injury, but the cited ESPN.com report above says that he had noticed increased pain in the foot during a recent practice, then today’s imaging showed the broken toe.
The Mountaineers are famous for being chock-full-o-forwards, often playing four forwards and a guard at any given time (they have no true center). Bryant — who averages 9.3 PPG and 3.1 APG in 24.3 MPG — will most definitely be missed, but he’s not a traditional dime-dishing point guard. He’s known more for the mental and physical toughness he brings to the table for his team, not so much for his high yield in terms of assists or forcing turnovers. Da’Sean Butler, Kevin Jones, and Devin Ebanks — the only three Mountaineers who average more than 30 minutes per game — do most of the ball-handling, and will only see a slight increase in touches, which they probably won’t mind.
WVU also has a ready replacement in Joe Mazzulla, a 6’2 junior point guard averaging 2.2 PPG and 2.3 APG. Mazzulla redshirted last year after injuring his shoulder, but has seen steadily increasing minutes throughout the season. Mazzulla actually played more minutes than Bryant in the Mountaineers’ second-round game against Missouri, and the two had no problem with the Tigers’ vaunted full-court press. His assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.5 is higher than Bryant’s 1.5, though Mazzulla did average ten fewer minutes per game. Any further minutes at the guard position will go to 6’4 junior Casey Mitchell (3.8 PPG, 0.4 APG in 8.3 MPG), who only played three minutes against Missouri but did contribute six points, four assists, and two steals with only one turnover in 11 minutes in WVU’s first round 77-50 win over Morgan State.
There’s been no mention of how severe Bryant’s injury is, but most fifth metatarsal fractures do not require surgery and heal on their own over time with the “conservative” therapies — ice for swelling, no weight-bearing on the foot, and immobilization with a splint or cast.
WVU chief Bob Huggins is certainly no stranger to tournament-time injuries when he’s got a team poised for big things. Back in 2000 — another year in which the Final Four was held in Indianapolis — his #2-seed Cincinnati squad was a favorite to win it all before Kenyon Martin broke his leg in the Conference USA Tournament, and the Bearcats were subsequently dispatched in the second round by Tulsa. The next time the Final Four is in Indianapolis and Huggins has a highly rated team, don’t blame the man if he sequesters his whole team in a padded room and locks the door, opening it only for games.