Notre Dame’s Matt Farrell Leading Irish to Top of ACC

Posted by Matthew Auerbach on January 21st, 2017

The play itself, spectacular as it was unique, took guts, guile and extraordinary self-belief, and represents a characteristic of every overachiever. With his team clinging to a three-point lead with 46 seconds remaining last weekend in Blacksburg, Matt Farrell looked to put the finishing touches on Notre Dame’s fifth consecutive victory to start ACC play. In an effort to preserve a few precious seconds, the Hokies rolled the ball up the court. Making himself inconspicuous, Farrell created the illusion that he was not paying attention. Then, in the blink of an eye, the subterfuge ceased, as Farrell dived headlong to smother the ball, pop up, and drop a dime to T.J. Gibbs. Gibbs extended the lead to five with an easy layup, effectively putting an exclamation mark on yet another impressive ACC victory for the Irish.

At 16-3 and tied for first in the league standings with North Carolina and Florida State, Notre Dame is without question one of this year’s pleasant surprises. The presumed strength of the league notwithstanding, the primary reason for hesitation regarding this year’s version of Mike Brey’s squad centered around the transition of point guard duties from three-year standout Demetrius Jackson to the little-known junior from Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey. Farrell entered the season with a mere 86 career points in 43 career games, and as a sophomore, he posted the team’s poorest player efficiency rating. And those notes, among others, is why Brey is one of the most under-appreciated developers of talent in college basketball. His teams change somewhat based on the available personnel, but they are always well-versed on the game’s fundamentals and know how to find open shots. Perhaps no player in the head coach’s 17 seasons at Notre Dame puts a stamp of approval on his process quite like Farrell.

For the analytically bent, Farrell ranks 86th nationally with a 29.7 percent assist rate and 224th nationally with a 41.9 percent mark from three. His traditional statistics of 14.1 points and 5.4 assists per game are incredibly impressive considering such paltry production over his first two seasons. But as much as the new wave hoops junkies are loath to hear it, Farrell is the type of guy you have to watch to truly appreciate. His toughness and determination ooze through the television set, setting the tone down the stretch in several of the Irish’s biggest victories. And while there is no denying that Farrell’s offseason diligence improved his body and game, there is also no quantifying just how much the four starts Brey gave him in last year’s NCAA Tournament played in cultivating the uber-confident floor general.

Little-known Matt Farrell has been one of the main reasons for Notre Dame’s hot start. (credit: NY Daily News)

A third of the way through conference play, the Irish still must travel to Louisville and Chapel Hill in addition to welcoming Virginia, Duke and Florida State to South Bend. But at 5-1, combined with the turmoil that has enveloped Durham and put the brakes on the presumptive ACC favorite, Notre Dame is in position to make a run at the regular season championship. And while Farrell is not the sole reason for the Irish’s current success, there is no greater reason for Notre Dame’s fast start than the meteoric rise of its exciting trigger man from the end of the bench to an all-league performer in just one year’s time.

Matthew Auerbach (70 Posts)

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