Bryant was asked if, after his team's struggles over the past six weeks, the Mountaineers are even in a position where they deserve to make the NCAA tournament.
"Yes,'' he said quickly. "I know we fight every day, work hard every day. At the end of the day, we just have to want it. I know this team wants it and I'll believe in them until the end. We just need to play and win games.''
Even winning games, though, isn't likely to change West Virginia's place in the Big East standings, which today is a ninth-place tie with Connecticut. Both are 7-9 in the league with two games to play, a half-game behind eighth-place Seton Hall (8-9). The seven teams above those three have all clinched spots in the top eight and a first-round bye in the tournament.
And while St. John's (6-10) is still mathematically alive for the eighth bye, realistically it is between only Seton Hall and UConn. Seton Hall can get to 9-9 with a win at DePaul Saturday, and UConn can get there with wins at Providence and at home against Pitt.
But even if West Virginia wins its final two games to reach 9-9, the Mountaineers will lose any tiebreakers if either Seton Hall or UConn reaches that mark. They can finish eighth only if Seton Hall loses to DePaul, UConn loses to either Providence or Pitt, and the Mountaineers win out.
Assuming that doesn't happen, West Virginia is most likely looking at the No. 10 seed and a Tuesday night game against Providence in the Big East tournament.
WVU could slip even lower than 10th, of course, although that doesn't seem likely unless the Mountaineers lose both games this week. St. John's has the best chance of passing West Virginia in the standings (or actually tying and winning the tie-breaker based on a regular-season win), but the Red Storm would likely need to beat both Pitt and Rutgers on the road, where it is 2-8 this season.
If West Virginia does finish 10th, the No. 10-15 winner faces the No. 7 seed, which at the moment is Louisville, but could easily be Cincinnati, South Florida or Georgetown.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickm...@aol.com or follow him at twitter.com/dphickman1