NCAA Tournament hopes for Notre Dame basketball were dealt another blow when the Irish were forced to shut down Matt Farrell after an MRI revealed a bone bruise.
This could be the hardest test of head coach Mike Brey’s 18-seasons with Notre Dame basketball.
The Irish seemingly can’t catch a break as injuries continue to hinder this season. In the middle of a “bye-week”, Notre Dame was hoping to rest Matt Farrell back to health. After going down with a sprained ankle during the NC State game January 3rd, the Irish knew they were in trouble.
Just before that NC State contest, it was announced that Bonzie Colson had a foot fracture and would be out for eight weeks. If fans doubted the Irish could make the NCAA Tournament then, they confirmed those thoughts when Farrell went down later that night.
But you can’t just count out Notre Dame, can you? After all, they are the Fighting Irish. Hopes started to come back with a 3-0 start in ACC play. Since then, the Irish have loss four straight. Even in those four losses, there was still reason for optimism.
A one-point loss to No. 10 North Carolina followed by a four-point loss in a double-overtime decision to Louisville. Notre Dame was proving that they could hang with the best of them while playing short-handed.
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The biggest upside was not only seeing the return of Farrell but finding out he wasn’t quite at 100 percent yet. It gave Irish fans a sense of belief that soon, Notre Dame would be back on track.
That belief once again started to become derailed with the news of D.J. Harvey’s injury. Last week it was announced that the freshman suffered a bone bruise on his knee and would be out four weeks.
Now, the train is completely off the tracks. Farrell will be out at least two games, maybe more. The Irish will now have to play without Colson, Farrell and Harvey. This leaves the Irish with only eight scholarship players on the bench.
"“I think depth can be one of the most overrated things in college basketball on a game day,”"
What Brey once considered “overrated”, now will be tested the most this season.
Can Notre Dame still make the Tournament?
Sitting at 3-4 in the ACC, Brey’s squad is now in trouble. The Irish will have to at least finish .500 in the ACC to even have the slightest chance of making the NCAA Tournament.
Last season nine ACC schools made the tournament. Wake Forest was the first team in the ACC to miss the tournament with a 9-9 record. Virginia Tech, Miami and Syracuse were all tied for the worst ACC records (10-8) to still made the tournament.
The Irish will have to take on Virginia Tech, who’s coming off of an 11-point victory over North Carolina, and No. 4 Duke, without Farrell. Being able to at least split those two games will be vital. Getting out of this weekend at 4-5 in the ACC would give the Irish a steady chance at redemption.
Right now it’s all about staying alive for Notre Dame until Farrell and Harvey can return to the hardwood.