Blue and Gold Illustrated

April 2017

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 48 of 63 APRIL 2017 49 MEN'S BASKETBALL a chance to win, and sometimes the chips fall where they fall and some- times the most important thing is learning from that." Senior guard Steve Vasturia and senior wing V.J. Beachem are making their final trip to the NCAA Tourna- ment, having gone 6-2 the past two seasons while advancing to back-to- back Elite Eights. Vasturia said he's careful not to lean too much on that experience, but that it is valuable at this point in the season. "Experience is definitely a big thing," Vasturia said. "We've been here before. We've won games in the tournament and that definitely helps. It's a different task, it's a different tournament." After losing four consecutive games in ACC play against Virginia, Georgia Tech, Duke and North Carolina, Notre Dame rebounded to win six straight to jump back into the top 25. A loss in the regular-season finale at Louisville did not stunt the team's momentum entering the conference tournament. The Irish beat the sixth-seeded Cavaliers 71-58 in the quarterfinals, their first win against Tony Bennett's team since joining the ACC. Notre Dame carries its strong play into the NCAA Tournament, where it gets a welcome reprieve from the grueling ACC, which put nine squads into the 68-team bracket. "It's unbelievable just to not see … I walked out of [the Barclays Center] last night and I said to somebody, 'I am glad that I don't see an ACC team next weekend,'" Brey said. "If we see another ACC team, that means we're doing pretty good and I'll deal with it then. "But we do all need a break from each other. We ground each other up a bunch." ✦ Three-Point Play 1. ACC Honors — Junior forward Bonzie Colson was tabbed as a first-team All-ACC performer, joining Jerian Grant (2015) as the lone Notre Dame play- ers to make the league's top group in the program's four years in the league. Three Notre Dame players received honorable mention honors (10 or more points in the voting): junior guard Matt Farrell, senior wing V.J. Beachem and senior guard Steve Vasturia. Head coach Mike Brey finished third in the Coach of the Year voting behind winner Josh Pastner of Georgia Tech and North Carolina's Roy Williams. 2. Geben, Ryan Flash Potential — Two Notre Dame reserves made their presence felt in key spots down the stretch for the Irish. Junior forward Martinas Geben, who started the first 23 games for Notre Dame before being benched when Brey went to the four-guard starting lineup, had four points, four rebounds, two steals and an assist in 16 minutes of action in the regular-season finale at Louisville. Despite the loss, Brey felt good about the Lithuanian big man's contribution. "I'm so pleased with Martin Geben right now," Brey said. "… In this atmo- sphere against that front line to do what he did, he's playing better now than when he started. It comes at the right time. "I'm looking at a positive coming out of here even though we lost, that we've got another big that can help us in the postseason." Then, in the ACC Tournament semifinals against Florida State, sophomore wing Matt Ryan came off the bench to provide a spark. The 6-7 Ryan — av- eraging 3.3 points and 0.9 rebounds in 7.5 minutes per game — scored 11 points in 13 minutes against the Seminoles. It was the most minutes Ryan played in a conference game all season. Ryan connected on 3 of 4 three-pointers. It was the third double-digit scor- ing game of the season for Ryan and the sixth of his career. With senior wing V.J. Beachem struggling with his shot, finishing just 1 of 6 from three-point range and tallying just six points, Ryan filled the void. The sharpshooter from Cortlandt Manor, N.Y., has taken a reduced role in the offense this season, typically spelling senior guard Steve Vasturia and Beachem for a few minutes at a time. Against Florida State, he was called upon to do more and took advantage. 3. Farrell On NBA Radar? — Coming off a strong ACC Tournament showing in which he averaged 14.0 points per game against Virginia, Florida State and Duke, junior point guard Matt Farrell apparently has caught the eye of NBA scouts. Brey said on Selection Sunday that he's had conversations with pro scouts about the 6-1 and 178-pound Farrell, who was named to the ACC's all- tournament team. "The NBA is really intrigued about him," Brey said of Farrell. "… He's got all of their attention. … He's come out of nowhere, and that league is really intrigued by him. Just by talking to different scouts and different people, they'll thoroughly analyze him through his senior year." Farrell was averaging 14.2 points and 5.5 assists per game for the Irish heading into the NCAA Tournament. He was shooting 41.3 percent from three-point range and 80.8 percent from the free throw line. Farrell burst onto the scene during last year's NCAA Tournament when Brey inserted him into the starting lineup. Since then, the Bridgewater, N.J., native has become one of the country's most improved players. "He is so confident right now and adds so much to our group," Brey said. "There's a lot on him. He's making every decision off that ball screen and he was unbelievable in Brooklyn. "We earn a five seed because the unknown of our point guard situation. We get the double bye, we finish third and we get to the championship game and have a darn good shot at winning it because the unknown point guard became one of the best point guards in the country." — Matt Jones Junior point guard Matt Farrell was averaging 14.2 points and 5.5 assists per game heading into the NCAA Tournament. PHOTO BY JOE RAYMOND

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