When Darryl "Truck" Bryant came to West Virginia three years ago, he did so as one of the crown jewels of Bob Huggins' first recruiting class for the Mountaineers. An ESPNU Top 100 prospect, graded at 92nd overall, and was expected to man the point for West Virginia's return to national prominence.
In the two-and-a-half seasons since then, Truck has been a solid point guard, averaged 10.4 points for his career, was a starter on the Mountaineers' first Final Four team in half a century and seemed to find his niche as a consistent third option on offense. However, after a very tumultuous week in Morgantown that saw the team lose two players, including leading scorer Casey Mitchell possibly for the year, West Virginia's season could hinge on Bryant's ability to be much more than that.
At 13-5, West Virginia's season has exceeded expectations thanks to their ability to adopt their coach's playing style: doing the little things, playing tough-as-nails defense and thriving on offensive rebounds. As important as those things are to succeed in college basketball, it's hard to compete in March without someone who can take over a game offensively.
That's where Truck comes in.
Of the remaining players on the West Virginia roster, Bryant is the only one with the potential to become a go-to scorer. Kevin Jones has had a very nice year, averaging nearly 14 points per game, but his offense comes from rebounds and broken plays. Deniz Kilicli has some great low-post moves, but is way too raw to depend on consistently. John Flowers and Joe Mazzulla have emerged as great "glue-guys," but neither will ever light up a scoreboard. That leaves Bryant as the Mountaineer with the best chance of tossing up a 25-point night, much like he did earlier this season against Marquette.
If Bryant is able to improve on his current 12.1 PPG average while still running the offense it will allow the rest of the team to do what they do best. Flowers can focus on crashing the boards with fellow banger Cam Thoroughman, and Mazzulla can use his speed to get to the basket. Most importantly, Jones can stay in the paint, where he is one of the best scorers in the Big East.
Thus far in his career Bryant has yet to consistently put up numbers, but that doesn't mean he can't. With De'Sean Butler and Devan Ebanks on the roster the past two seasons Bryant was a third-option at best, and has been sharing the backcourt with the shot-happy Mitchell most of this season. Now, with Mitchell gone for at least a few games, it's time to see what Truck can do.
Coming out of high school, ESPN called Bryant "a combo guard with the ability to light it up offensively." With the teeth of the Big East schedule ahead of them, West Virginia needs that Truck Bryant to emerge. Their Big Dance chances might just depend on it.